People who spend a lot of time handicapping college basketball are obviously very sophisticated in their approach. People who only do it casually or are just starting out typically look at a few predictable factors – the records of the teams, the conferences they play in, the performance of the high profile players, and so on. Those casual bettors will likely find that while those factors are important they are not significant enough to consistently pick out winners. New college basketball handicappers and casual bettors could easily and dramatically improve their winning percentage and the state of their gambling bankroll with this betting advice by looking at these five under-appreciated factors:
Who they have played? – Casual bettors love to talk about records, but without context a record is meaningless. You have to ask to questions – who have they played, and how have they performed against the best teams they have played? If a team has a very good record but it is against weak teams then it means pretty much nothing to us in terms of the real strength of the team. On the other hand, it’s quite possible for a college basketball team to have a reasonably ugly record but still be playing very well because they have consistently played against teams that are at a higher level than they are. Because teams play such varied schedules in college basketball – no two teams play an identical or even similar schedule – using records to compare teams isn’t nearly as effective as it is in the other major sports, and even those sports have issues with records.
Tempo – In simple terms, tempo is a measure of how fast a team likes to move. More specifically, it’s a measure of how many possessions each basketball team typically has per game in the games they play. As a general rule in college hoop, a tempo near 80 possessions per game would indicate a very fast team, while one near 60 would indicate a very methodical one. Why does this matter? Well, if two teams play at very different tempos typically and they are playing each other then at least one of the teams isn’t going to be able to play at the tempo they prefer to be. It could be that the team that likes to play a slow, methodical game will be forced to run by an aggressive, run and gun offense, or the explosive offense could be slowed down by the opposing team. Either way, the team that is thrown off of their game isn’t likely to play at their best and will be at a disadvantage. By looking at tempo stats in each game you are betting on you will quickly get a sense of when teams will likely be able to play their game and when they won’t.
Depth of bench – The casual betting public likes to focus on the stars – the big name players who make headlines and show up on highlight reels. While that is important, the bench is also very important – and increasingly so as the season progresses. As injuries mount up and opposing teams get more familiar with the stars of their opponents and how they play teams will become more dependent on the secondary players to lift them up. The quality of the bench and the number of contributors a team has, then, are a very significant and under-appreciated factor by many college basketball handicappers.
Free throws – Free throws are far from the most exciting part of a game, but they are crucial. You can learn a lot about the comparative strengths of teams by how well they shoot from the charity stripe. You want to pay close attention to how well the two teams shoot – if one team has a large edge in this regard then they could be worth a close look in the game. More significantly, though, you want to pay attention to how often a basketball team is able to get to the line – they can’t score free throws if they don’t get free throw attempts. If one team is significantly better than the other at getting to the line then they are going to get more free points during the game, and that is going to have a big effect on the ultimate outcome and on which team you wager.
Effective field goal percentage – It’s important to see how well basketball teams shoot because if one team sinks dramatically more of their shots than another then they are likely to come out on top. The problem with regular field goal percentage, though, is that it doesn’t factor in three point shooting effectiveness as well as it should. a team that shoots 33 percent from beyond the three point arc is doing just as well as one that shoots 50 percent from within it. eFG% factors in three point effectiveness to get a more meaningful measure of how good a team is at turning shots into points. If there is one new stat that college basketball bettors should get familiar with and figure out how to use effectively in NCAA basketball handicapping this is it.