By the time we get halfway through the college basketball season we are able to have a pretty strong sense of what teams have to offer bettors. More significantly, we’ve already seen teams go through changes. Some college hoop teams start out very strong and then falter as the season progresses and conference play starts. Other teams struggle early on but really find their stride with some experience. In a lot of cases these changes in the way a team are playing are obvious and well covered by the media. Quite often, though, the changes don’t get noticed. If you notice a change that he general public hasn’t noticed – and your perception of the team is more accurate than the general perception as a result – then there is a very good chance at finding attractive value as a sports bettor. Here are five ways for college basketball handicappers to quickly get a sense of the direction a team is moving in during the season:
Season record compared to last five games – The simplest way to get a sense of the direction the college basketball team is moving in is by comparing recent performance to performance on the season. People pay a lot more attention to the overall performance than what has happened recently, so this simple approach can be powerful. If a team has an overall record of 10-3, but are just 2-3 in the last five games then something clearly isn’t working now like it was before. That doesn’t automatically mean that the team is in a tailspin – injuries, the schedule, and so on could be a factor – but it is certainly an indicator that you need to look deeper. On the flip side, NCAA schedules tend to get a little tougher as the season progresses, so if a team that is 7-7 overall is 4-1 in their last five then they could definitely be on the rise. Another good indicator along this line is to break the whole season into five game pieces. If the records are on an upward trend then the basketball team is rising and vice versa.
Progress of freshmen – You can tell a whole lot about a basketball team form the amount of playing time that their youngsters are getting, and how they are responding to the challenge. If freshmen are seeing increasing playing time and increasing stats then they are likely playing well, and that’s positive for the team. On the other hand, if a team was giving freshmen more playing time early on than they are now then there probably isn’t much progress, and that could be a problem for the team.
Play of third best player – This is a totally arbitrary indicator, but as a sports bettor I am consistently surprised by how effective it is. I like to look at the third best player on a team – typically not hard to figure out who that is – and see what kind of progress they are making. If they are making solid progress forward then the team quite probably is, too. If the third best player started out strong and is now faltering, though, then it could be an indicator that the team is losing early momentum as well. I like to look at the third best player before others because they aren’t likely to get double teamed or to get special attention form opposing teams, yet their level of play is significant to the outcome of the team.
Record and key stats against top five teams played compared to whole season – The biggest reason why a team has a deceptive record is because they have played a majority of their games against weaker opponents. A quick way to see how a team is really performing is to look at the five best teams they have played – by record – and see how their performance against those teams compares to their performance overall. You can measure by looking at things like record, performance against the spread, shooting percentage, opponent shooting percentage, and so on.
Trends in key stats – A good college basketball team should be improving the more they play. They get more familiar with each other, and have more time to absorb what the coach is saying and act on it. Of course, teams don’t always improve. As a college basketball handicapper there are seven stats that I like to follow – rebounding, offensive and defensive shooting percentage, turnovers, assists, and offensive and defensive efficiency. Teams that are moving in the right direction will show consistent improvement in the majority of those stats, while teams that are faltering won’t.