The championship of the 2019 College World Series offers a classic contrast: a heavy favorite against an underdog from the kind of cold-weather state where college baseball programs face a distinct disadvantage. Yet Michigan continues to pull one shocker after another, and now faces powerhouse Vanderbilt in a best-of-3 series for the title.
The Commodores are -225 favorites (via FanDuel) to take Monday night’s Game 1 in Omaha, Neb., and -278 favorites (per 888 Sport) to claim their second national title. The Commodores had 13 players selected in the recent Major League draft, and have their starting rotation set for the championship series.
Michigan presents value as a +190 underdog in Game 1 and a +220 underdog for the series. The Wolverines got to this point by upsetting overall No. 1 tournament seed UCLA to reach the College World Series, and twice downing No. 8 seed Texas Tech to win their bracket in Omaha. Can they keep it going?
CWS 2019 Expert Betting Tips
Game 1, Vanderbilt -225 | The Wolverines have one of the stingiest staffs in America but used ace Karl Kauffman last week to advance to the championship round. Vanderbilt’s top starter Drake Fellows will be ready to start the opener, giving the Commodores the edge in Game 1.
Champion, Vanderbilt -278 | Michigan can force this to three games, especially if Kauffman comes back to start Game 2. But the Commodores are loaded, and the odds reflect it. They have home run power throughout the lineup, and star pitcher Kumar Rocker waiting in the wings. Michigan’s a better story, but Vanderbilt is the better team.
Betting on the College World Series
Every June for the past seven decades, eight of the best college baseball teams in the United States have gathered for the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. As the final prominent college event of the academic year, it can be a tempting last foray for bettors before the dearth of events over the summer.
It doesn’t have a national television presence, and many top high school players bypass it on the way to the pros. Outside of regional hotbeds such as Texas, Louisiana and South Carolina, college baseball with its ping-ing aluminum bats is the very definition of a niche sport.
That said, there’s still a strategy you should employee when betting on both the games and the Outright Winner.
The College World Series can be a slog. Teams that make it to the championship series spend almost two weeks in Omaha, and play as many as many as eight games. That places a huge emphasis on pitching depth, and the teams that win the national title typically have multiple high-level arms.
The complexion of the tournament changes after the opening weekend, when everyone burns their aces. Teams with superior pitching depth aren’t forced to reuse their No. 1 starters over again, likely on short rest. And TD Ameritrade Park is a vast Triple-A stadium that yields few home runs, favoring teams with lots of strong pitchers over those who bash the ball.
Upsets Happen – A Lot
From 2004-2018, 11 of the 15 national champions came from outside the top eight national seeds, a stat that surely gives hope to long shots and fans of backing the underdog at the betting window.
An overall No. 1 tournament seed hasn’t won the title since Miami in 1999, the first year of the current College World Series format. Some upsets—like Fresno State, a No. 4 regional seed, winning it all in 2008—have become famous. A lot can happen over two weeks in Omaha, especially with aluminum bats.
The College World Series consists of eight teams divided into a pair of double-elimination brackets, with the winners of those brackets meeting in a best-of-three national championship series.
Remaining in the winner’s bracket is crucial, given how it gives teams a chance to rest their pitching. From a betting perspective, teams playing out of the winner’s bracket are usually heavy favorites—regardless of their seed—because they’re facing opponents who have had to burn arms just to avoid elimination.
Watch the Draft
The Major League Baseball draft occurs just a few weeks before the College World Series, providing bettors who might not be well-versed in college baseball with a road map as to who the best players in Omaha are. Reviewing draft results can help bettors identify the tournament’s best pitchers and hitters, even if they haven’t followed college baseball all year.
As an example, look at the 2017 Florida team that had eight players taken in the draft and went on to dominate the College World Series that year en route to the title. And the Vanderbilt teams that finished as champion and runner-up in 2014-15 produced a number of future Major Leaguers such as Dansby Swanson, Carson Fulmer and Kyle Wright.
Most people don’t pay attention to college baseball. That includes both bettors and sportsbooks, which smart bettors can use to their advantage. Given the relatively small handle, lines won’t be as influenced by public money. And the College World Series is hardly a priority for oddsmakers with other events such as the U.S. Open and NBA Finals occurring at around the same time.
It all presents an opportunity for bettors willing to invest a little time and do a little homework. In wagering, the College World Series may hardly have the highest of profiles — but it can certainly stand tall to those who know how to bet such a niche event.