In one of the most famous revenge situations of all time. I imagine everybody who read the classic literature book, Moby Dick, believed Captain Ahab would surely get the best of the big white whale upon their second confrontation. Well, maybe you were like me in high school English class and didn’t wade through all 135 chapters of Herman Melville’s novel. While I don’t know his last name, I would like to thank Cliff, the creator of CliffsNotes which helped me not only get through Moby Dick (yes, the book rivals the size of the whale) but also MacBeth and Les Miserables.
Revenge is one of the most-used, and most talked about, handicapping angles in any sport. While it is widely assumed that having revenge is a worthwhile reason to wager on a team, that isn’t always the case. There are many times there is no advantage whatsoever.
In examining revenge, we need to look at basic angles first. To have revenge, you obviously had to have lost your previous match-up. For this exercise, I am only looking at same season revenge. I am not a big believer in previous season revenge unless it involved the playoffs or perhaps a unique rivalry or game. Chicago losing to Miami in the 2005-06 playoffs and then opening up the season at Miami where they bludgeoned them 108 to 66 is a good example. Or Cleveland after losing in the championship to San Antonio and going to San Antonio last year and winning outright in their opening rematch. A game to mark your calendar is on Christmas when the two teams from last year’s NBA Finals meet for the first time, the Lakers versus the Celtics. You have to believe the Lakers have that day circled.
We start with as basic of revenge there is with no qualifiers other than the two teams have already met one time in the current regular season. Going back to the start of the 2005 NBA season, same-season revenge after losing the previous game shows the team with revenge only winning outright 46.9% of the time. However, what is most important to us is covering the point spread which the team who lost the previous meeting did 51.8% of the time in their next rematch. It is an edge, albeit a very small one. The Over/Under numbers are not discernible with the Over happening 49.9% of the time. Incidentally, none of our revenge game situations include playoff games. That’s a completely different animal.
There is no difference if the rematch happens to be the third meeting of the year. Non-conference teams will meet twice during the regular season doing a home and home split. Teams in the same conference and the same division will meet a total of four times with evenly split on location. Teams in the same conference but not the same division will meet three to four times in the same year.
A common handicapping belief proven to be wrong by the following statistics is to generalize saying revenge between two teams from the same division is powerful. Over the past three seasons it hasn’t been as the team who lost the first match only covers the spread 48.0% of the time in the second contest.
If the two teams are from the same conference but NOT the same division, the revenging team covers 54.6% of the time. Now we are starting to get an edge worth considering. Non-conference same-season rematches have a 54.5% lean to going over the posted Total.
Let’s start doing some drilling down to see if there are some profitable revenge situations. From now on, these games are not number specific but that they are occurring in the same season. First we determine where the location of the previous and current games are. Of the four possible combination of locations, the only one that has any type of edge to it is if the first game was played away from the losing teams’ home arena and now the next meeting is also on the road. Here we have a very nice 59.1% advantage by playing on the revenging away team, a 152-105 three year record against the spread. The Over has a nice edge at 146-115, 55.9%. That mark improves to 61.9% ATS and 56.8% O/U if the game is a non-divisional one.
Where a team with revenge played their previous game directly before the rematch can have a huge influence on the side and the total of the game. If the first meeting was on the road and the rematch is also on the road and our team seeking revenge just played a home game, they cover the point spread 64.0% of the time, 96-54, with the total going over 63.4% of the time in their rematch. That record improves to 40-19, 67.8%, ATS and 40-20, 66.7% OU, if our team lost that previous home game before their return game.
A strong qualifier to always look at is what team was favored in the first meeting of the two teams. In the rematch, is the same team favored? Does one team have that much of a talent-edge to be favored on the road?
Sticking with non-divisional conference teams, a 65.2% winning trend is to back an away dog with revenge if the previous contest between the two teams was also away for the team who lost originally and the losing team was an underdog in both games. This carries an 88-47 record along with an O/U mark of 78-59, 56.9%.
How about the third meeting of the season and our team has lost the previous two games? The terrible “double revenge”! Once again, there is an edge if our team is playing on the road. However, it is just a 56.4% advantage. Make the revenging team’s previous game at home and we move up to 61.1% along with a 56.5% Over bias. In triple revenge, keeping the exact same scenario as our 61.1% trend previously, we get results of 65.0 winners in both the revenging team and playing the Over.
A good trend to keep your eyes out for is when you have a home favorite that won the previous match-up but failed to cover against the spread. While they win straight-up at a nice 109-34 pace in the follow-up contests, they only cover the spread in 39.0% of the games over the past three seasons. And, if they are more than a nine-point favorite, their coverage rate falls to 33.3%.
The turnaround time can be a big factor. If two conference teams met four days ago or fewer, and the road team lost the previous match-up, the Under is a 73.1% winner! Not only does the team have revenge but the other team’s plays and offensive tendencies are fresh in their minds.
Revenge can be good. However, it is best to know which spots are valid winners and which are nothing more than a hopeful situation full of hot air.
Jim Kruger of Vegas Sports Authority is frequent contributor.