College Basketball Betting Tips
by Trevor Whenham - 11/15/2007
If you don't bet on college basketball you are missing out. Pretty much every day for five months there is a full menu of games to choose from. If you like high scoring, up-tempo games there is probably at least one for you to handicap. If you like low scoring, defensive battles then you're in luck, too. It's like the baseball season, only there are 10 times more teams, and there are many more opportunities for value.
If you'd like to bet on college basketball but don't, or if you want to sharpen up your game for the new season, here are nine college basketball betting tips to get you started:
1. Home court advantage is very real - These young players aren't as used to traveling as NBA veterans are, and the home courts can be crazy with drunk and rabid college students packed in and screaming. A team that is a virtual lock to win at home may not stand a chance against the same opponent on the road. Some people say that the difference between home and the road can be as many as 10 points for some teams, and I believe it.
2. Look at rebounds - If you aren't a real stat rat and you don't want to spend hours going blind staring at numbers, just start by looking at rebounds. Boards, or more specifically, a team rebounding advantage, translates into wins in college basketball more often than it does in the pros. If a team has a significant rebounding edge then chances are pretty good they have an overall edge, too.
3. Understand the schedule - The first two months of the season - November and December - are the non-conference portion of the season. January, February and the beginning of March are for conference play. March and April is the post-season. Each part of the season is very different. In non-conference play good teams will play games against weaker opponents to pad their schedule, or they'll play teams they are unfamiliar with. That can create matchup problems to exploit. In conference play, teams play the same teams they play every year, and in most cases they play them twice, so familiarity and the possibility for adjustments often creates more predictable results. The postseason is when teams give everything they have and hold nothing back. The better a team is at this point, the bigger their advantage. To be successful at college basketball handicapping you have to understand the schedule and adapt to the changes of it.
4. It's all about motivation - Early in every season we hear all sorts of crazy stories about low-regarded teams beating highly-ranked squads. Every year we hear about how this shows that the mid-majors are improving and that they have basically caught up with the big programs. That's not the case, or at least it's not why these upsets happen with such regularity. College basketball players are young kids, and they don't prepare for all games equally. Top teams can coast into games against weak opponents, while underdogs will get fired up to play the best teams. Just looking at who should win won't always tell you who will win.
5. Shop around - There are so many games out there, and the lines are available for such a short time before the games that the market for odds isn't as precise as it is for football. It's very possible to see lines that differ by several points from sportsbook to sportsbook. Once you have decided which team you are going to bet on it is crucial that you shop around to get the best price. Every point counts.
6. If you think a line is soft, you may be right - In college football, and especially in the NFL, there is so much action from so many people that any mistakes made in setting a line are very quickly bet out of them. A line may not agree with your opinion, but it is virtually never wrong. The same can't be said for college basketball. With so many games every day it is very possible to find a line that just doesn't make sense. This is especially true in games involving lesser-known teams from more obscure conferences. If you do your homework and get to know a few teams very well then it is very possible that you will find lines that represent real bargains because of your knowledge.
7. It's all about tempo - Teams aren't as deep and talented in college basketball as they are in the pros, and the lineups change every year as players come and go, so most coaches rely heavily on systems and particular styles of play for their success. As a result, teams have a fairly consistent preferred speed of play. When they are able to function at their chosen speed they will be much more successful than if they are forced to adjust to an opponent. A key opportunity in handicapping, then, is to find spots where two teams have different tempos and to decide which time will be able to dictate the pace of play. A run-and-gun team may not be able to slow down to matchup to a deliberate, methodical team, or vice versa. Generally, the style of play is set by the better team, so understanding what teams like to do and figuring out who will be able to do what they want will lead you to a lot of winners.
8. It's okay to pass on a game - In fact, passing on a game is usually the best decision you can make in college basketball. There are so many games that there is no point in forcing a bet on a particular game unless you feel that you have a clear edge in playing it. If you don't then be patient because there are plenty of other games to chose from.
9. Sometimes it pays to avoid the big names - the more action there is on a game the less likely it is that there is real value on one side or another. Sit down and enjoy watching North Carolina or Duke play, but understand that the public will be all over their games. Instead, look for value in the conferences that Joe Sixpack has never heard of.