When the college basketball calendar shifts from non-conference play into the conference schedule successful bettors are always on the lookout for teams that could perform in a way that could surprise unprepared bettors. That means that they are looking for basketball teams that are poised to be either notably better or notably worse in conference play than they were when playing their non-conference schedule. There are several different scenarios in which a team can beat expectations or fall short of them. Here are six of those situations that college basketball handicappers should look out for:
Particularly tough non-conference schedule – There are some college basketball teams – especially those in minor conferences that are looking to gain national credibility – that will schedule particularly difficult non-conference schedules. There are several potential motivations for that – to get national exposure, to expose themselves to recruits, to gain experience against higher caliber opponents, and so on. While scheduling tough is an approach that can gain a team a lot of respect it doesn’t always go well. It’s quite possible, then, that a team could come out of this non-conference schedule with a poor record. When they return to the safety of their conference, though, they could easily have benefited from the schedule despite the losses that piled up. Their players are battle-tested and have learned what it takes to win. That could make the conference opponents seem easy in comparison, so the team could easily and dramatically improve their early rough record.
Particularly weak non-conference schedule – If a tough schedule can be a good thing then it makes sense that the opposite could be true as well. If a team has had a very easy schedule then they could come through non-conference play with a perfect record or with just one or two losses. If they haven’t played anyone particularly impressive, though, then the record could be deceptive because they aren’t nearly as strong as it will make people assume they are. If they play in a tough conference then their conference schedule could be much tougher than what they have already faced, and they could be in for a rough ride.
Particularly suited to conference play – For a lot of college teams conference play is what it is all about. They don’t have national aspirations, so their entire focus is doing as well as they possibly can in their conference. That means that the teams are built around being as competitive as they possibly can be against their conference opponents. If the conference plays a specific type of basketball that is reasonably unique to them – especially rough or especially high tempo, for example – then the team might not be suited to playing against teams outside of the conference but could be ideally suited to conference play. A basketball team like this is going to do much better in conference play than they have done up to that point. If a conference is very high tempo, for example, then defensive discipline will not be valued, so they will be vulnerable against an efficient non-conference opponent that can control the pace.
Player missed first semester – It is reasonably common for a player to become available to a team at the end of the fall semester. It could be that that is when the player transferred to the school or that they were academically ineligible for the first semester. Unless the player is of a star caliber the public often won’t be aware of his return or the impact it could have. Those NCAA basketball bettors who are aware of it can realize that the team could be entirely different with the new addition, and that could create very profitable opportunities.
New coach – If a college coach is in his first year with a team then there is inevitable going to be some growing pains as he transitions to his ways and systems. By the time conference play starts the coach has had a couple of months of action under his belt, and so he knows his players better and his players know what to expect from him. The start of conference play is a chance to restart the season and to begin fresh for coaches and players, and it is not at all rare to see a team take a big step forward at this point.
Teams with few returning starters – Early in non-conference play smart handicappers know that the number of returning starters a team has can be very important. A group of starters that have worked together and worked under their coach and their system before have a huge head start on new starters, and can play beyond their usual capabilities. By the time conference play has started, though, the number of returning starters is far less relevant. New starters have had a chance to get comfortable with starting and with their teammates. A basketball team that may have struggled early in the season because of their inexperience could be much more capable of playing up to their potential once the conference season starts. If the sports betting public is still perceiving that they are the same team that looked unprepared early in the season then they could be in for a surprise. A savvy college basketball handicapper will not be surprised.