We don’t see a lot of midseason coaching changes in college basketball. Sometimes, though, a situation is bad enough that teams just have to make a change – just like Wyoming did in early February of 2011. When those changes happen they can create a really powerful opportunity for sports bettors. The wagering public is automatically going to assume that a basketball team that makes a change like this is in trouble, and they are going to be negative about their chances. If the team can perform better than expected right after the coaching change, then, you can find potentially strong value in betting on the teams and their new coach. Here are five questions for college basketball handicappers to ask to determine whether a team could be strong after the coaching change and if they present a betting opportunity:
What was the situation like? – Sometimes a college coach is reasonably popular with his players, but he’s just not getting anywhere with them because of any number of issues – talent issues, injuries, philosophical problems, or maybe even a lack of coaching talent. In a situation like that the players may be frustrated that he has left, and that could affect their later play. On the other hand, sometimes a basketball team is forced to make a change because the situation was totally out of control – the coach was abusive or lacked control, the team wasn’t playing with anything approximating a strategy, and so on. In a case like that it’s a very good bet that the coach has lost the team, and the team will probably be very relieved that they are gone. That relief could translate to much better play. In short, the worse the situation was, the better it is for basketball bettors.
Are there issues that can be quickly addressed? – When a coach is fired in the middle of a season it’s almost certain that the team isn’t playing as well as they were expected to. Obviously. Sometimes the team is struggling because they just aren’t that good – a lack of talent or serious injury issues. Sometimes, though, the real issues are something entirely different – a system that doesn’t suit the players, under-utilization of a talented player, consistently poor preparation for opposing offenses, and so on. If the issue is something like that which can be easily remedied by a new coach then the team could enjoy an immediate boost right away. That boost might not last for long, but in the short term it can be very profitable. If the issues are more systemic, though, then the new basketball coach will be limited in what they can do.
What’s the public sentiment? – If the team that makes a reasonably high profile team – like one from a major conference – then the betting public will be very aware of the change, and will likely react very negatively to it. If the team comes from a more obscure conference and doesn’t get much, or any, national attention, then the public reaction to the change won’t be as strong, and the opportunities could be less for bettors.
Who is the replacement? – A coach who takes over a team in the middle of the season has to quickly command the respect of the team. If he can’t do that then he is doomed, and the team isn’t going to succeed. Interim coaches can’t always be chosen with a lot of thought and consideration, so they aren’t always the best possible choice – just the one who is available. You need to evaluate the quality of the coach as well as you can. Is he an assistant who knows the players, or is he coming in from the outside? Does the new coach have credibility at the school from past experience? Has he performed well in the conference in the past? Does he have past experience he can impress the players with and draw their respect? Is there a chance he’ll be the full time coach, or is he clearly and obviously just filling in?
How old is the roster? – The job of the new college basketball coach in the short term can be made much easier or harder depending upon the age of the roster. What impact it could have depends upon the situation, though. An older roster could be frustrated by the situation if they liked the former coach – they have played with him for a long time and could be loyal to him. If the coach wasn’t popular, though, they could play with extra relief because they finally have a chance to do something positive before their eligibility ends. A young roster could struggle with a coaching change because they are already dealing with the transition to college and the extra demands that entails. They also might lack the experience and maturity to quickly make the adjustments that the coach wants to make, so the impact of the change could be less than it might otherwise be. Smart college basketball handicappers will monitor college basket coaching changes accordingly.