In college basketsball, the sports media loves to overreact to situations. It seems like it is their favorite thing to do. A NCAA hoop team wins a couple of games in a row in impressive fashion and they have already been awarded the title. Lose a couple and they might as well fold. A basketball player with a couple of good games is breaking out, while one who has a couple of off games should probably retire. A college coach who wins is a genius, but one who loses is a total moron.
Most of those overreactions are obviously ridiculous and not worth much of your time or attention. Sometimes, though, it can be hard to tell if the media hype is misplaced or if it is worthy of attention. If it is actually insightful then ignoring it could be costly to you as a sports bettor. If you can spot that the hype is misplaced, though, then there is a good chance you can find value when the public overreacts to the situation and make winning wagers.
College basketball is particularly vulnerable to overreactions. Because there are so many teams, and because most people don’t really care about the sport until tournament time, people are often only interested in the big names, the big schools, and the big stories. Here are five questions that college basketball handicappers can ask to help determine if the media is overreacting in a particular situation in college basketball:
When the media raves about a player, is how the player is playing sustainable? – The media loves eye-opening performances – high scoring explosions, tons of rebounds, and so on. Those types of hoop performances are only interesting, though, if there is a good chance that it is sustainable. Was the player successful in a couple of games because the opponents couldn’t match up well against him? Was he able to feast on weak teams? Will future opponents be able to easily adjust to what the player is doing? Is the player an older player who is suddenly putting together good games well above established expectations? If the answer to any of those questions is yes then there is a very good chance that the player won’t be able to sustain his level of play in the long term.
Does the team win when the player performs well? – Sometimes the media will fall in love with a player who puts up huge numbers and highlight reel plays virtually every time he touches the ball. While that’s obviously impressive, it is totally irrelevant to bettors if the players’ heroics aren’t enough to help his team win regularly. Sometimes the reason a player puts up huge numbers is because there is no one else on the basketball team to carry the load.
How much of a team’s success is due to their schedule? – The media will get very excited when a team has won a lot of games in a row, but often won’t pay any attention to who they have beaten. Every year in major conferences there are several teams which get off to surprisingly fast starts – in the eyes of the media, at least – and start to get lots of attention. NCAA basketball teams that came into the season with very low expectations will suddenly be in the discussion as a tournament team. The reason they have put up big numbers, though, often has far less to do with how they have played than who they play. Once conference play starts and they face tougher competition those tournament dreams fade back into oblivion.
Is the coach really the genius he is being portrayed as? – The media loves college coaches – maybe because so many coaches become media members. Whenever something goes well for a team the media will automatically call the coach a genius. It’s almost guaranteed. There are some coaches out there that are geniuses. There are a whole lot more, though, who are just guys with good skills who can make players better. Before as a sports bettor you believe that a coach is truly a genius look at the reasons for the sudden improvement in play. Has he recruited better? Is he playing weaker teams? Is his roster getting older and more experienced? Has he changed his assistants? If you can think back a few years to the players that were the geniuses I guarantee that you’ll find that some are still doing great, but more are back to playing out of the spotlight again – where they will stay until circumstances fall in their favor again.
Is there a simple explanation for the amazing (good or bad) performances? – There’s that saying – when you hear hoofbeats it doesn’t make sense to assume zebras are coming. The media loves zebras. When a player has a few good games they assume the player is suddenly great. When a team wins a few games they think they are unbeatable. When that same team loses a game – even against a strong opponent – there must be fatal flaws. In very rare cases it really is zebras. Most of the time, though, there is a simple explanation that the media is totally overlooking because it isn’t sexy enough. Before you chase zebras be a smart college basketball handicapper and look closely for horses.