Is It Actually Profitable to Bet Overs in the NBA? Testing Bill Simmons’ Theory

Scoring is up in the NBA. Teams are averaging 110.9 points per game, the most since the 1984-85 season when they averaged 110.8 points. Increased pace and efficiency are contributing factors.

Teams are also averaging 100.1 possessions per 48 minutes, which is the 16th most in NBA history. Players have never scored as efficiently as they are this season with the league’s effective field goal percentage at .524 per Basketball-Reference.

If you’re like Joe House, host of The Ringer’s House of Carbs podcast, you probably think increased scoring would lead to overs cashing. On Monday’s episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, House and Simmons were discussing the scoring bonanza, and House was confident that given the rise in scoring per game, bettors would have turned a profit wagering on every single over this season.

So to find out whether House was right, I dove into our Bet Labs database.

And his instincts were correct: Over bettors have a winning record this season. But the win rate is not enough to overcome the juice.

Overs are 447-434-15 (50.7%) this season, which means a $100 bettor would be down $966 wagering on the over in each game.

Overs started hot, but oddsmakers adjusted. In October, bettors couldn’t lose on overs with a 65-44-1 (59.6%) record. But since November, overs have gone only 382-390-14 (49.5%).

Teams are scoring at unprecedented rates, but bookmakers have increased the over/unders to account for the high-scoring environment.

I can’t recommend wagering on every over, but there is a profitable strategy over bettors should follow.

Since we began tracking money percentages in 2015-16, it’s been smart to follow line movement when there’s more money than tickets on the over.

The over usually attracts a majority of tickets because public bettors like cheering for points. When there’s more money on the over and the line increases, it’s an indication that not only are recreational bettors wagering on the over, but sharps are, too. Being on the same side as the pros is a smart way to build your bankroll.

This article was originally posted on by John Ewing. Sports Insights is part of The Action Network.


History Against Bucks Continuing to Cover After the All-Star Break

The Milwaukee Bucks (43-14) have the best record in the NBA, rank fifth in offensive efficiency, first in defensive efficiency and lead the league in point differential (+9.8).

All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo (+170) is one of the favorites to win the NBA MVP and at +1000 odds, there is valuing betting the Bucks to win the NBA championship.

The team’s success hasn’t been limited to the hardwood. At the All-Star break, no team in the NBA has been more profitable against the spread (ATS) than Milwaukee. Giannis & Co. are 34-20-3 (63.0%) ATS. A $100 bettor would have returned a profit of $1,209 wagering on the Bucks each game this season.

Milwaukee received 50% or more of spread tickets in 48 of 57 games to start the season. Mike Budenholzer’s team will host the Boston Celtics on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, TNT). The Bucks will be a popular bet but can the team continue to cover after the All-Star break?

To answer that question, I used the Bet Labs database to pull the pre and post All-Star ATS records for every team over the past five seasons. Then I used the correlation coefficient to determine if there was a relationship between a team’s ATS record before and after the break.

A correlation coefficient of 1 indicates perfect correlation, -1 means there is perfect negative correlation and 0 indicates no correlation.

The correlation coefficient between a team’s pre-All-Star ATS record and its post-All-Star ATS record is -0.002. This means there is no correlation and bettors should not expect the Bucks to continue covering the number better than 60% of the time.

Against-the-spread regression

It is rare for a team to have an ATS win percentage of 60% or greater before the All-Star break like the Bucks. Approximately 6% of teams in our database covered the number at that rate before the break. You might think great teams like Milwaukee can continue their winning ways, but you’d be wrong.

All teams that covered 60% or greater ATS before the All-Star break (average of 63.0% ATS) covered only 47.3% of games after the break.

Regression comes for the worst teams as well. This is good news for the Phoenix Suns who have gone 25-34 (42.4%) ATS, the least profitable team in the league this season.

In the past five seasons, teams that covered 40% or less before the All-Star break (average among the teams was 38.0% ATS) managed to hit 54.1% ATS after the All-Star Game.

Many factors contribute to this ATS regression but the primary influence is adjustments made by the oddsmakers. Sportsbooks know which squads the public wants to bet on and against.

The bookmakers then inflate the lines accordingly, making it more difficult for good ATS teams to cover and easier for bad ATS teams to get to the ticket window.

With the second half of the NBA season tipping off, remember that a team’s ATS record is not predictive. Regression is coming for the best and worst ATS teams in the league.

This article was originally posted on by John Ewing. Sports Insights is part of The Action Network.


NBA Betting Tip: Bet Overs After the All-Star Break

Last season, NBA games averaged 212.6 points. In the two days after the All-Star break the scoring averaged jumped to 224.1 points. The increased scoring led to overs going 10-6-1 in those contests.

Was this random, or is there a reason why scoring would be up post-All-Star break?

My theory is that after a week off, players suffer from a vacation hangover. When NBA players aren’t giving a 100 percent, it shows on the defensive end of the court. A lack of hustle can lead to increased scoring and overs being more profitable.

To test this idea, I used the Bet Labs database to examine every game played in the first two days after the All-Star break since 2005. In a team’s first game back, when they are most likely to be going through the motions, the over went 146-119-5 (55.1%).

These are good results with a nice sample size, but wagering on every over is not the optimal strategy.

At the break, there are 15 teams below .500. Most of these squads are longshots to make the playoffs. Bad teams with nothing to play for create a perfect storm for bettors. The over when two teams with losing records play the first two days after the All-Star break has gone 50-24-1 (67.6%) since 2005.

Mailing It In

On Thursday and Friday, there are five games featuring teams with losing records going head-to-head. Over bettors that buy into the vacation hangover should target these matchups:

  • Cavaliers vs. Suns (Thursday, 7 p.m. ET)
  • Hornets vs. Wizards (Friday, 7 p.m. ET)
  • Magic vs. Bulls (Friday, 7 p.m. ET)
  • Hawks vs. Pistons (Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET)
  • Knicks vs. Timberwolves (Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET)

This article was originally posted on by John Ewing. Sports Insights is part of The Action Network.


College Basketball Primer: Early Cinderellas, Sleepers and March Madness Busts

The week after the Super Bowl is college basketball’s unofficial starting point for the casual fan. With that in mind, here is an early March Madness primer with the Cinderellas, sleepers and busts you need to know.

Using Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology, we simulated the NCAA tournament 10,000 times to determine the most likely champion as well as the teams that can make or break your bracket.


When you think of a Cinderella run, Sister Jean and Loyola-Chicago come to mind. Last year the Ramblers reached the Final Four as an 11-seed. Which team will wear the glass slipper this year?

These are Cinderella teams (double-digit seeds) with the best chances to reach the Sweet 16:

Wofford (19-4, 11-0 Southern): 19.2% chance

Wofford is the first Southern Conference team to start 11-0 in league play in 10 years. Of the four losses on the Terriers’ record, three came against ranked power conference programs.

Wofford might be a mid-major but according to KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin, the team ranks 31st in the nation.

Indiana (13-9, 4-7 Big Ten): 17.6% chance

The Hoosiers ended a seven-game losing streak with a signature win against No. 6 Michigan State on Saturday. Indiana upset the Spartans as a 13.5-point underdog in East Lansing.

Archie Miller’s squad suffered a scare when star forward Juwan Morgan went down with a shoulder injury in Saturday’s game, but he returned to practice this week and won’t miss any time. When healthy, Indiana can beat the best teams in the country.

Texas (12-10, 4-5 Big 12): 15.5% chance

Don’t let the record fool you, this Texas team is good. The Longhorns have faced the ninth-toughest schedule in the country but still rank in the top 25 in defensive efficiency. The Horns will be a tough out come tourney time.


If you are going to win your bracket pool you need to pick teams others are avoiding. Here are teams seeded fifth or worse with the best chances to reach the Final Four:

Wisconsin (16-6, 8-3 Big Ten): 11.7% chance

Ethan Happ is a potential 1st-team All-American. The Wisconsin forward averages 18.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. Happ’s play has helped the Badgers win five in a row including victories over two ranked opponents.

Iowa State (18-5, 7-3 Big 12): 6.5% chance

Generally, dark horse candidates to reach the Final Four boast an adjust offensive efficiency of 114.0 or higher and an adjusted defensive efficiency score of 96.2 or less. Iowa State is one of nine teams in the country to meet both qualifications.

Texas Tech (18-5, 6-4 Big 12): 6.3% chance

Texas Tech is third in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, is first in effective field goal percentage allowed (41.7%), fourth against the three pointer (27.3%) and is also 26th in the nation in blocked shots (4.8 per game).

They say defense travels and the Red Raiders are well-positioned to make a deep run in March.


Watch out for these teams seeded fourth or better that could bust your bracket.

Marquette (19-3, 8-1 Big East): 4.2% chance

Marquette is No. 10 in the AP Top 25 but ranks 26th in ESPN’s BPI and KenPom. The Golden Eagles have done most of their damage at home with an undefeated record this season but … checks notes … no NCAA tournament games will be played in Fiserv Forum.

Villanova (18-4, 9-0 Big East): 3.6% chance

Ten in a row. The defending champions are streaking and many have forgotten Villanova’s early-season struggles when the team had four losses by mid-December and fell out of the Top 25.

The Wildcats love the three ball and 42.8% of all the team’s scoring comes from behind the arc. Live by the three, die by the three. If Nova isn’t hitting shots it could be an early exit for Jay Wright’s team.

Houston (21-1, 8-1 AAC): 3.2% chance

The biggest knock on Houston is the team’s schedule. According to KenPom, the Cougars have played only the 146th-toughest slate of opponents and has only two quality wins (wins against current top 50 BPI teams). It is hard to trust a team that hasn’t proven it on the court against the best in the country.

Top seed to avoid

Rick Barnes took Texas to a Final Four in 2003. If he could guide Tennessee to the final weekend he would become the 16th coach to lead multiple teams to the national semifinal. As the top-ranked team in the nation, Barnes has the Vols well positioned, but our model gives Tennessee the worst odds of the 1-seeds to reach the Final Four (25.6%).

Defense has been an issue for Tennessee having conceded 68.0 points per game (91st). Can the Vols get enough stops once the tournament begins to match the expectations of their ranking and seed?

Best Bet

Based on the difference between implied probability and projected chance, the team with the most value to win the national championship is Virginia. At +850 odds, the implied probability of the Cavaliers cutting down the nets is 11.8%.

The Action Network’s simulations give the team a 24.0% chance — second to only Duke (27.0%). After becoming the first 1-seed to lose to a 16-seed in last year’s tournament, many gamblers might overlook UVA but that would be a mistake.

This article was originally posted on by John Ewing. Sports Insights is part of The Action Network.