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Betting roundtable: Our experts' worst bad beats from the past year
29th April, 12:51With major U.S. sports either canceling or postponing their seasons because of the coronavirus pandemic, the sports betting world is essentially on hold.
Future wagers that might have been winners -- or at least had a shot at a good hedge -- might be refunded. Other futures in college basketball and the XFL, for example, have already been refunded.
ESPN betting analysts Joe Fortenbaugh, Preston Johnson, Doug Kezirian and Jordan Schultz, and Matt Youmans of the Vegas Stats & Information Network share some of the ups and downs from the past year in sports betting.
Youmans: There were a couple of sick beats early in the college football season -- Northwestern at Stanford, Oregon versus Auburn -- but nothing beats the Philadelphia Eagles-Washington Redskins game in Week 15 of the NFL season. I bet the Redskins +6 and they led 27-24 in the final minute. A touchdown pass by Carson Wentz put Philadelphia ahead with 26 seconds left. Washington was still going to cover unless something ridiculous happened -- and, of course, something ridiculous happened. Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins panicked in the pocket near midfield and tossed the ball on the ground for no apparent reason. The fumble bounced up to Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham, who ran 48 yards for a touchdown as time expired for a 37-27 final. I was in the top 60 of the Westgate SuperContest going into the day, and that game started my late-season slide out of the top 100.
Fortenbaugh: My Golden State Warriors under tickets (under 49.5, 49 and 48.5) would fall into this category. Who's bright idea was it to ask these questions? Are we trying to put our panelists into therapy? While you're at it, why not ask me which side I was on during the 2012 Belk Bowl? Unbelievable.
Kezirian: Youmans accurately conveyed the pain of the Redskins +6 against the Eagles, and I shared that agony. I have numerous others. Air Force -20 against San Jose State on Sept. 27 warrants a mention. The Falcons led by 31 points midway through the fourth quarter. The Spartans sure seemed checked out, inserting backup QB Nick Nash. But he drove the field and threw a TD pass with 3:51 left. San Jose State did not opt for an onside kick, setting the stage for Air Force to grind the clock with its signature running game. The Falcons ran the ball the next few plays without any subsequent timeouts from San Jose State. All I needed was a single Falcons first down against a weak Spartans defense. That never came.
On top of that, Troy Calhoun inexplicably chose to run the ball on fourth-and-2 on his own 22-yard line with 2:22 left. One would assume a punt would have been sufficient to cover, given San Jose State had shown no sense of urgency. However, the Falcons were stopped short and provided the Spartans with a short field for the backdoor cover. I knew I was toast, and San Jose State validated that fear in four plays.
Schultz: This one is easy -- and equally depressing. Flash back to Dec. 6 in an otherwise mundane NBA game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder. Minnesota, the home team, was getting 3.5. I had the points, not to mention some cash sprinkled on the money line, which I believe came in +155.
The Wolves were up two with 1.1 seconds left. Reserve Jordan Bell checked in with his shirt untucked, prompting Chris Paul to inform the official. The result? A technical foul, ultimately cutting the lead to one. Karl-Anthony Towns made one of two free throws, only to see Steven Adams chuck a Fran Tarkenton-like pass down the floor to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who made a tying layup at the buzzer. Predictably, OKC proceeded to dominate overtime, winning by 12 points for the easy outright cover and a nice dent to my wallet. Lesson learned; I should have hedged before OT.
Johnson: I bet a friend the blue team would be the first to 10 points. Neither team got there... until this at the horn:
The funny part is I don't even remember what the other beat was I was referring to in the tweet. They typically all blur together at this point, but this one stood out.
Fortenbaugh: Riding the LSU Tigers football train with unwavering confidence. I backed the Tigers in the SEC championship against Georgia, the CFP semifinal against Oklahoma and the championship game against Clemson. At no point did I second-guess myself.
I loved watching that team play this season and had them on the featured screen every opportunity I was given. That team belongs on the college football Mount Rushmore of swagger.
Johnson: For MLB, Washington Nationals 40-1 to win the World Series. I wrote about this one for Chalk during the All-Star break. At the time, Caesars was only 25-1 and I had bet the 40-1 a few days prior, but it was still an incredibly valuable price and opportunity to buy low on a team that had been underachieving to that point despite sitting in a wild-card spot anyway. The trio of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin on the pitching staff was going to be tough to beat in a playoff series, no matter what team they matched up against. We just needed Scherzer to get the Nats through the wild-card game and into a series, and he did just that. They got hot at the right time.
In college football, LSU over 8.5 wins and Joe Burrow to win the Heisman trophy 50-1. This one is pretty self-explanatory. LSU's decision to hire Joe Brady from the New Orleans Saints to be their new passing-game offensive coordinator and modernize the offense as a whole moved mountains in Louisiana. The Tigers finished 15-0. Burrow's Heisman victory was the cherry on top.
For the NFL, Lamar Jackson to win MVP at 80-1. I was able to shop around in Las Vegas and get a better price than Caesars was offering, but it doesn't ultimately matter because this was a great bet at either price. I keep thinking back to it and realizing that we might not see an MVP candidate at the quarterback position priced 50-1 or higher in the futures market ever again. I missed out not betting enough on this gem.
Youmans: It's easier to recall the bad beats because those stick with you longer. Plus, people seem to enjoy stories of agony. But I did have a few betting highlights from San Diego State Aztecs games late in the college basketball season.
I bet UNLV +14 on Feb. 22, when the Rebels won 66-63 to end the Aztecs' undefeated run. I bet on San Diego State -9 against Boise State in a Mountain West tournament semifinal and felt like a fool when the Aztecs fell behind by 16 points in the first half. I felt much better when the Aztecs made a miraculous rally to win and cover 81-68. I also had a bet on Utah State at 4-1 to win the Mountain West tournament, and it cashed when Sam Merrill hit a late 3-pointer to stun San Diego State 59-56.
Kezirian: North Carolina Tar Heels hoops played in a game that represented one of my favorite bets. While watching Carolina suffer an excruciating OT loss to rival Duke on Feb. 8, I immediately grabbed my phone to check its next game. The situation was ideal. Here is a team that was basically enduring a lost season -- given its sub-.500 record and high aspirations -- that just lost the only game the players truly cared about in the most painful way possible.
In just three days, the Heels had to travel to Wake Forest and face a team that generated no excitement. I understand narratives can be silly and fool's gold, but I firmly believed the situational spot significantly favored the Demon Deacons. I mentioned the betting opportunity on a few radio hits over the next three days and discussed it on Daily Wager. Fortunately, UNC cooperated and lost by 17 points, failing to cover as short favorites.
As for the college football season, I was pleased with how I routinely faded the Northwestern Wildcats and Michigan State Spartans. Both were a popular side by sharps, but I just could not back those putrid offenses. I was happy with the results, and I'm probably most proud of my assessment of Sparty because I had played over their season win total. I quickly realized this team lacked an offense, so I aborted my initial assessment and ultimately profited.
Schultz: I was all over Ja Morant for NBA rookie of the year and said as much on Daily Wager. Morant entered the league at the perfect time, when point guards have free rein to score and thrive in the open floor. Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins was an ideal fit too, consistently allowing Morant the necessary space to attack the paint like a proven veteran and showcase his electric playmaking ability in the open floor.
Youmans: Almost every bet on the New York Giants ended with regret. I bet the Giants six times last season and went 1-5 ATS. We all have at least one NFL team we should avoid. Don't ask why I had a weakness for the Giants -- especially when I disliked the coach, Pat Shurmur -- but I always look for value with underdogs and got fooled by the Giants more than a few times.