The profile of the Big Ten – ACC Challenge seems to grow each year. It’s an event that is purely made for TV, but with passing time there have been some college basketball rivalries built up, and teams and coaches seem to be more and more invested in winning the challenge for their conference. With the growing profile of the event there is more bettor interest every year, and more potential to make some good money. Bettors who chose to focus on this two day, 12 game event are not only treated to some great basketball action, but also some very good betting opportunities. For the most part these games are just like any other early season college basketball game. There are a few differences, though, and being aware of those differences can give you the edge you need to come out on top. Here are seven factors for college basketball handicappers to consider when looking to make winning picks and cash in on the Challenge:
Where are the games being played? – This is a big factor in these basketball games. Both the Big Ten and the ACC have some big time programs with buildings filled with history that are tough to play in. There are also some schools that just don’t draw a lot of people – even if they have a reasonably successful program. It’s important to figure out how much of a factor the crowd is going to be in these games. You also need to consider how excited the home crowds will be about the visiting team. Michigan, for example, often struggles to draw a crowd for non-conference games, but the building would be full for a high profile visitor like Duke or North Carolina.
Which games are widely televised? – The NCAA games that are shown on national television are going to be the ones that feature the biggest name programs, and they are going to be the ones that get the most attention from public bettors. the more attention the games get from the betting public the more you have to be aware of what biases the public is likely to have. As a general rule, the more public action the harder it is for the expert sports bettor to find value on the favorites, but the more inflated the underdog lines could be.
Which games will get the public attention? – Beyond the nationally televised games you need to look at the games that will draw the most public attention. there will typically be three or four games in the Challenge that will draw more combined betting action than the other eight or nine games combined.
How have the non-conference schedules looked? – By the time the Challenge rolls around NCAA basketball teams have played several non-conference games, and many will have played in a preseason tournament as well. At this point teams will have put together a record that could potentially be deceptive. It’s very important to look at the opponents a team has faced. An undefeated record could be meaningless if the team hasn’t played anyone of note, while a team could have two or three losses and still be dangerous if they have played a very tough schedule.
Is there any rivalry factor? – Rivalries are a big part of college basketball, but they are typically a much bigger factor in conference play. They could be a big issue here in the Challenge, though, if the teams have reasons to be particularly fired up to play each other. Have the team’s faced each other in recent years? Have they met up in the NCAA Tournament recently? Has a coach moved from one team to the other? Has a key player transferred from one school to the other?
Will the coaches look at the game differently than others? – For the most part college basketball coaches will approach these games like any other game against a non-conference opponent – albeit one against a major conference opponent. There are some cases, though, in which a coach will approach this game differently. Perhaps he is an alumni of the opponent, or he used to coach at the school. Perhaps he used to work with the opposing coach, or he has a personal rivalry with him. If a coach is more invested in the game than normal then his team could be as well, and that could have an impact on the outcome.
What else is on at the same time? – The games are usually played at the beginning of the week, so there often isn’t too much else going on in the sports world at the time. If the Challenge games are the biggest events on the day then the action from both casual bettors and smart money could be more significant than if there are other events that will draw attention. It’s important for college basketball handicappers to look at the NBA, NFL and NHL schedules to see what else is a factor, and to see if other college basketball games are also likely to cause less betting action on the Challenge games than you might otherwise expect.