Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday Weekend 1 Update

I'm off to a 2-2 start having lost one game -- Spurs vs. Sun -- on points yesterday and another in an outright upset -- Jazz vs. Rockets, although a victory by a 1-point road underdog barely qualifies as an upset).

I hope you saw the end of Spurs vs. Sun game 1. Toy boy Archibald and I arrived home from our Saturday shopping and turned on the telly with one minute left in regulation just in time to see Finley drain a 3-pointer to send it to overtime. Tim Duncan swished a line-drive trey for another tie at the end of the 1st overtime and then Canada's own Steve Nash tied it for Phoenix with another long bomb with 15 seconds left in the 2nd overtime.

Ginobli drove to the basket to win it with 2 seconds left.

This morning over coffee we heard ESPN radio's idiot Sunday morning talk jock blame the loss on Coach D'Antoni for not having anyone on the floor at the end of overtime 2 to stop a lay-up. Stoudamire had fouled out and D'Antoni removed Shaq because he needed three to tie the game and he feared the hack-a-Shaq. After Nash tied it, Coach Popovich opted against calling time-out precisely to keep Shaq off the floor. As a result, Phoenix had no good big men on the floor.

But, first things first -- D'Antoni had to tie the game with his best offensive formation and didn't have the luxury of worrying about defending when he was three points behind with one possession left. Former Coach Jeff Van Gundy explained all of this on the ABC broadcast. Perhaps there's a reason why ESPN radio's idiot Sunday morning talk jock is working one of the lowest-rated time slots, rather than coaching in the NBA.

In any case, I have to say that Spurs vs. Sun game 1 offered one of the best end-of-game excitement packages that I've ever seen.

Friday, April 18, 2008

NBA Playoffs Weekend 1

Lady Godiva fancies:

CLEVELAND -3 over Washington
SAN ANTONIO -4 over Phoenix
NEW ORLEANS -4.5 over Dallas
HOUSTON -1 over Utah
ORLANDO -6.5 over Toronto
LA LAKERS -8.5 over Denver
DETROIT -9.5 over Philadelphia
Atlanta +15 over BOSTON

Just for fun (and it's always about fun, never money, since you can't make money consistently picking winners against the point spread), I'm following a strategy suggested in a Stanford undergraduate essay.

Mr. Gibbs thinks he has discovered evidence that NBA players are consorting with gamblers. I'm not convinced. I think there are other explanations for the distribution of point differentials that he makes such a big deal about. But, whatever the explanation, his data analysis does suggest a strategy that might end up a touch above 50% over several years if the past patterns continue into the future.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

March Madness 2008 Wrap-up

My results against the spread:

All my picks 37-27 58%
My overdog picks 33-19 63%
My underdog picks 4-8 33%

A simple all-overdog strategy led the pack at 41-23 or 64%.

I might make March madness picks against the spread for the rest of my life and not do better than 58%. And, we might go several lifetimes before seeing an all-overdog approach better than 64%.

Historical data indicate a very slight -- so slight as to fail the test of statistical significance -- tendency for "light" overdogs in college basketball games to beat the spread and slightly stronger -- enough to be statistically signficant -- tendency for "heavy" underdogs to win outright or (more likely) beat the spread. Neither historical trend was strong enough to overcome the commission charged by oddsmakers.

In this year's small sample of 64 March madness match-ups (including the play-in game), the statistically insignificant trend favouring light overdogs came up trumps while the statistically significant play on heavy underdogs failed miserably. More proof that gambling is a loser's game and we should restrict our wagering jones to friendly, non-profit office pools.

I am still looking for any historical data showing whether March madness results against the spread differ from regular season college basketball outcomes.

I will be back for the NBA playoffs. And, I want to test whether major league baseball oddsmakers are correctly accounting for the American League's clear superiority over the National League.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

NCAA Final Pick

Memphis -2 over Kansas

My results against the spread:

All my picks 37-26
My overdog picks 33-18
My underdog picks 4-8

An all-overdog strategy still leads the pack at 41-22.

Toy boy Archibald tells me that I should think of a Memphis-Kansas final as similar to a Liverpool-Chelsea FA Cup final with Kansas as Liverpool and Memphis as Chelsea.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

NCAA Final 4 Picks

North Carolina -3 over Kansas
Memphis -2 over UCLA

My results against the spread:

All my picks 36-25 59%
My overdog picks 32-17 65%
My underdog picks 4-8 33%

An all-overdog strategy still leads the pack at 40-21 or 66%.

I know very little about American college basketball despite many wasted hours watching matches on TV with ex-toy boy Reginald during my grad school days. (I remembered just in time that you call them games here in America, not matches as we do in England.)

Current toy boy Archibald has explained that we should be barracking for UCLA to meet North Carolina in the final because this would be roughly equivalent to an Arsenal vs. Man U FA Cup final.

But, at the end of the night you have to dance with the one what brung ya and I can't abandon my system now so I'm picking Memphis.

The overdog dominance this year is almost certainly an outlier that is still within the realm of probability in a relatively small sample of 61 games. Over 1,000 games, or even 250, we might live for a thousand years without seeing almost two out of every three games won by overdogs against the spread. However, I would be interested in knowing whether there is any historical March Madness data over a long period showing underdog and overdog records against the spread.

There is an unproven theory that NFL overdogs do better against the spread in the playoffs than in the regular season because they go all-out to run up the score and put their opponents away in playoff elimination games. However, NFL overdog dominance is confined to the 1992-98 period, which is too small a sample to prove anything. It would be interesting to know whether the March Madness records of overdogs and underdogs against the spread differ from NCAA regular season records.