The real madness in March is when people bet on college basketball games without taking a peek at the Pomeroy ratings.
Making wagers without consulting these highly respected metrics is like choosing to eat pasta with a spoon. Yes, you can meet your goals, but you’re making things a lot harder on yourself by ignoring a useful tool.
Eight of the last 14 teams ranked No. 1 by the Pomeroy ratings have won the NCAA Tournament, which is good news for No. 1-ranked Houston.
To put that in perspective, only one of the last 14 teams ranked No. 1 in the final AP Top 25 poll of the season went on to win March Madness – Kentucky in 2011-12.
What Are The Pomeroy Ratings?
These ratings, found at Kenpom.com, are trusted by both handicappers and coaches, yet are mostly unknown to novice bettors. Found at kenpom.com and named after statistician Ken Pomeroy, these advanced analytics rank all 363 D-I men’s college basketball teams based on several advanced metrics.
Adjusted Efficiency Margin (AdjEM), Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (AdjO) and Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (AdjD) are the key points in the data set. The word “adjusted” is important because it means the data has been adjusted to account for strength of schedule. If you're looking for more time-based analytics Torvik ratings may be for you.
In other words, if Team A and Team B have identical results (scoring outputs, points allowed, etc.) but Team A plays a cupcake schedule and Team B put up its numbers against strong opponents, then Team B will be ranked higher to account for the stronger competition.
The Adjusted Tempo (AdjT) metric is calculated by the number of possessions per 40 minutes and gives insight into how fast or slow each team plays. For instance, St. John’s is regarded as the fastest team in the country (73.7 possessions per 40 minutes) and North Texas is the slowest (58.6).
How To Use The KenPom ratings
The Adjusted Tempo metric is a valuable tool for totals bettors because it helps forecast the pace of the game and how many opportunities each team will get. Theoretically, two teams with slower tempo ratings suggest a lower-scoring game and two teams with higher tempo ratings suggest a higher-scoring contest.
When you combine tempo with other knowledge, it starts to paint a picture of potential game scripts. For instance, if a team has a low tempo rating and is turnover-prone while facing a team that forces a lot of turnovers, it suggests limited opportunity. Those opportunities combined with a team’s field-goal percentage can give us an idea of scoring output.
Identifying Betting Dark Horses
Theoretically, tools like KenPom are more accurate later in the season because the algorithms have more recent data to pull from.
When the tournament bracket is set, you can look for teams that are ranked highly in either Adjusted Offensive Efficiency or Adjusted Defensive Efficiency but are not being taken as seriously by the seedings. Those teams can essentially ride that highly ranked unit’s hot streak through the tournament.
Loyola Chicago, which made a Cinderella 2018 Final Four run, featured an Adjusted Defensive Efficiency score that ranked 17th in the country. Last season’s No. 8-seeded Tar Heels boasted the 27th-best offense in the country according to KenPom. No. 7 seed South Carolina’s 2017 run to the Final Four had KenPom’s third-ranked defense.
Of course, a high KenPom ranking doesn’t guarantee success. Examples of highly ranked KenPom teams that flopped in the Big Dance would be just as easy to recite, but these rankings can tell you who has the potential to exceed expectations if they get hot or have a couple of breaks go their way.
So, on Selection Sunday when brackets are being finalized, do yourself a favor and grab your fork while looking at your bracket from a new perspective.