The college basketball season is always the high 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 basketball rankings or Ken Pomeroy rankings.
The KenPom site slowly gained notoriety among college basketball fans. And sure enough, bettors also took notice of KenPom. What was originally a small site compiling statistics from all sorts of college sports, KenPom 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. There are a lot of people who swear by KenPom rankings.
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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 of 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. 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 rankings 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. KenPom, however, remains a reference among bettors, and even bookmakers keep track of it.
Kenpom rankings are based on a variety of factors, including offensive and defensive efficiency, strength of schedule, and recent performance. The rankings are updated daily, and they are a popular tool for college basketball fans and bettors.
Factors Ken Pom Considers When Calculating its Rankings:
Offensive efficiency: This is a measure of how many points a team scores per 100 possessions.
Defensive efficiency: This is a measure of how many points a team allows per 100 possessions.
Strength of schedule: This is a measure of how difficult a team’s schedule has been.
Recent performance: This is a measure of how well a team has been playing recently.
Kenpom rankings are a valuable tool for college basketball fans and bettors. They can be used to identify teams that are likely to win games, and they can also be used to identify teams that are undervalued by the betting market.
Tips on Using Ken Pom Rankings 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 system, 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.
KenPom ratings as a reference.
In 2014, KenPom.com user Ryno23 came up with a 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 on the outcome. Some teams are able to overcome injuries to important players, while others simply fall apart.
Also learn about How to Understand Betting Scores and Odds
Betting Examples Using the KenPom Basketball 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 basketball 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 NCAAB predictions most of the time. While finding good odds “hiding in the open” and profiting from huge discrepancies between sportsbook 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, big payouts are 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
1. How to use KenPom?
The KenPom system is used to determine betting lines such as handicap, over/under, and point totals. You can use it to predict the winner of a match, as well as the final score margin, with a very good success rate.
2. How to read KenPom Ratings?
KenPom ratings are based on different advanced stats, which are used to calculate the team’s adjusted efficiency margin. Based on it, KenPom tries to predict the result of a game, including the points scored by each team and, consequently, the winning margin.
3. What is KenPom Ranking?
The KenPom rankings take into account different advanced metrics: offensive and defensive efficiency per 100 possessions, tempo (possessions per 40 minutes), luck (success exceeding the expected win ratio) and strength of schedule in and out of conference. Teams are then ranked according to these stats.
4. How is KenPom Calculated?
Originally, KenPom relied on a complicated method called Pythagorean winning percentage. Since 2016, however, the system has changed to an easier method called adjusted efficiency margin, which is simply the difference between adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency.
5. How accurate is KenPom?
It depends on what you are comparing it to. On average, KenPom can accurately predict around 73% of the games in a season. When it comes to betting, KenPom has an average success of 60% against the spread.