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College Basketball Conference Wagering
by Scott Spreitzer - 01/20/2009
Many of you have started betting college basketball games this week after devoting most of your attention to football during the bowls and NFL playoffs.
Quite a wake up call!
I heard a lot of horror stories from public wagerers in the sportsbooks the past few days. The teams they were betting weren't winning. Some weren't even getting close. I figured this would be a great time for quick tutorial on what strategies work best when trying to handicap conference games in college hoops.
*First of all, you need to throw out much of what happened in November and December. Those complaining this past week were often betting based on full season won-lost records or national rankings more than anything else. They saw a great record, figured a team must be pretty good, and were shocked when that team laid an egg.
As I've said in other sports, strength of schedule is HUGE when trying to get a proper read on a team. There are several mediocre college basketball squads right now who have great looking records because they played a bunch of cupcakes in non-conference action. They will be exposed quickly now that conference play has begun. There are also a few "pretty good" teams who don't have great looking records because they scheduled tough. This group will suddenly look VERY good when playing the dregs of their league.
In addition to strength of schedule issues, there are natural ebb and flow developments in this sport that make "old news" meaningless. Getting hot for a few big TV games in November or December doesn't mean you're going to be successful in January. Teams who struggle in the first two months aren't necessarily doomed to failure for the whole season. They may finally find a lineup that works and kick things into gear Recent form matters most in a sport like basketball.
*Secondly, we need to remember that conference basketball is almost an entirely different sport. Coaches get more conservative. The pace of the games slow down. Defense is emphasized even more. Any experimenting with lineups tends to come to a halt because coaches don't want to risk blowing a game they should have won. Certain types of teams are favored by this style. Other types are hurt. You'll make a lot of money going against what old coaches call "loosey-goosey" basketball in this stage of the season. You do well by backing the classic "defense and rebounding" teams.
*Also keep in mind that the players are prone to peak and valley intensity surges based on the schedule. Everyone gets up to face the biggest names in their conference. Just before, or just after those games, some teams are flat as a pancake. Picking winners in colleges hoop RIGHT NOW is very much about riding the waves of each team's schedule. You don't want to invest in a team right before one of their biggest games of the season. You don't want to invest in them right after they just scored a huge victory.
You might be wondering how to reconcile the "yo-yo" tendencies of college basketball intensity with evaluating "recent form." How do you find the balance? For me, I consider "recent form" to be the last 5-7 games with logical adjustments based on your understanding of the schedule. If a team is 5-2 ATS over their last seven games, you don't kick them out of your portfolio because of the two losses! You understand that nobody plays great every single game. You try to find teams who are playing well except in the obvious flat spots, then you back them outside of those flat spots. You try to find teams who are struggling except in the obvious peak spots, then fade them outside of the handful of games they'll get up for.
I'm always amazed at how the general public is out of synch with the natural flow of sports. I mean, EXACTLY out of synch! They always seem to zig when they should zag.
They'll lay the points with a powerhouse only to see that team get upset. They'll take the team that scored the shocker the next time out, only to see them play flat as a pancake. They'll bet against the powerhouse the next time out figuring they're overrated, only to see the powerhouse storm back with a chip on their shoulder after the loss.
I'll talk more about college hoops in the coming weeks as we work our way towards March Madness. I hope you'll put these strategies to use immediately. We can build on the basics as we go along. How big a bankroll do YOU want to build this season? Start with the right framework, and the additional pieces will fit naturally into place.