For those of us who enjoy wagering on college hoops contests, we will soon be entering a very brief period of the season where betting a certain way has been very profitable in the past. But first, a caveat – the oddsmakers know about this system.

As near as I can tell, the KenPom system started in 2010. A very observant user of KenPom (subscription required) noticed that betting lines for weak teams were often inflated, to the point that betting these lines almost blindly was a profitable thing to do – no real handicapping was, or is, required. You just need to know about the System, the necessary parameters and when to start betting the System.

Here is how it works…

KenPom ranks and re-ranks all 353 college basketball teams, every day. Today, as I write this, Virginia is ranked #1 and Maryland Eastern Shore is ranked #353. These rankings are based on the cumulative results of games played and the relative strength of schedule each team has faced, among other criteria.

The theory goes, as the season wears on and as teams with no shot of winning their conference tournament and possibly advancing into the post season tournaments, these teams tend to give up on the season. In other words, these teams show decided lack of effort in their few final weeks of the regular season and often just “mail it in.”

Yet, oddsmakers tend to continue hanging their opening lines based on each team’s Power Ratings. The KenPom System takes advantage of this tendency of oddsmakers to overvalue a marginally better team playing at home against a marginally worse team playing on the road.

It might be easier to list the criteria of the KenPom System, than to write paragraphs about it…without further ado…

  1. System begins the last two weeks of the regular college basketball season (mid-February);
  2. Teams must be playing conference games;
  3. Teams within the System will have a KenPom Ranking of 180 or higher, up to 353;
  4. Teams must be from regularly-lined college basketball conferences. Hence, teams in the Summit League would qualify, as these teams play games that are regularly-lined by oddsmakers. Teams that are not part of this system would be from conferences such as the Atlantic Sun, Mid-Eastern and Western Athletic Conferences, to name only a few. I have provided a list of regularly-lined conferences at the bottom of this article;
  5. The opening line on the HOME team must be at least -6.0. Hence the VISITING team would be at least +6.0. If the opener is -6.0 and the line moves to -5.0 before you can get your bet down, it is NOT a System play;
  6. We always bet the visiting underdog, taking the points. We will never wager on the home team, even if the home team is getting +6.0 points or more.
  7. When betting KenPom System plays, it is best to bet the side as early as possible. People know about this System and so do the oddsmakers. Hence, oddsmakers are very quick to move the lines based on just a few bets taken; and
  8. The System does not apply during conference tournaments – this is regular season only.

That’s really about it. We bet the visiting underdog against the point spread, always taking the points. We do not, necessarily, care about which teams we are betting. However, there may be special circumstances. For instance, a team that may have “something to play for” may fall out of the system. This is up to the bettor to determine. Let’s say, it’s Senior Night for the home team. Perhaps that is a reason to stay off that type of game?

Variations to the System that may also be profitable…

  • We may also bet the First Half Spread
  • We may bet the Underdog Moneyline
  • Some people will play the System up to a KenPom Ranking of 165
  • Buying the hook to get the play into the System – hence buying a half-point on a line of +5.5
  • Some people will play the Pre-System, which begins the first of February

Last Saturday, January 26, 2019, there were 10 games that fit the System. I kept track of these contests to get an idea how the System would perform prior to the Pre-System period. Here are the results:

  • There were 5 System winners;
  • There were 5 System losers.

Based on these results, a bettor would have lost the vig and would not have made a profit.

There were 3 straight up winners, paying +270, +300 and +325. Betting all 10 moneylines would have been a small System win, however, the moneyline bets would not have returned enough to overcome the money lost to the vig on the spread bets. Thus, overall, the System would not have won this past weekend. For an excellent betting system go back and review this article – Betting Strategy: Spread & Line. These results probably tell us why the System was designed to start mid-February.

Regularly-lined college basketball conferences – alphabetical order:

American Athletic*
Atlantic Coast*
Atlantic 10
Big East*
Big Sky
Big Ten*
Big 12*
Big West
Conference USA
Metro Atlantic
Missouri Valley
Mountain West
Ohio Valley
Sun Belt
West Coast

* Because of the “relative quality” of the teams playing in these conferences, it is highly unlikely that a KenPom System play would involve teams from these conferences.