Updated January 8, 2020 - 7:08 pm
March wasn’t mad enough for Circa Sports.
The sportsbook has opened an intriguing futures option for college basketball bettors by posting odds to win this season’s National Invitation Tournament.
Bettors must essentially handicap two questions: Which bubble teams will miss the NCAA Tournament? Then, which of those teams is capable of winning the NIT, the premier postseason tournament for teams not in the NCAA field.
“You need teams that are not quite good enough to reach this but are good enough to win that,” Circa oddsmaker Matt Lindeman said.
Lindeman said the spark of the idea came a few years ago when he saw the Westgate post odds to claim the National and American League wild-card berths, presenting a similar “multilayered handicap.”
Lindeman came up with the NIT idea while working at the Caesars Palace sportsbooks last season, and he brought it with him when he went to Circa.
The most difficult question for oddsmakers is determining which teams to list and which to leave as part of the field (a betting option that includes all other teams not specifically listed), Lindeman said. Last year at Caesars, he posted odds on teams that projected to be a No. 5 seed or worse in the NCAA Tournament at that time, figuring every team projected as a No. 4 or better would at least make the field.
In the end, North Carolina State, then projected as a top-four seed, fell out of the NCAA field and ended up being a No. 2 seed in the NIT.
This year, he raised the bar and included some teams projected as high as a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, including Michigan, which Circa opened at 1,000-1 to win the NIT before adjusting the Wolverines to 100-1.
Lindeman said several teams’ odds were reassessed and adjusted lower after opening despite not taking a bet.
“You have to be very careful,” he said. “A few websites that had numbers on it showed that some of our long shots were way too high, and we adjusted today.”
Some early actual bets included shots on Marquette at 300-1 (now 50-1) and Brigham Young at 200-1 (now 30-1). Miami (opened 200-1, now 50-1), Pittsburgh (200-1, now 100-1) and Florida (200-1, now 100-1) also received bets.
The field is still the “favorite” at 8-1 after opening at 5-1. The listed team with the shortest odds is North Carolina at 15-1 (opened 12-1).
Lindeman said Circa will probably stop taking NIT bets before conference tournaments begin. Last year at Caesars, a bettor snapped up Texas at 30-1 during the hectic week before it lost in the Big 12 tournament and eventually ended up in the NIT, he said. The Longhorns went on to win the title.
“They’ll get you if you fall asleep,” Lindeman said.
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