The first round of the playoffs in the PLL Championship Series was full of scoring runs, surprises and some frustrating play as well (cough…Waterdogs and Paul Rabil...cough). The big shocker was the turn around we saw from the Chaos, sending the 2nd overall seed Chrome packing despite dominance at the face-off stripe by Connor Farrell who won 18 of his 27 faceoffs against Tommy Kelly.
Before we start getting into Thursday’s semifinal slate, I’d like to point out some learning points for sports bettors that we saw from the first round games.
1. Sample size is important
The more data you have, the better. Handicapping games in the PLL Championship Series is even tougher when you have a small pool of data to draw from, and lacrosse is already a challenging sport to handicap due to its high variance from game to game or even quarter to quarter (think of the Chrome’s patented #ChomeBack wins). Past results are never a guarantor of future success, but the more numbers you have to look at from past results, the better likelihood you’ll have at finding edges that the public might not be accounting for.
2. Be judicious in your plays
The biggest mistake sports bettors make—and I’m guilty of it, too—is forcing action. Just because a game is on national television, doesn’t mean you have to be betting on it. Sports betting is a marathon, so forcing plays that don’t have positive expected value (referred to as +EV) will ensure you will be down money in the long run. If you are on the fence about a play, just make a note to yourself including the amount you would have played and see if you made the right decision. Or, if your bankroll allows for it and you really want the action, play a “pizza money” bet for 1/10th or so of what a typical bet would be for you.
3. Even your most confident plays will sometimes lose
Pros who make a living as sports bettors are aiming to go over 52% (the point you will finally break even due to “the vig” or “the juice”). A decent year for a professional bettor is 54%, a good year, 56%, and a terrific *lets go on a vacation and upgrade the car* year, 58% or more. You’ll see Twitter pages giving out “locks” and purporting they never lose. My suggestion when you see things like that—turn the other way and run. Even when you have a rock-solid +EV play that you’ve never been more confident about, it still may lose. There is no such thing as a “sure-thing” in sports betting, which is why you always need to practice good bankroll management and never bet with money you can’t afford to lose.
Okay, now that Sports Betting 201 is over with… Let’s get into the fun stuff!
While the UNDER train continues rolling through the Series (now 13-4, 2-1 in the playoffs) I would argue that was largely due to the missed opportunities by the Waterdogs who seemed to lack an offensive identity and confidence. Though, having no goals scored by either team nearly 10 minutes into their game against the Redwoods didn’t help my pick of OVER 21.5.
To recap, I had a rough night Tuesday on my picks, going 0-3 and also having the pain of both my leans being winners, but prior to that I was a perfect 5-0 and hope the semi-finals bring that same success. So with that, let’s get to it!
Note: Opening lines taken from DraftKings Sportbook on August 6 at 9am ET.
#3 Archers (4-1) vs #7 Chaos (1-4)
Point Spread: Archers -2.5
Money Line: Archers -245, Chaos +195
Total (Over/Under): 21.5
I think even fans of the Chaos were pretty surprised with the fashion in which the club got their first win of the PLL Championship Series. After not scoring over nine goals in their previous seven outings, the Chaos exploded with 19 points in their rout of the 2-seed Chrome that felt a lot more lopsided than the final score indicates. But now, the Chaos’ road to the PLL Championship doesn’t get any easier as they now face off against the well-oiled machine that is the Archers LC.
With the only “new kid on the block”, the Waterdogs, out of the tournament, it offers us a chance to draw on a larger sample size when looking at these matchups. Looking at the history between these two teams makes me think the Archers will be even hungrier for a win. This will be the first meeting for these squads in the Championship Series, but the third overall in the PLL’s two years in operation. The Chaos won the first two meetings but only by one goal a piece, 11-10 in overtime for their most recent matchup and 14-13 before that in week 4 of the 2019 season. Now, it’s worth noting that neither of those matchups featured the first overall selection, Grant Ament (who’s already racked up 18 points) and that could be a difference maker for the Archers this go around.
Now that we have your history lesson out of the way, let’s get into Thursday’s matchup that has so much talent in it, it should be illegal. Looking at the point per game average for both teams, it already makes me think a line of 2.5 is a tic high. The Archers are averaging 11 PPG and the Chaos right behind at 10.3 (it was only 8 PPG before the Chaos put together the highest scoring game by any team in the series). Interestingly enough, the Archers give up the same number of goals on average as they score and the Chaos are just a smidge above at 11.3 points allowed per game.
Even though the perception of the Archers is that they are an offensive powerhouse, they come into the game with only 4 more total points than the Chaos, 55 and 51 scores respectively. Even though both teams essentially give up the same amount of points each game you have to think the Chaos would have the edge between the pipes with the PLL’s number one ranked goalie, Blaze Riorden, and his 82 saves.
The Pick: One thing that worries me for the Chaos’ potential Cinderella story continuing is their struggles at the stripe, having only a 29% success rate on face-offs that gets dwarfed by the Archers 48%. However, the Chaos were dominated in faceoffs in their opening round win, only winning 8 out of 33 faceoffs en route to a comfortable win. Since we don’t know whether the Chaos we saw the first four games is what we should expect, or the 19-point scoring juggernaut is the new normal, I can only lean Chaos +2.5, but with both teams are now averaging over 10 PPG and none of their previous games going under 21 points total, I do like OVER 21.5 for a 1-unit play.
#1 seed Whipsnakes (4-0) vs #4 seed Redwoods (3-2)
Point Spread: Whipsnakes -3.5
Money Line: Whipsnakes -335, Redwoods +260
Total (Over/Under): 21.5
A rematch of last year’s PLL Championship game in the semi-finals? Sign me up. This will be the fifth meeting overall between the two clubs and their second of the series. Their first meeting, a 14-11 Redwoods win, is also the last time the Woods got the best of the Whips, losing 17-4 in a week 9 tilt, 12-11 in overtime in the inaugural PLL Championship game and 13-9 in the opening game of the PLL Championship Series. While the Redwoods are definitely looking for revenge, it will have to come against a Whipsnakes team who comes into the game touting a +24 scoring differential.
Ironically, the closest game the Whips have played was actually a four-point win over the Woods in both team’s first game. In that game, the Whips won 70% of the faceoffs and haven’t looked back since, only losing 26 of their 100 chances at the stripe. Not only have they been dominant offensively, the Whipsnakes also have the lowest scores against average, only allowing 8.3 PPG. So finding any chinks in the armor of the defending league champions is pretty tough to do.
The Pick: One of the hardest things to account for in sports betting is the motivation factor, and while you may think that edge goes to the Redwoods who would like to stop their three-game skid to the Whipsnakes, I haven’t seen the Whips lacking any motivation in any game they’ve played in two years. I think even though the Woods will look to slow down the Whipsnakes, the game still goes OVER 21.5, which I’ll be playing for two units. The Redwoods always have the threat of the two-pointer and in three meetings, the lowest score between the two clubs was 21 points. I also think this one stays closer than four goals, leading me to also play Redwoods +3.5 for one unit.
Which bets are you planning on placing during the 2020 PLL semi-finals? Let us know in the comments or by tagging @ProLacrosseBets on social media. Then be sure to tune back in for another PLL betting preview for the 2020 PLL Championship.