In college Basketball the best time to place bets during the season is the first week in January when conference play begins. The reason being is that usually non-conference games for teams in the larger conference are basically warm-up games for their upcoming season. There are some exceptions to this rule, but more often than not, a school will schedule cupcake games which in turn will raise spreads for these games very hard to cover. That is why the advent of conference play will really ensure a level playing feel and will allow you to have a more accurate base of comparisons between the two teams competing. Below I will outline what your focus can be on that will allow you to be a much more informed college basketball handicapper before placing your bets during conference play.
The first thing to remember is that records in non-conference are pretty much completely meaningless. Allow me to explain why this is so. Non-conference college basketball schedules are made by the teams themselves, so they schedule a lot of cupcakes on their schedule in order to pad their tournament resume later in the year. For instance, you might have a couple teams from the big conferences that go undefeated in non-conference play, but then play terrible in conference play. So if as a sports bettor you overvalue the non-conference schedule you will not do as well when conference play begins.
In order to evaluate the non-conference schedule you need to look at exactly who each team played. For instance, if you look at a NCAA basketball team, from a major conference that went 14-0 in non-conference play against a mid major team like Butler that went 10-5 in non-conference, you would think automatically that the mid major is the better team. However, you would have to look at the schedule each team played. If the best team the major conference team beat is a mid-major than it would not sound as good as it looks. However, if a team like Butler lost to two top ten teams than their losses would probably be better than the wins that major conferece team had. This is why one of the most important factors by evaluating non-conference play is studying the schedule and looking at RPI rankings which actually evaluate the schedule when making their rankings. By studying these you will be a much more successful basket handicapper when betting on conference play.
You need to also be able to study each conference and know how good they are. Everyone knows that the Big East, Big Ten, and ACC are very deep conferences and are by far the best in the nation by far. However, what people do not take into account is the mid-major conferences which themselves have some very good teams. By knowing more about mid-major conferences, you will be able to establish which games between teams from mid-major conferences are worth betting on. If you can familiarize yourself with a few mid-major conferences you will in turn become a more successful sports bettor during conference play.
You also want to take a look at how the teams that overachieved in non-conference play by beating up on teams of much lesser talent respond when they start conference play. For instance, in the SEC, if Georgia goes 11-4 in non-conference play but then start conference play against Florida and Kentucky and get blown out of the water, then you know that Georgia overachieved and will not be as successful in conference play and that you should stay away from betting on them during this juncture of the season. Most experienced bettors that are not sure about a team coming into conference play will watch a game or two and see how they react to much stiffer competition.
Lastly, keep an eye on which games are on TV. When the conference schedule gets rolling and football season is coming to an end, a lot of college basketball games are televised national almost every night of the week. So keep an eye on the young teams that have no experience playing on that national stage, or maybe the team that might be looking ahead to a weekend showdown with biggest conference rival, or even the team that lost a heartbreaker on national TV and might not rebound as quickly for their next game. With so many games on TV, you owe it to yourself to put some action on these games and learn about the teams so that you will be more successful as the season moves on. This is an important part of being a serious college basketball handicapper.