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Home/Road Dichotomy

   by Bryan Leonard - 01/21/2008

There’s often a significant difference in basketball handicapping with home/road play and stats. Not only scoring and defensive stats, but wins and losses, both straight up and against the spread. One key variable to take into account is experience. Take a look at what Detroit Pistons guard Chauncey Billups said last week: "Anytime we come back, and I don't care who we play, off a four-game trip with a split.

We're an elite team and we feel like we can win in anybody's building."

That’s a comment that exudes confidence.

Veteran teams, like the Pistons, can win anywhere. The biggest part of that is talent, of course, but it’s also confidence. Success breeds confidence and veteran players are more likely to have it than young players. The Pistons are a veteran team that have been through a lot of wars, including two trips to the Finals in 2004 and 2005. This season, the Pistons started an impressive 15-7 SU, 13-8 ATS on the road.

The Celtics went from being a very young team the last two years to one suddenly loaded with experience because of the trades for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Notice what Boston coach Doc Rivers said: “You want to avoid that at all times. The bottom like is you don’t want to lose home games. We want to win all our home games.â€쳌 He knows the importance of holding home court, but notice this veteran team, like the Pistons, started an impressive 14-3 SU, 12-5 ATS on the road.

Most teams can’t put up those kind of road numbers, however. Stacking a team with talent and experience is hard to do, especially these days with so many teams, so little talent and so many players leaving early from college.

The Minnesota Timberwolves, for instance, are in rebuilding mode with a ton of kids. It’s no surprise the T-Wolves lost 18 of their first 19 road games. This is also commonplace in college hoops. It's important to focus on where the site that a basketball game is being played, especially with college basketball conference play taking place. Spend some time going through the records, straight up and against the spread, of your favorite college and pro hoops teams and you'll be amazed at some of the differences.

Some college teams will shoot lights out at home, averaging 78 points per game. Yet, the same players can turn into certified masons on the road averaging 59 points per game. Several things are taking place. For serious sports bettors, it's important to identify these valuable wagering facets, apply meaning, and incorporate into your handicapping.

A team like Utah has a nice crop of talent, but also has youth. This season the Jazz started 16-3 SU, 12-7 ATS at home. Yet, a very different team shows up on the road, starting 6-15 SU, 5-15 ATS! A year ago, before their red-hot run down the stretch, the young Golden State Warriors were a .500 team overall, but digging deeper into the stats revealed something important. A closer look found that the young Warriors were a sizzling 14-6 SU, 13-7 ATS at home, but a miserable 4-13 SU, 7-10 ATS on the road. Not all teams that this extreme, of course, but it's essential to understand that home/road breakdown is most important when examining basketball handicapping.

One of the best examples I ever found was the Denver Nuggets in 2000-01. That season, the Nuggets were an average team with a 40-42 overall record. But going a step further, something remarkable takes shape: Denver had a winning spread record at home where they were 29-12 straight up, yet on the road, a completely different team showed up, where the Nuggets were 11-30 straight up and 16-25 against the spread!

There are many reasons as to why this takes place. One is pride, as team want to play all out to defend their home turf. Another reason is emotion as the home crowd will be rooting for their team to give 100%. This is why opposing coaches are so quick to call a time out when they see the home crowd going wild, as they want to stem that momentum before the game gets away.

Confidence and being comfortable are two other reasons. Teams at home are comfortable with the surroundings, the arena, the lighting, etc. They practice and prepare each day in that same arena, so going on the road things can change completely.

And experience is the other factor to grasp. Professional handicappers take careful note of rosters and identify which teams have an excess of youth and ones that have experience. The young Charlotte Bobcats started this season 13-11 SU, 13-10-1 ATS at home, but 2-12 SU, 4-10 ATS away.

From a bettor's perspective this offers opportunities “to play onâ€쳌 a young team at home and “go against themâ€쳌 when traveling. When a talented young team begins to start to win and cover on the road, that can be an excellent opportunity to begin backing that group before oddsmakers catch up. But until they turn that corner, be careful and examine home/road stats VERY carefully!

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