When you are handicapping football – whether college or the NBA – key numbers are an important concept to understand. A quick refresher if the details are murky: In football games there are some numbers that are a more frequent gap between the points the winner scores in a game and the points the loser scores. The most frequent of these gaps is three points. That’s because games are frequently tied until late in the fourth quarter, and are therefore decided by a field goal. Seven is the second most common number because of how often a team wins by a single touchdown. Other key numbers can be determined by combining touchdowns and field goals in different ways – for example ten is a key number because that represents a team winning by a field goal and a touchdown, and so is four which is the result if one team scores a touchdown and the other responds with a field goal. These numbers are important for bettors to be aware of because they can represent a big difference in the bottom line. For example, a spread of +3.5 is significantly more attractive than +2.5 or +3 because there is a better chance the final spread will be three points than any other, and so betting +3.5 means you win if the game lands on that number. You would lose at +2.5, and at +3 it would be a push.
If key numbers are such an important factor in football handicapping, then the next logical question is clear – are there key numbers in basketball? The simple answer is no. That runs contrary to what you might have heard – some people will tell you that seven is a key number in the NBA, and three is one in college basketball. The logic behind seven is because that’s about the number of points at which a team will quit giving up intentional fouls in the final minute in an attempt to get back into the game. In a study of the more than 18,000 NBA games played from 1990 to 2007, though, it was found that seven wasn’t even the most common result – five was by a slight margin. More significantly, though, there wasn’t a statistically significant difference between the occurrence of any margin between two and nine. You certainly can’t argue that there are key numbers in basketball when eight consecutive numbers are basically just as likely as each other to be the final margin. Similar results are found with college basketball analysis, also.
So, if we can say that there aren’t key numbers in basketball in the same significant way that there are in football what does this mean for bettors? Well, the biggest point is that you don’t have to worry about the spread that is available – and the psychology of why it is set it where it is. In football handicappers spend a lot of time worrying about why a line was set at three, if it is likely to move from that number, and in which direction it is likely to move. In basketball it is not nearly as significant if the line is on or near any particular number, so you don’t have to worry about that. You just have to be concerned about whether the line as it stands represents value.
I don’t want to get preachy or anything, but this is one of those situations in sports betting where you can easily be misled by bad information that you could easily confirm for yourself. If you understood the power of key numbers in football and then heard that seven was a key number in the NBA then you could be led to make decisions that aren’t correct based on the faulty information you received. There is a lot of information passed on in the sports betting world that isn’t correct but sounds good. There is no excuse for things like this for not checking out the information that you hear – it only takes a few minutes to use Google to confirm or rebut what you hear or read. It’s not good enough just to say someone told you that something was true – you need to confirm it for yourself or you can’t be sure. When you are betting your hard earned money you want to be sure.