Anyone who bets on college basketball regularly knows that it is not at all uncommon to see big spreads – double digit monsters. These lines are always tough to handicap because the favorite can win the game easily and still not come close to covering the spread. You really have to handicap these bug lines on a game by game basis to have the best shot of making a profit over the long term, but there are some questions college basketball handicappers can ask that are definitely applicable in most situations – at least as a starting point:
Does the line make sense? – This should be a starting point for the basketball bettor for every game – not just these ones. Sometimes a line is really big because it should be – one team is just that much better than the other. Often times, though, there is more at work in the size of the line – the betting public bias, the anticipated bets of the smart money, and so on. Before you bet on a line that is big you have to make sure that it isn’t significantly bigger than it should be. On big lines it is especially significant to make sure that you aren’t giving up more points than you have to because teams are motivated to win – not necessarily to cover spreads as favorites.
What’s the form of the favorite? – Duke isn’t always Duke. Sometimes Duke, or any other top team, plays at the top of their ability. Other times, they hit a slow point in their season where they aren’t playing as well as they can – a lull in the action. This is inevitable, but the sports betting public doesn’t always notice when it happens. They will bet on a top level team as if they are going to perform at their top level. If you can pay closer attention and notice that they aren’t playing their best then you may be able to find nice value on the underdog and bet them.
What’s the form of the underdog? – When the heavy favorite is a big name college basketball program that is playing well then the public will play virtually no attention to the underdog and how they are playing. Sometimes they will miss that an underdog is actually playing some very good basketball in their own right. Perhaps they have beaten some strong mid-majors themselves, or they have played very tough against some other strong major conference programs. Maybe they have proven to be consistently tough on the road, or they are playing a defensive system that limits the effectiveness of faster, more athletic players.
What’s the motivation for the favorite? – Sometimes good teams just don’t care about playing an opponent to the best of their ability. If a good team knows that they are going to win a game even if they play well below their potential then it can be hard for them to play all out throughout he game. They can play down to the level of their opponents. Teams don’t earn style points – a narrow win is as valuable as a comfortable win in most cases. The lines are typically set assuming that the good team will play close to as well as they can. If as a college basketball handicapper you can predict that they aren’t likely to play at their top level then you can find real value on the underdog.
What’s the motivation of the underdog? – When a heavy underdog is playing a big name program it could easily be the biggest game that the college team plays all year. It could, for example, be a team from a small conference playing an elite ranked squad. That game will mean nothing to the higher ranked team – just another game on the way to the ones that matter. For the underdog, though, this game means everything – and it could mean even more if the basketball game is being played in an iconic building. These underdogs can be particularly fired up, and they can keep the score close enough to cover the spread.
What’s the schedule? – It can be very easy for a big name hoop team to look past a game with an overmatched opponent – especially if a bigger name opponent is coming up right afterwards. Michigan State isn’t going to be too concerned about playing some random team – like Tennessee Tech, for example – on a Sunday if they have Duke coming up on Wednesday. Teams know that they can’t play at full throttle every game, so if the schedule likely sets up so that they will be looking to save some gas in the tank for the next game then sports bettors should be aware that there could be a good opportunity for an underdog cover.