Non-conference college basketball is great for one big reason – it means we are closer to conference play and tournament season, and both of those are brilliant. Betting on the non-conference season can be fruitful for bettors. If those sports bettors aren’t careful, though, the non-conference schedule is littered with traps to fall into – traps that could prove very costly. Here are six college basketball non-conference traps that college basketball handicappers want to be aware of so they can avoid them:
Looking past weak opponents – Most major conference NCAA teams look to schedule a few tough games in their non-conference schedule so that they look good at tournament time, but there are also more than a few games against weak opponents lined up. Some of those weak opponents can be surprising, but for good college basketball teams the game is often all but won as soon as the two teams take the field. If one of those mismatches comes right before a huge game against a big opponent then it can be easy for the team to look past the game and not focus as well as they should. Only rarely will that lead to a loss, but it can easily lead to a spread that should have been easily covered by the favorite that isn’t.
Focusing on factors beyond the win in early games – There is no real preseason in college basketball. Some teams will play an exhibition or two, but that’s often not enough to work out the kinks and fully get ready for a season. If a team is making some changes for the new season then they might choose to treat the first couple of games as a virtual preseason – a chance to try some things out at game speed. They are still going to try to win, of course, but they could also work on trying out different player combinations, getting backups extra playing time, and so on. If a team isn’t focused primarily or entirely on the win then it is very hard to trust them to cover a spread.
Breaking in freshmen or new starters – Early in the non-conference basketball schedule college freshmen can cause real headaches for bettors. The biggest mistake that people make when looking at freshmen is handicapping what they are likely to be capable of once the season is in full swing and they are comfortable and have adjusted to the demands of the game. Quite often what they are capable of at the start of the non-conference season is far less than what they will be capable of. That means it can be very easy for basketball bettors to give a team far more credit than they deserve – especially if the freshmen or new starters are high profile players with huge expectations on their shoulders.
Consecutive tough games in early tournaments – Early in the season college hoop teams aren’t completely fit or comfortable with each other, and they aren’t yet used to the demands and difficulties of a long season. In early tournaments teams might face tough opponents on consecutive nights, or twice in three days. That’s a lot for teams to deal with at the best of times, but for inexperienced teams it could be a huge challenge early in the year.
Opponents playing their biggest game of the year – When a team from a major NCAA conference with the prospects of a deep tournament run ahead of them plays an early season game against an obscure team from a lesser conference the game will likely mean next to nothing for the favorite. For the underdog, though, it could quite possibly be the biggest game of their season. They normally play in a league no one cares about, and suddenly they are playing against five star recruits and future NBAers. That can be a huge motivator for those lesser teams, and can lead them to play harder and with more intensity than normal. When one basketball team only barely cares and the other couldn’t be more excited about a game you could have a much closer result than you might otherwise expect.
Heavily overbet favorites – When a public team plays an obscure team the betting action is going to be heavily skewed towards the one team. If that game has relatively high betting volume than that lopsided betting action could have a big impact on where the line was originally set and how it moves. Betting on favorites in these situations without first thinking of the impact of that action could mean that college basketball handicappers are betting with far less value that they think they are.