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Pythagorean Formula and Basketball Totals


Updated February 11, 2013

Pythagorean Formula and Basketball Totals

This article is obviously a continuation of last week's Pythagorean Formula and Basketball Betting article, but this time, we'll dust off our math skills and look to see if we can predict a game's chances of going over or under the total.

Sports betting authors Jerry Patterson and John Painter used the formula in their book Sports Betting: A Winner's Handbook, which is one of the most under-appreciated sports betting books around. Almost 30 years after it was first published, it remains filled with good ideas and I've based several of my mathematical systems on their work.

Patterson and Painter used the Pythagorean Formula for predicting a team's chances of covering the point spread in an NBA game. They did not use it for college basketball, as we did in the last article, or for totals, we we will do here. The formula is always the same, it's the components that go into it that change. Once again, we will break a team's tendencies into three separate classifications: overall over/under; home or away over/under; and favorite or underdog over/under.

We'll look at the Sunday, Feb. 10, game with the Los Angeles Clippers at the New York Knicks as an example.

The Clippers were 27-24 in totals in all games and 13-14 on the road. As underdogs, the Clippers were 5-3 in totals, so our first step is to add all three up:
Overall: 27-24
On road: 13-14
As underdog: 5-3
You will get 45-41.

The Knicks were 23-23 overall in totals and 12-13 at home. As a favorite, the Knicks were 18-19, so once again we will total the three classifications up and get:
Overall: 23-23
At home: 12-13
As favorite:18-19
You will get 53-55

Because we are looking for the chances of a game going over the total, we will be adding both team's overs together and then adding both team's unders together to get our second figure. In this case, the Clippers' overs are 45 and the Knicks' overs are 53, so 45+53=98.

When we add the two unders together, we get 41+55=96.

The next step is to square both numbers, so we get 98*98=9604 and 96*96=9216.

We will now divide the numbers of over by the number of unders + the number of overs, which translates to 9604/9216+9604 or 9604/18820=.510 or 51%, so we are saying there is a 51% chance the game goes over the total. The game ended up going under the total by two points.

I would look for games where there is at least a 60% chance of a game going over or under before considering it as a play.

We'll look at one more game from Sunday, this time the Portland at Orlando contest.

Portland was 24-24 overall in totals, 12-11 on the road and 10-9 as a favorite, giving us:
Overall: 24-24
On road: 12-11
As favorite: 10-9
Our total is: 46-44.

Orlando was 27-21 overall, 15-9 at home and 19-18 as an underdog, giving a breakdown of: Overall: 27-21
At home: 15-9
As underdog: 19-18
Our total is: 61-48.

Adding both teams' overs together gives us 46+61=107, while both unders added gives us 44+48=92.

When we square 107 we get 107*107=11449 and when we square 92 we get 92*92=8464. So, our next step is to divide 11449 by 8464+11449=19913 or 11449/19913=.575 or 57.5%, so we are saying there is a 57.5% chance the game goes over the total. It went over the total of 197 easily when the Magic pulled off a 110-104 upset.

I would be hesitant to use the method for college basketball totals, as many teams have only had a posted total three of four times this season.

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