Skip to main content

In last week's column, we

examined how point spreads for basketball games are set. In this week's column, we will discuss other factors that go into setting the point spread, and more importantly, making a winning bet using that point spread. The factors, some of which we will discuss further in future columns, are:

  • Is this a revenge game?
  • Is this a traditional rivalry game?
  • Do the coaches of the teams have a particular relationship?
  • Does the team perform differently in home vs. road games?
  • How many games has the team played in the last five days?
  • Has the team had to travel an inordinate amount in the last five days?
  • Is the game nationally televised?
  • What is the significance of this game to the team in the grand scheme of things?
  • Is the next game the team is playing a special game?
  • Is a team on a hot or cold streak?
  • Does one team match up particularly well with the other team?
  • Are there any key injuries for either team?

The Revenge Factor

Every gambler knows about the revenge factor. The team that lost the first game has a greater incentive to win the rematch (unless it's




in the


). This Saturday there are about 44 games where the revenge factor will be tested. Unfortunately, the oddsmaker also knows about the revenge factor and will usually take it into account in setting the line.

The key to playing the revenge factor is studying statistics from the first game. There are many Web sites that have the statistics for every game played. All you have to do is plug in the date of the game. Revenge works a lot better when the team seeking revenge performed poorly in the first game compared with its season-long statistics. For example, how did a team's field-goal percentage in the earlier game compare with the team's season-long field-goal percentage?

The same inquiry should be made with respect to 3-point shots and free throws. Was the first game a close game despite statistical abnormalities? Were any key players missing from either team in the first game? If the team that lost the first game underperformed based on its season's statistics, while the other team overachieved, you have a great candidate for a bet as long as the point spread has not been adjusted too much by the oddsmaker to reflect these differences. The revenge factor, however, does not work as well when the avenging team is a big favorite, since the team will consider revenge to be successful with a 10-point victory and while you may have laid an inflated line of 12.

The Traditional Rivalry

Duke-North Carolina


Michigan-Michigan State


Scroll to Continue

TheStreet Recommends

Oklahoma-Oklahoma State

. These are just some of the examples of traditional rivalry games. Normally the oddsmaker does not adjust the line because the game is a rivalry, on the theory that both teams will be equally psyched to perform. Yet I consistently find value in betting the underdog in these games. The favorite is often in the hunt for a national ranking, thus it does not view the game much differently than any other game during the season. The underdog, particularly if the underdog is really having a bad year, views the game as a chance to get some satisfaction out of what will otherwise be a poor season. This Saturday, we have Oklahoma playing Oklahoma State,



Kansas State


Brigham Young



. If the lines on those games are fair (i.e., reflective of the power-rating differentials), I will be looking to play on Oklahoma, Kansas State and Brigham Young.

The Coaches' Relationship

Bobby Knight (


) and Steve Alford (


), Eddie Fogler (

South Carolina

) and Billy Donovan (


): These are a couple of examples where some external factor has caused animosity to develop between the coaches. In these situations, the superior team may try to pour it on if they get a chance. Thus, you might see a team press for the whole game or have its starters in the game even when the game is, for all intents and purposes, over. In other games, a former assistant coach is matched against his mentor. Where the spread on those games is large, the mentor will often "call off the dogs" once the game is well in hand and allow the former assistant coach's team to gain the late-game cover. Knight probably has more former assistant coaches or players coaching in the college ranks than any other current coach. Alford is the only one he seems to have a problem with.

Lieberman's Top 25 This Week

This Weekend's Top 25 Games

This weekend's top games feature Oklahoma State at Oklahoma and Florida at


on Saturday. We are making Oklahoma a 2-point favorite over Oklahoma State and Tennessee a 6 1/2 favorite over the youthful but talented Florida squad. On Sunday,


is playing at


. Our line on that game is LSU -2, but because of the popularity of the Kentucky squad, the line may be less. We will probably be betting on LSU in that game. Also on Sunday afternoon,


will be playing at


. Temple should be about a 7 1/2-point favorite in that game. Because Temple is not as well known by the betting public, the line will probably be 5 or less, in which case we will be betting on Temple.

If you have questions on betting sporting events, please feel free to email them to We will try to respond to all questions, either in this column or by return email. Good luck this week.

Barry Lieberman is the general counsel for a Las Vegas gaming company and an associate of James Padinha. He's been an amateur gambler for more than 20 years, and welcomes your feedback at