Circa Sports Sportsbook Director Matthew Metcalf joined Eli Hershkovich and Thomas Casale yesterday on the BetQL U podcast to talk about college basketball futures. During their conversation, the oddsmaker dropped some insightful nuggets on his process, futures, and the NCAA Tournament.
Here are some of the highlights:
Metcalf had this to say about his odds-making process.
When it comes to futures, I’m heavily reliant on my power ratings. I like to try to adjust as much as I can and try to get the most accurate reflection of what I think these teams are.
I’m always searching for information. I'm trying to figure out what the market thinks because as we get into March, we are going to see more money enter the market in terms of people playing. So I really want to get a good idea of what the Pros think before I enter into the territory where I'm taking five and six figure bets on these teams.
For example, I recently had Gonzaga and Michigan at around +350 [to win it all] for about five minutes and the market clapped back at me and told me that I was dead wrong.
What goes into Metcalf's power ratings?
I'm not a metrics person. I've kept ratings for 15-20 years and I think these ratings are better for bookmaking.
I ask myself, if these two teams play again tomorrow, what would I make the line? If one team won by 30 points and they play again, the spread will not be 30.
To me, its like a puzzle and you are trying to go back and make moves on where you were wrong and where you were right. I love adjusting after each game, that is the best test to me.
Alan Boston had the best line on power ratings when he compared it to golf handicaps. Just because a pro golfer goes out there and shoots over 90 one day, that doesn't mean they are a 20 handicap. You might tweak the handicap slightly, but you aren't making huge adjustments.
The longer we get into the season, the adjustments are minimal. That shows you how the Pros adjust these power ratings. It will be small unless it is for an injury, etc.
Teams the market isn't high on yet or any recent updates?
One team that has made the biggest jump over the last two weeks is Connecticut. I’ve started to notice them come together and they are creeping up. They are now in the top-15 in my ratings.
Wisconsin is a team that just doesn’t seem to ever win the game that I think they are going to win.
BYU is sitting right there in the top-30, they've been playing better.
Can a team outside of the Big 3 (Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan) win it all?
To me, I do think one of those three wins.
I like to picture how high a teams ceiling will be in the tourney, and if they are there every year and well-coached.
That's why I like Villanova. That kind of team might have a higher ceiling than a team like Arkansas.
One team that has been consistent all year and that might be able to take a step is Houston. I've been impressed with what they've done and their consistency.
Another team that has played to a high number but hard to tell because they are not playing in the Big 10, is Creighton.
I think Creighton or Houston. One of those teams can make a push and make some kind of run. But, ultimately, I don't think they can beat Gonzaga, Baylor or Michigan.
Is there a team that is going to bust everyone's bracket?
I don't know if those scenarios exist anymore because the public is so educated now.
But, I do like Loyola-Chicago in terms of a team that is playing well and not in a big conference.
I also see Georgia Tech up on my list at 23rd. You don't think of them being one of those top teams but they are strong.
I think Colorado has been playing solid lately.
Any liability heading into the tournament?
The public has said they think one of the big three or a top-10 team is going to win the tournament, so there are not a lot of longshots.
We do have a lot of liability on Texas, so come tourney time that is someone I'm a little scared of.
Adjustments bettors should make when betting the tournament as opposed to the regular season?
Betting the tournament is definitely different. Whenever I'm looking at a large slate of neutral games, Im always going to need a little a push to play a favorite. Those games tend to help the underdogs.
If the spread gets to the 16-20 point range, I try to knock a couple of points off my raw number because I think covering a big number on a neutral court in a tourney is different than playing at home in the regular season.
Also, look for the teams in tourney settings that are well-coached, play smart ball and have been there before. A team like Belmont. It's well-known that they can handle themselves and there is a tendency for them to give bigger schools a better game.
But, for that reason, it is already priced into the spread. The market is sharper than it used to be and more efficient. Sometimes it creates value on bigger teams now because the dogs are over bet in those scenarios.
You can follow Matthew Metcalf on Twitter @MMpact