The college basketball season is always a highly-anticipated time of the year for sports betting. With 357 NCAA Division I teams, there is no lack of action on any given weekend. Naturally, many have tried to come up with accurate betting systems for college football games. But one of them, which wasn’t actually created as a betting system in the first place, became a favorite and changed college basketball betting forever: the KenPom rankings.
The KenPom site slowly gained notoriety among college basketball fans. And sure enough, bettors also took notice of it. What was originally a small site compiling statistics from all sorts of college sports, soon became a reference for sports betting.
But what exactly is the KenPom system? And how exactly can you use KenPom predictions in betting? Are they really that effective? Let’s take a look at what the KenPom system is, how it works in betting, and how to make the best of it to boost your wins.
The KenPom System Explained
In sports, some people will argue that offense is the best defense. And that does have a logic behind it. After all, the team that dominates actions, such as possession and shooting, leaves as little room as possible for its opponent to fight back. In other words, a good offense can also boost a team’s defensive numbers, even if that same team isn’t as strong from a purely defensive perspective.
But a raw-stats sheet doesn’t take that into account. As long as a team produces good numbers on the defensive side of the game, such as giving up fewer points, then it will be considered good on the defense even when that isn’t exactly true. Ken Pomeroy, a meteorologist working for the National Weather Service in Montana, decided that he could come up with a better, more efficient system for college basketball analysis.
In 1999, Pomeroy created the KenPom website, which provided ratings for all sorts of college sports. Five years later, he shifted his site’s focus exclusively to college basketball. In 2012, Pomeroy took the decision to turn KenPom into a full time operation and quit his job with the National Weather Service.
Back in a time when advanced metrics and stats were very much unheard of, Pomeroy’s approach changed things completely. His system took into account advanced metrics, such as offensive and defensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions), game pace, and strength of schedule, among others.
His system had been growing in notoriety among college basketball fans, sports betting enthusiasts, and even college basketball coaches. The most famous example is current Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. In 2010, when he was Butler head coach, he took the team to its first ever National Championship Game. Stevens credited KenPom, saying that he would usually check the advanced stats of Butler’s opponents prior to the matches.
Bookmakers, on the other hand, initially weren’t aware about the punters’ best kept secret. Whenever the betting lines deviated too much due to KenPom predictions, bettors wouldn’t hesitate to take their chances. And more often than not, it resulted in wins.
Naturally, sportsbooks took notice of KenPom predictions. Nowadays, most bookmakers use KenPom as the reference for their own betting lines. As a result, finding lines that differ significantly from KenPom predictions is increasingly difficult. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you can’t use the KenPom system for betting, as we will explain further ahead.
Funnily enough, the man himself isn’t an avid punter. In a 2017 interview for ESPN, Pomeroy revealed that he doesn’t even fill the March Madness bracket. His system, however, remains a reference among bettors, and even bookmakers keep track of it.
Tips on Using KenPom Predictions for Betting
- Sportsbooks take KenPom predictions into account to make their lines. It doesn’t mean that betting using KenPom as a reference has lost its value: it will probably offer lower payouts than it did in the past, but the system is still extremely reliable. Of course, just like any other sports prediction systems, KenPom is never going to be 100% accurate. It’s up to you to find the right situations and the best odds to wager on.
- In 2014, KenPom.com user Ryno23 came up with a very unique system using KenPom ratings as a reference. However, this method is only valid for games taking place during the final two weeks of the regular season, and it excludes postseason matches. It relies on favorite teams not playing up to their full potential once they are out of contention for a spot in March Madness. In this system, both teams must be 180th or lower in the KenPom rankings. You will always bet on away teams that are at least +6 against the spread. According to the method’s author, betting lines in these situations tend to be inflated, and you are bound to profit.
- An extremely important point: KenPom doesn’t take injuries into account, while sportsbooks do. If one of the teams loses a key player right before a match, bookmakers have a tendency to overreact and push the lines, while the KenPom prediction remains unchanged. When this happens, it’s up to you to strike the right balance and identify whether or not the injury will have a major influence in the outcome. Some teams are able to overcome injuries to important players, while others simply fall apart.
Betting Examples Using the KenPom Rankings
- In the 2022 Final Four, North Carolina was the only team ranked outside the Top 10 in KenPom rankings. Kansas, which won the championship, was the number 3 team. On the other hand, Gonzaga was given a 27% chance to win the national title, and was close to 90% of making it past the Sweet 16. These were the most lopsided margins in KenPom’s history. However, the Bulldogs were upset by Arkansas in the round of 16. The system was accurate in predicting the top teams, but also missed the champion by a significant margin.
- If the opening lines are more than a few points away from the KenPom prediction, then there are some possible explanations. It could be a mistake on the bookmaker’s part, a key injury, or a KenPom error. A 2010 match between Seattle and Maryland famously opened at 121.5 points, as sportsbooks got the line for the game completely wrong because of a KenPom glitch. The match ended with 181 total points, easily covering the over.
- Let’s offer an example for the Ryno23 method: the 200th team in KenPom rankings takes on the 250th ranked team. The first team, playing at home, opens as a -8 favorite. Consequently, the visiting team opens as a +8 underdog. Assuming this game takes place during the final two weeks of the regular season, with nothing significant to play for, then you can pick the second team at +8.
Pros vs Cons of Using the KenPom System in Betting
- The KenPom system is used as a reference in college basketball by bettors, bookmakers and coaches. It’s very accurate and offers precise predictions most of the time. While finding good odds “hiding in the open” and profiting from huge discrepancies between sportsbooks lines and KenPom predictions is a bit hard these days, you can still win consistently by using KenPom as a reference.
- Alternatively, you can always game the KenPom predictions. The Ryno23 system explained above is a good example. While new bettors will usually stick to big games with well-known teams, plenty of matches between less-known programs offer very good payouts.
- The KenPom system has been out in the mainstream for over a decade, and it’s no longer sports betting’s best-kept secret. As much as it remains a reliable tool for punters to use, big payouts are a lot rarer now.
- As mentioned earlier, KenPom does not take injuries into account. If a team loses a key player before an important match, the KenPom prediction will remain unaltered. For this reason, you shouldn’t trust it blindly.
The KenPom system changed college basketball betting forever. The fact that nearly two decades later it is still used as a reference by bookmakers, tells just about everything you need to know. This does come with a downside, since punters are no longer able to take advantage of it to win big. But while the payouts aren’t quite as big, you can still safely use the KenPom predictions as a relatively safe reference. Other bettors have come up with methods to explore it as well, so checking for strategies is always worth it.
FAQs: KenPom Betting System
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