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College Basketball Reversals

   by Scott Spreitzer - 02/02/2007

You've probably heard that, in college football, September can provide a false read on teams. If a gridiron squad covers all of its games in September, they'll get overrated very quickly and fall back to earth. If a team plays horribly for the month, the public will give up hope on them just as they get things figured out.

Because of that, September is a "reverse indicator" for many college football teams. In most seasons you'll make money taking all of those 0-4 ATS or 0-3 ATS starters when they play in October and November. You'll lose money trying to back the 4-0 ATS or 3-0 ATS after the lines have adjusted.

We don't see the exact same thing in college basketball because the schedules are so imbalanced in the first two months. It's just hard to get a read on teams when they're playing a power one day, then a cupcake two days later. Also, the lines are slower to adjust because the oddsmakers and public are so wrapped up in football. Now that conference play has been underway for awhile, the elements are in place to put the spirit of the football approach to its best use in basketball.

I strongly suggest that you go through recent ATS team-by-team performances and make a note of any squad that's failed to cover at least four straight games, as well as any that's successfully covered at least four straight games. You'll be surprised at how hard that is to do in the modern game. Competitive balance is rampant. And, college basketball players are inconsistent by nature. But, with over 200 board teams, you'll find some nominees in both categories.

Now, in the coming days, plan on playing the reversals. Go gently at first, because you don't want to be stuck on the wrong end of a long streak. Once you see that a team has started its reversal, you can be more aggressive on your wagers. It's likely that a string of results in the new direction will continue for awhile. As we saw in football, it's not uncommon for the change of fortune to last up to twice as long as the initial streak!

Why does this happen?

*Teams who are on a roll have a few things going against them. They get overconfident. The top players start worrying about their stats because the wins seem to be taking care of themselves. The teams get a target on their backs because of all the publicity. Since the streak is happening now, it's also going to set up some revenge spots for opponents in the second half of the round robin schedules. And, sometimes a roll is simply a matter of the kids playing over their heads. The shots are falling at a pace that can't possibly continue. So, the players are about to lose their focus at the same time their luck from the floor is about to change. A double whammy.

*As this is going on, the wagering public is noticing the success and betting on the hot teams. This drives the lines higher than they should be given the actual talent on the floor. In Vegas terms, the hot teams are becoming overpriced.

*Teams who are slumping rarely just sit still and take their lumps. The coaches make changes in the personnel rotations. The kids get tired of losing and bring more energy and intensity to their games. Their opponents may even stop taking them seriously because they know of the losing record, and they can see in game films that the team doesn't look particularly dangerous. Sometimes luck is involved here as well. Some teams have stretches where the shots just don't fall. A team that's destined to shoot 43% for the year is just as likely to have some 38% slumps as they are some 48% hot streaks. Sure, there are definitely some truly awful teams in college basketball. Most will typically make adjustments in a way that helps them overcome very low expectations.

*As this is going on, the wagering public sees the poor results and decides they won't touch these teams with a 10-foot pole the rest of the way. Once a wagerer sees a team play badly, that team becomes poison. It doesn't matter if they're getting 20 points, there's just no way the general public can bet on a team that's put some ugly scores on the board. If the public bets the game at all, it's going to bet on the opponent. In Vegas terms, the slumping teams are becoming underpriced.

And, this is why the approach has worked so well over the years in both college and pro football.

*Hot teams become overpriced just as they're about to cool off and it takes forever for the lines to get back in synch with reality. The public keeps expecting the team to bounce back. Teams can't bounce back to playing over their heads if they were just getting lucky. Arrogant players take forever to become humble again.

*Cold teams become underpriced just as they're about to make adjustments that lead to improvement. They're going to be competitive for awhile, and the Vegas pointspreads are going to keep treating them like blowout fodder.

This is how a team that's 4-0 ATS lately goes 3-7 ATS or 2-8 ATS in its next 10 games. And, it's how a team that's 0-4 ATS lately can start stringing together covers. You won't beat the line every single time. But, you'll be pulling your selections from a winning reservoir. The odds for success will very much be in your favor.

If you're having trouble so far in college hoops, this particular strategy will likely lead to a reversal of your fortunes as well!

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