The Real Road to Victory

It seems lately that several handicappers have been parroting each other on “home/road dichotomy” or as we often call it, the home/road splits. The means, simply put, a team that is much superior at home than they are on the road. This is in no way a criticism because we too love exploiting teams that are like night and day on the road and at home.

However, the echo chamber is missing the most important element-teams that are undervalued on the road and/or overvalued at home because they lack the expected deviation in the split numbers. Too often the aspiring expert notices only that the pure numbers of certain teams are much better at home. They should be. In football, home field advantage is generally considered to be three-points. We do not disagree with that. In basketball, it is generally around 4.0 points, but that number varies. However since basketball plays more games, making the raw numbers more statistically reliable, we will use that as an illustration.

From a handicapping standpoint, a team that is outscored by 4.0 on the road would outscore foes by 4.0 at home. Or a team that has 9.0 points per game advantage at home would have just plus one on the road. Hence, the difference between home and road is worth approximately eight points. That is, two perfectly matched teams, each would be a four-point home favorite (or four point road dogs). The key is finding the teams, not just whose home court advantage is statistically higher, but even more importantly, finding teams whose advantage is statistically much lower than the mean.

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As mentioned in previous articles, we measure points per game for and against versus the cumulative average of their previous opponents, plus we use field goal percentage as a more accurate indicator. So our numbers are adjusted, but from a simplified illustrative point, quite similar in nature.

But we have found there are more angles when the linear numbers tell us a team’s home/road dichotomy is much less than the median numbers. That is, there is minimal difference in the home/road splits. The reason for this is quite simple. It again gets back to what we always say about teams “sneaking under the radar”. A squad that consistently destroys teams at home will not get as good of a value as underdogs that are consistently competitive on the road.

We have heard some widely distributed untruths in gambling over the years, but none, I mean none is more fallacious than “never pick an underdog ATS unless you think they are likely to win the game”. There is no greater knowledge engineer in the handicapping profession than the gambling scientist who can most often find the substandard teams (interpretation: often big underdogs on the road), that can cover the spread repeatedly without winning the game.

While the experts-in-training look for teams with a bigger home court/field advantage, the more schooled handicapper is profiting off of teams that have less of a road court/field disadvantage than the norm.

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