Near the end of the college basketball regular season in hundreds of gyms across the country one of the great traditions in all of sports happens – Seniors’ Night. After a college player has played four or five years with a program and given their heart and soul to it Seniors’ Night gives the team, the fans, and the school a chance to recognize them and thank them for all they have done. The player’s parents and families are typically there, and it can be an emotional and inspiring ceremony. Bettors should pay close attention to Seniors’ Nights as they happen around the country. In some circumstances the festivities can have an impact on the size of the crowd and the impact they make on the team. Here are four factors for college basketball handicappers to consider when determining whether Seniors’ Night could change how the game might play out, and where the value is in betting on the game:
How many seniors are there? – This is an important question to ask because in the age of early exits for the draft and one-and-done players there are many high profile programs that just don’t have a lot of college seniors around these days – or at least not ones that contribute. If a school is short of seniors in a given year then the festivities aren’t going to be significant, and they aren’t likely to be a big draw for fans. Some years, though, a senior class will be large and intact, and fans will come out in big numbers to celebrate the class. This can especially be a factor if the class has had a good deal of success while they have been at the school – conference championships and postseason success, for example.
How popular are the seniors? – There are some college seniors that the fans just aren’t going to get excited about. And then there are those seniors who are heroes to the fan base, and who fans will look to come out to celebrate in huge numbers. That could be high profile stars who garner national attention, or it could just be fan favorites who have gained the love and respect of the crowd through years of big effort and strong contributions. Needless to say, the more popular the seniors are that are graduating, the more the fans are going to show up for the celebration, and the more vocal they will be during the game. Another factor to consider here is what role the seniors are likely to play in the game. If they are going to be actively involved in the game and show up on the scoresheet in significant ways then the fans will likely be very involved, cheering for them every time they touch the ball or do something noteworthy. If the seniors are hurt or aren’t big contributors, though, then the fan impact won’t be as significant.
What is crowd support typically like? – Seniors’ Night can give an impact to crowd size and involvement, but that is only a factor in situations where the crowd isn’t always big to begin with. If a building is always sold out or close to it, and if the fans are always involved in the games, and vocal – if the building is always a very tough one to play in, in other words – then Seniors’ Night won’t have much of an added impact. The building can’t get any fuller, and the fans can’t get appreciably louder. On the other hand, if the building isn’t consistently full or loud then the home court advantage could be markedly more significant when popular seniors are getting their send-off.
What is on the line? – This game is the chance for fans to celebrate the seniors, but it is also one of the last games of the regular college basketball season. As such, it is important to think about what else is involved in the game. If the team is fighting for a conference championship and needs a win against a strong rival to clinch it then the building is likely going to be packed and very vocal regardless of who the seniors are and how popular they are. Seniors’ Night in that case won’t be a major factor in terms of home court advantage. College basketball handicappers should note that If the team has struggled all year, though, and they are at or near the bottom of their league standings then the game isn’t going to be compelling to frustrated fans, and the festivities of Seniors’ Night may not be enough to significantly change the mood of the fans.