A lot of basketball bettors are attracted to NBA player props – the ability to bet on the individual statistics of key players in games, or how they will match up against other stars. Those bets aren’t always a good idea, but if you are selective in the spots you pick then you can find some very nice value. Those same types of props are also available in the NCAA on the bigger games on most days, but they are overlooked by bettors far more than the NBA versions are. The NCAA props can offer some nice value as well, though. If you are familiar with betting NBA player props then there are a few adjustments you need to make in order to be successful in the NCAA. Here are five factors to keep in mind when making the transition:
Tempo can vary in college much more than in the NBA – In the NBA teams play different styles, but there isn’t a ton of variance in the tempo between most teams, and teams are fairly consistent in the tempo they play at from game to game. In college the tempo of a team can vary widely between games, and there is a massive variety in the tempos that we can see in a game. While we have to be concerned about how a game is going to play out in the NBA we have to be far more concerned about the same thing in college basketball. It’s quite possible in the NCAA for a team to score 75 points one game and come out and score 45 the next game. Those differences in tempo means that you have to pay close attention to how many points are likely to be scored in a game before you can figure out how many of those points, rebounds, or assists a given player is likely to get.
Many fewer points in games means narrower margins in bets – When each team is going to score about 100 points in a game then each point has less value than they do when each team is only going to score 50 points. In other words, it’s easier to score 20 points in a 100 point game than it is to score 15 points in a 15 point game. The same goes for assists and rebounds as well. Because each point is harder to get in college basketball, and even the best players average fewer points than an equivalent player would in the NBA, the margin for error in NCAA props is less than it is in the NBA. That means that you have to be more sure of your edge in the NCAA before you make a bet than you would in the NBA.
Players are younger and less reliable in their performances – Once a player has been in the NBA for a few years they know what it takes to play their game, and they are more likely to be able to perform close to that potential from game to game. There can still be a lot of variance, of course, but the results are still reasonably predictable. In college the players are younger and far less experienced, so it can be easier for them to have a particularly bad day. The performances for college plays vary more widely from their average performance than they do in the NBA.
Caliber of opposition varies widely – In the NBA there are obviously some really good teams and some really bad ones. Overall, though, even the bad teams are reasonably talented and are capable of winning on any given night. In college, though, we can see a far wider range between the best teams and the worst. NBA teams never play a game that they almost certainly can’t lose. Top college teams play several of those every year. The wide variance in opposition means that players can see very different results from game to game because they are playing against very different levels of opposition. That means that you have to spend more time evaluating the caliber of the opposition and the matchups a player will face when handicapping NCAA props than in the NBA.
More good players out there that the public can be unfamiliar with – In the NBA it is possible for a reasonably committed bettor to be very familiar with all of the star players in the league. There are only 30 teams, most teams only have a couple of stars, and players stay in the league for years, so the pool of new players you need to become familiar with each year is small. In the NCAA, though, there are more than 300 teams. You don’t need to know about all of those teams – many play in obscurity – but there are still dozens that you need to pay close attention to. Many of those top players don’t play in major media markets and don’t get consistent national coverage like NBA players do, so it is much harder to stay on top of all of the players out there. That can be a good thing for NCAA bettors because it can easily mean that the betting public can have an inaccurate sense of what a player is likely to be able to do. In order to spot and exploit those inconsistencies, though, you have to work hard to stay on top of what’s going on in the sport.