There are so many college basketball teams and conferences out there that we can’t possibly keep track of them all. Some NCAA conferences are so obscure that the only time we hear about them each year is when the winner of the conference loses to a number one seed by 40. Those baketball teams often play games on which a spread isn’t even set by the major sports book. Every so often, though, those teams play games against higher profile teams are we have to handicap them. When an obscure team like that is playing one we know well – especially if the well known team is decent – then the tendency is to discount the obscure team. Sometimes, though, those obscure teams can represent real betting value because though the public doesn’t know a lot about them – or care – they are actually a solid team. When an obscure non board team is playing a known one, then, it’s important to be able to quickly get a sense of how good the team is. Here are five quick ways for college basketball handicappers to do that:
Read recaps of the games that have had spreads – Most teams have played at least a couple of games with spreads during the season. The major sports sites and some of the bigger betting ones will have recaps of those games posted. Recaps are never great at the best of times, but they at least give you a sense of how the team plays, how they matched up against their opponents, which players carried the load, and so on. Ideally, I like to look at a couple of recaps. By comparing the recaps sports bettors can be sure that what you are reading makes sense and is at least a somewhat accurate representation of what happened.
Look at how they have performed against teams you do know – Trying to draw meaning from looking back at a basketball game between two obscure teams is mostly useless because you lack context to make what you learn relevant. You can get far more meaning from looking at how the team has performed against teams against which you have at least a passing familiarity of. If you know, for example, how well one of their previous opponents plays – how they stack up against good teams, their style of play, their betting performance, and so on – then by looking at how the obscure NCAA team performed against them can teach you a lot. You can learn much more from looking at two or three games like this than you can draw from looking at all of the other games the team has played combined.
Look at local and campus newspapers – The internet has been a remarkable accomplishment for humanity for countless reasons. For resourceful sports handicappers one of the nicer benefits is that it has made virtually every local and campus newspaper in the country readily available. There’s no better way to get a quick sense of how a basketball team is playing and what they are capable of than by reading what the people who see them every day have to say. This is also a great way to hear what the public definitely won’t hear about – injury status, roster changes, and so on.
Is there a forum? – Internet forums are another great source of information – just because a basketball team is obscure doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a devoted fanbase that obsesses over ever detail of the team and their performance. Forums can be frustrating because of the people on them and the crap they like to talk about, but if you can stand to wade through all of that then you can often pick out a few nuggets that can be very helpful. As a general rule if those devoted fans think that a game against a higher profile team is totally and utterly hopeless then there is probably a pretty good chance that it is.
Do a statistical survey – Looking at statistics and how they compare to their opponent is always a part of handicapping – at least it hopefully. Statistics can also be a great way of quickly painting a portrait of a basketball team, though. Looking at their tempo can tell you how quickly they like to move the ball, and what style of play they prefer. If their tempo is reasonably consistent form game to game then they are probably pretty good at setting the tone and controlling the flow of the game. If it varies wildly from game to game then they are subservient to their opponent. Offensive efficiency tells you if the team is talented and efficient. Defensive efficiency tells you how they stand up in the face of challenges. Shooting percentages give you a clue to their discipline and skill levels. Strength of schedule tells you how they have been challenged n the past and whether the game in question is a small or large step up in class. A quick look at simple statistics by a savvy college basketball handicapper – no calculations required – can tell them much more about a team than the betting public will ever know.