In Sue Bird’s farewell season, nothing (and everything) has changed
In 21 years, Bird has found her voice and helped change WNBA culture.
The WNBA All-Star Game is just days away, which means soon we’ll have betting lines for one of the most unique and exciting women’s basketball events to place your money on. (Who can forget the monumental mistake sportsbooks made for last year’s event?)
For now, we can recap the last several weeks of WNBA regular season action from a betting perspective.
If the last few weeks have reminded us of anything, it’s that even the best are always vulnerable in sports. The juggernaut Aces, once the clear and undisputed top team in the league, have come back down to earth as of late. They are still the favorites to win the championship, but they’ve generally faded in the betting landscape.
Las Vegas is just 2-9 against the spread since the start of June, and in one of those wins, they covered by a mere 1.5 points. The All-Star break couldn’t come at a better time for this squad. While it won’t be as restful for the Aces as it will be for most other teams, considering much of their starting lineup will be in the All-Star Game in Chicago, it still should give them a chance to regroup and reset.
Meanwhile, Las Vegas’ Commissioner Cup opponent has been trending in the opposite direction. Chicago has won 11 of its last 13, with the only two losses coming by two points each. In the process, the Sky have cashed their spread bet eight times after beginning the season 2-6 against the spread.
Your next chance to bet on the Sky will come on Wednesday against one of the other hottest teams in the league: Minnesota. These two teams played a fantastic game just over a week ago, in which Courtney Vandersloot won it at the buzzer after the Sky blew a double-digit lead. In spite of the hot streak, letting teams claw their way back in games has been a theme for the Sky, so if they take a big lead early, it could be a good opportunity to bet on the other side.
Dream riding Tiffany Hayes
Tiffany Hayes made her season debut with a bang last week against the Liberty, knocking down four of her six triples and finishing with 21 points. The Dream won outright as 5.5-point underdogs in the process, and followed that up with a blowout upset of Seattle three days later also as 5.5-point underdogs.
After an excellent May and a tough June, the returns of Hayes and Erica Wheeler could mean Atlanta is in store for a big July. Their last game before the break comes against the Mystics, who will have Elena Delle Donne and will almost certainly be favored. Don’t be surprised if Atlanta cashes another underdog moneyline, or at the very least covers for a third straight time since Hayes has returned.
Checking on trends we’ve been monitoring
While second-quarter unders have faltered, coming down to 51.2 percent on the season (although still 55.9 percent when following a first-quarter over), fourth-quarter unders may be back. The under hit in over 62 percent of fourth quarters last season, but it started out practically 50/50 through 100 games this season: 51-49.
Since then, they have gone 20-7 with one push. That trend is even stronger, albeit in a smaller sample, when looking at the second legs of back-to-backs. Sportsbooks seem to have adjusted for the overall effect of back-to-backs being lower scoring, but they haven’t necessarily adjusted far enough when it comes to the fourth quarters of those games, when players are the most tired. Those unders are 8-2 on the season.
Some totals too low?
A new trend that’s emerging this season is the tendency for low totals to hit the over. Games for which the closing line has been 161 or lower have surpassed that total 36 times and gone under just 18, good for a 67 percent hit rate.
These totals are obviously coming largely from teams that play some combination of great defense, bad offense and slow-paced basketball — teams like the Mystics, the Storm or the Dream — so it makes sense that the lines are low. But if sportsbooks are overvaluing just how slow or defensive these teams are, it gives us a chance to make some money on those overs in the 150s.
Here are FanDuel’s biggest movers of the last three weeks.
Stock up: Sky (+440 previous to +300 current)
Chicago’s hot streak hasn’t gone unnoticed by sportsbooks, as their odds have continued to shorten and have passed up the Connecticut Sun. A win over the team the Sky are chasing in the odds — the Aces — certainly didn’t hurt, nor did taking over first place in the standings.
The Storm are a very close second here, mostly thanks to adding Tina Charles during that time frame. Charles has never won a championship, but if she can continue to buy into this “bench alpha” role rather than demanding starter-level minutes and shots that would take away volume from Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd, Seattle may be in a good position.
Stock down: Sparks (+6500 previous to +15000 current)
This one is interesting, as Los Angeles has actually been playing fairly well recently. They’ve covered in five straight games, winning four of them outright despite only being favored in one.
However, it also became more and more clear in June that there is a gap between the WNBA’s top five and the rest, and the Sparks are not in that top group. They also fired head coach Derek Fisher in June, so +6500 was probably too short to begin with.
Seattle/Indiana over 158.5
Remember when the Fever started the season playing the fastest of any team in league history? Yes, they’ve played at a more reasonable pace since then, but this is still a very low line for any game involving Indiana.
And of course, this falls into the category we talked about above: Lines 161 or below that have gone over two-thirds of the time. Expect this one to be played in the 160s.
Connecticut/Dallas under 163.5
On the other side, you have a line that may have made more sense a few weeks ago, but the Sun offense hasn’t been too impressive over this recent stretch. In fact, Connecticut’s offensive rating of 91.3 over its last five games ranks dead-last in the WNBA over that time.
The first meeting between these two teams finished under this total, and the second one eclipsed it by just a few points thanks to the Sun’s 25-for-27 night at the free throw line. It will probably take something of that magnitude to hit this high of a total again.
Calvin Wetzel is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports, covering basketball and betting. He also contributes to Her Hoop Stats, CBS SportsLine and FiveThirtyEight. Follow him on Twitter at @cwetzel31.
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