Layering situational handicapping into your daily sports betting picks can help you uncover hidden value to play on or against certain teams, whether that’s coming off a big win, looking ahead to a tough opponent, or finding themselves at the mercy of the schedule makers.
This practice, also known spot bets, are all over the place during this point in the sports schedule with NCAA basketball winding down and the playoff races in the NBA and NHL heating up. Covers’ Senior Industry Analyst Jason Logan scours this week’s schedule for his favorite letdown, lookahead, and schedule spot bets.
MEMPHIS TIGERS AT SMU MUSTANGS (TUESDAY, FEB. 25 9 P.M. ET)
The Tigers are scratching and clawing to stay in the conversation for the NCAA tournament and Saturday’s win over No. 22 Houston gives Memphis life in the final games of the AAC schedule. The Tigers entered 2019-20 with huge hopes and were among the favorites in the odds to win March Madness before the season started, but star freshman James Wiseman was suspended then subsequently left the program due to NCAA violations.
Since then, Memphis has struggled to gain any traction in the conference with many of those woes coming on the road where Penny Hardaway’s program is just 4-4 SU and 5-3 ATS on the season, including back-to-back road losses at Cincinnati and UConn earlier in the month.
The Tigers could be tamed by a potential letdown spot Tuesday following their big win over the Cougars. Memphis travels to Texas to take on the SMU Mustangs. Southern Methodist is back home after two straight road losses and is one of the better home teams in the country, going 14-1 SU and 8-6-1 ATS inside Moody Coliseum. The Mustangs defeated Memphis 74-70 on the road back on January 25.
ST. MARY’S GAELS AT SANTA CLARA BRONCOS (THURSDAY, FEB. 27 10 P.M. ET)
The Gaels appear to be among the 68 teams pegged to hear their name on Selection Sunday and a win over a ranked rival would all but book those tickets to the Big Dance. St. Mary’s has a shot at just that with a trip to Gonzaga on this weekend’s schedule.
The Gaels and Zags have one of the best mid-major rivalries in the country, even though the Bulldogs blasted St. Mary’s by 30 points in their February 8 meeting. Revenge is definitely on the minds of the Gaels – and not Thursday’s opponent: the Santa Clara Broncos. St. Mary’s must make the trip to the Leavey Center before making its way to Spokane for Saturday.
The Broncos are just 5-9 SU and 7-7 ATS in WCC play so far but have a win over the Gaels already this season, knocking off St. Mary’s 67-66 as 12-point road underdogs back on January 11. Santa Clara will be catching points again Thursday and could be a solid line value play against an unfocused Gaels squad looking ahead to Gonzaga. St. Mary’s is 9-0 SU but just 3-6 ATS in regular season games that immediately precede a matchup with the Zags since 2015-16.
NEW YORK KNICKS AT CHARLOTTE HORNETS (WEDNESDAY, FEB 26 7 P.M. ET)
A spot bet had better be pretty good if you’re going to suggest putting your faith – and money – in the Knicks. The Hornets will be playing the second game of back-to-back outings on Wednesday, coming off a road game in Indiana on Tuesday night and traveling overnight to Charlotte to get ready for New York.
The Hornets have actually been betting gold when taking the court on zero rest, posting a 7-3 ATS mark in those contests. However, a closer look at those second nights of back-to-back outings sees Charlotte as an underdog in all 10 of those games (nine on the road) with an average spread of +9.7 and catching double digit points in six of those situations.
At home, the Hornets are just 10-15 ATS including 2-3 ATS when set as rare home favorites. They’ll likely be giving the points to the hapless Knicks on Wednesday, who have a 15-12-1 ATS mark as visitors this season. On top of this schedule spot, the Hornets could get caught in a tasty sandwich spot Wednesday, as they look ahead to a road trip to face the Toronto Raptors Friday.
WHAT ARE SPOT BETS?
The bones of situational handicapping or spot betting is to not only factor in current form, injuries, and other factors like weather into researching a bet but to see how each team’s schedule could impact performance as well. You measure that against the odds for that game and determine if the spot provides any added value to follow or fade a team.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF SPOT BETS?
For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on three popular methods for situational handicapping:
A team has a notable game ahead on the calendar against a top contender or hated rival but before that big matchup they must play a weaker opponent or less-weighted game. Teams can often overlook that upcoming opponent and lack focus, instead planning and looking ahead to the more important game.
A good example of a lookahead spot was West Virginia’s recent outright loss to Oklahoma as 2.5-point road favorite on February 8. The Mountaineers lost 69-59 to the Sooners and could have been looking ahead to a huge matchup with Kansas on February 12, leading to a poor performance against a weaker opponent.
A team is coming off a big matchup, most often a notable win of importance or an upset victory and runs the risk of falling flat in the following game. Teams can have a hard time finding the same intensity as the previous performance and can also get caught “fat and happy” with a sense of accomplishment coming off a big win.
The North Carolina Tar Heels’ recent loss to Wake Forest is a prime example of a letdown spot. The Tar Heels were blown out 74-57 by the Demon Deacons on February 11, just days removed from an intense rivalry game versus Duke. North Carolina suffered a crushing overtime loss to the Blue Devils, falling 98-96 as 7.5-point home underdogs in a game that could have helped turn the program’s season around.
While all spot bets involve scheduling in some form, the schedule spot focuses more on challenges of travel and quick turnarounds between games. Schedule spots are more prevalent in day-to-day sports like basketball, baseball and hockey – with teams playing many times per week and hitting stretches of multiple home and away contests – but still do apply to sports like football and soccer, which have larger spacing in their schedules.
Schedule spots can include teams playing on back-to-back nights, a bulk of games in a short period of time, long trips and games played in foreign time zones, as well as an extended hiatus from action, such as bye weeks in the NFL or breaks in the schedule.