When you are thinking about handicapping the college basketball season what you are really doing is handicapping seven different, distinct mini-seasons. Each one is unique because the motivations and levels of preparedness of teams are different in each case, and that changes how successful bettors approach each segment of the season. The changes are often subtle, but being aware of them can give you an edge as a sports bettor that will add to your bottom line. Here’s a look at the seven segments, why they are unique, and how to compensate for them as a college basketball handicapper:
These are the first few games of the season. Typically the major conference teams will schedule games against lesser basketball teams that they totally outclass and can beat without a problem. There are a couple of good reasons for this – the games are like a de facto preseason to help the team work out the kinks, and it allows them to get a couple of wins on their record before things get serious. Of course things can backfire badly here when a basketball team takes an opponent too lightly and gets beaten. The outclassed opponent is probably playing their best opponent of the year, so they are going to be fired up for the game. The better college hoop team probably won’t be very excited for the game. As a result these games need to be approached with more caution than other games because what teams appear to be on paper aren’t often what actually shows up on court.
Early season tournaments
Not every team plays in a tournament to start the year, but enough do that you have to be aware of them and what they mean. The most important thing to remember in these situations is that while winning them is always nice it isn’t necessarily the biggest priority of the teams involved. Teams are far more concerned about compiling a decent non-conference schedule and being prepared for the conference season than they are about these tournaments. Some of the tournaments are well established and prestigious, but many of them just aren’t. You have to be careful to really look at what a team’s motivation is like on the hardwood when you are handicapping these games.
The heart of non-conference play
After teams have played a few games and got through their tournament is when things get serious. This is when teams play their most difficult non-conference opponents, so the games are more intense and significant. College teams have several games under their belts, so they are going to be operating at close to their full potential. Teams will be motivated to make a real statement before they enter into conference play. For the first time in the NCAA basketball season you can rely on teams to perform near their full potential, and you don’t have to question what kind of games coaches will be playing.
Early conference play
Conference play is the most important part of the season because the most is at stake and because basketball teams are playing opponents that they are familiar with and in many cases will be particularly motivated to beat. Teams will have spent the first couple of months of the season preparing for this time. Barring injuries or other problems, then, college teams will be peaking at this time. You can’t question their intensity at this point, and you have a good sample size of established statistics from the season, so this is the spot for good old fashioned college hoop handicapping.
Late conference play
By this point teams have played a lot of games. That means that basketball teams are banged up, and struggling teams are very frustrated and ready for the season to end. Injures can be a big factor here. Motivation is also very significant to consider because it can vary widely. Good teams can be fighting for a conference title, or for seeding n the conference tournament or a spot in the NCAA tournament. Weaker teams can just be looking to survive, or they can be looking towards next season and giving young players a chance to get experience.
Conference tournaments are very interesting because not all teams are necessarily motivated to win them. Teams that think they have a serious shot at competing in the NCAA tournament may not be interested in competing hard in the conference tournament if it means they will be worn out when the games really matter. Sports bettors need to realize that winning the conference is a big deal, but not the biggest deal.
The big tournaments
The main event here is obviously the NCAA tournament, but this also includes the NIT, the CBI, and the increasing range of other tournaments. This is what it is all about, and teams are desperate for wins here and will do whatever it takes to get them. There is nothing better than tournament time for the serious college basketball handicapper.