Nick Bogdanovich doesn’t have to be close to the Kansas football program to understand this year’s struggles.
Bogdanovich — the director of trading at William Hill Race & Sports Book in Las Vegas — only has to look to his own data to see where the program stands.
“I don’t want to be rude or brutal, but how long have they been down?” Bogdanovich said. “They’re definitely a ‘bet-against’ team.”
In the world of sports betting, that’s not a compliment.
Each week, analytics give sports books a general sense of where to put point-spreads. From there, they make slight adjustments based on injuries and past performance.
And that’s where KU’s ‘bet against’ reputation comes in. No matter how high the point spread is, Bogdanovich says, the public is not afraid to put its money against the Jayhawks because of their recent history.
“They’re like the Cleveland Browns in the NFL,” Bogdanovich said.
This week provided another example. KU opened as a 31 1/2 -point underdog for Saturday’s 5 p.m. game at Texas, only to have that line move up to 34 in a few days.
“The public, they have no problem laying 24, 35 … whatever number you put up against Kansas, the public is playing against Kansas, just because they’ve been so dismal for so long,” Bogdanovich said. “It’s an automatic.”
There’s a bigger picture for Vegas oddsmakers, though. Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sports operation at Westgate LV SuperBook, said that while public betting can sometimes be predictable, sports books are more worried about “sharps” — the big-money players who often try to make a living on sports betting.
As much as the public might like to bet against KU, sports books are hesitant to move their lines too much for fear that the high rollers will take advantage.
Because of that, Kornegay said, KU’s point-spread number for the Westgate SuperBook is mostly based off a “power rating” that uses advanced stats. That ranking, as one might guess, has fallen for KU in recent weeks.
“I never thought they were going to really struggle as much as they have this year, not that we had high expectations,” Kornegay said. “We thought we were going to see some glimpses of improvement, and we really haven’t seen that.”
Kornegay’s “power rating” has the proof. According to his numbers, if KU was inserted into the 12-team Mountain West, it would rank 12th out of 13 schools. The Jayhawks also would be about a six-point neutral underdog against Hawaii, which sits at 3-6 overall and 1-5 in conference play.
Three years ago, Kornegay said he heard good things when David Beaty was hired as head coach at KU. Kornegay says this particular program in a conference like the Big 12 might just need a little extra time for a turnaround.
All of that, though, isn’t enough to alter his overall thoughts on KU.
“As far as Vegas is concerned,” Kornegay said, “the program really hasn’t changed much over the last six years.”