College Basketball Second Half Betting
by Trevor Whenham - 11/21/2007
Making second half bets is not for everyone, but if you are the kind of bettor that likes the pressure of making quick decisions based on feel and trends instead of intense study and handicapping then they may be the right kind of bets for you.
First, the basics. Second half bets are exactly what they sound like - bets on the second half of a college basketball game (they are available on the NBA, too, but the differences in the game between college and the pros make them different bets, so I will stick to college for this article). You can bet on the spread, the total, or the money line just like you can for a full game, but your bet only applies to the second half and, if applicable, overtime. What makes this bet unique and challenging is that the bet is placed after the first half is played but before the second half tips off. The line is only released at the end of the first half, and you have very little time to decide your bet. If you decide too slowly and are on the public side the price can swing wildly while you are deciding what to do.
There is one main advantage of this bet that makes it so attractive to me and to other fans of it - you already know how the teams are playing that night. There is much less guess work than there is in a full game. You know if teams have been shooting well, which teams are hot and which are not, and which team is able to set the tempo and exert the tone of play. You're able to make a betting decision based on what has happened in the previous minutes instead of in the previous weeks and months. That immediacy makes it possible, at least theoretically, to be more accurate in your decision making.
There is a particular mindset that I believe is crucial to the success of second half college basketball bets. The teams and the players themselves can't matter (that is not the case if you are playing second half bets as a hedge of your full game bets, or to increase positions you feel strongly about, but those are entirely different discussions). Basketball games can play out in a variety of ways, but if you watch enough games you will notice patterns emerging that repeat themselves again and again over the course of games By recognizing those patterns and, when possible, exploiting them, you can make a nice profit. I say that the particular teams and players don't matter because you don't have the time to analyze how the players are playing compared to their overall abilities. You can only see how a team is playing compared to how it should be playing and act how they will respond in the second half based on that.
Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. If you watch a lot of college basketball you can easily think of several games a heavily-favored team comes out slowly and finds itself in a big deficit. You'll also know that, in many and probably most cases, the better team wakes up and exerts its class. If it hasn't woken up yet by the end of the first half then you know that the coach will have a few things to say at halftime, and the team will probably come out much stronger and get the game back under control. A strong second half play, then, is to bet on a strong favorite that is trailing at the half. The opposite scenario also provides an opportunity. If a heavy favorite comes out extremely strong and builds up a huge lead at the half, and especially if the first half total is particularly high, then the second half total will also generally be high because the public loves high scores and expects it to continue. In a lot of cases, though, the strong team will play hard for a while to ensure the win, and then will empty the bench, slow down the game, and cruise to a win. That provides another solid second half opportunity that occurs with reasonable frequency - bet the under if a heavy favorite is out to a huge lead and the second half total is posted higher than the first half total.
Because of the speed with which you have to make betting decisions, and the inability to closely study statistics before you make a bet, it is important to have a quick way to judge how the game is going. Thankfully, we are given a reasonably accurate one to use - the spread. Though spreads obviously aren't perfect, they are crafted by people who study the games, and refined and changed by the betting public, so they are a pretty reasonable indicator of how a game is expected to go. By comparing how the game is going compared to how the spread expects it to go will give you a good basic sense of what could happen in the second half. If, for example, a spread is 10 and the favorite is trailing by one at the half, you could reasonably expect a strong performance in the second half. Conversely, if the favorite is up by 25 at the half it is highly likely that they will shut it down, and the lesser team will only lose the second half by a couple of points, or even win it. If the available spread fits into what you imagine could happen in the second half then you obviously have a bet.
Next time you sit down to watch a day of college games, start taking note of what happens in the first half and then guess how the second half will turn out. If you find that interesting, and if you're any good at it, then you should check out second half bets.