College Basketball Handicapping: Tools to Prepare For the Season
by Trevor Whenham - 10/23/2009
Midnight Madness, the first official day of practice in college basketball, was last week. That means that the season is just around the corner - the first games involving major conference teams will be played on Nov. 9. We still have a little bit of time, but before we know it we'll be in the midst of the thrilling, relentless grind that is the college basketball season. Right now the teams and the players are working hard to get ready for the season. So are successful bettors. If you're serious about making money during the season and want to get into prime college basketball betting shape, here are eight things you could be doing right now:
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Look at major player departures and coaching changes - The only constant in college sports is change. Coaches move on to brighter pastures. Players graduate or enter the NBA Draft. A team that is lousy one year can be great the next, or a good team can suddenly look hopeless. Now is the time you need to get familiar with the movement and the ways that teams have changed. It's better to do this now than to make a bet and then discover that you aren't betting on or against the team you thought you were.
Seek out experience - It may not be the case with the elite teams full of blue-chip future NBAers, but for the most part the older a college basketball team is, the better. There is a lot of money to be made, especially early on, by identifying and focusing on teams that have a roster stocked with experienced starters in the tail end of their career. A team with four starting seniors can overcome a big talent deficit against a team with four freshmen in November.
Familiarize yourself with top prep players - Many tournament-caliber teams will be relying heavily on freshmen. Kentucky is overrun with young stars who will start. Michigan is likely to hand their point duties to a true freshman. The list is long. By the time the NCAA Tournament rolls around everyone will know about this year's Derrick Rose or Tyreke Evans. Those players will be making plays and providing value long before they are household names, though. By learning about them now you can get the jump on the crowd.
Study schedules - There is no bigger factor in determining how a team will play than who they will play against. A soft non-conference schedule can make a bad team look very good. A brutal non-conference schedule can have a team entering conference play looking much worse than they really are. Either situation can provide real betting value as the public reacts to what is on paper, not on the court. Identifying non-representative schedules is well worth the effort.
Adopt a conference or two - On busy Saturdays during the regular season there can be more than 100 games on tap. There is absolutely no way that you can accurately and effectively consider every team and every game. You might as well just throw away your money if you are going to try. Instead of taking a broad approach, pick a conference or two that you like, and get to know them particularly well. It doesn't really matter how you choose them, but be sure to pick conferences that you can easily access information for, that you will be able to bet on when and how you want to, and which will be able to hold your personal interest.
Look at what worked last year - There is no need to completely reinvent your approach every year. Look back to the types of bets and situations that worked well for you last year. Conversely, there are probably bets that you kept making last year despite never being able to make real money on them. By identifying your strengths and plugging your leaks you'll be on the road to better performance.
Develop a basic wagering strategy for the season - You obviously don't want to lock yourself into a particular type of bet no matter what, but it does make sense to develop a strategy for the types of bets you will look for. Maybe you like to look for home underdogs that aren't getting enough respect, or teams that dramatically outclass their opponents, or high-tempo teams playing opponents that won't be able to keep up. What ever your approach is, by identifying it now you can tighten your focus, and increase your chances of finding value-laden situations.
Ready your record keeping - I honestly believe that good record keeping is the most important part aspect of successful college basketball handicapping. By keeping good records of your bets and how they turned out you can know how you are doing, spot disturbing or promising trends, and better keep yourself on track. If you don't keep records then you absolutely must start. If you do keep them, then there is always a way to improve them.
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