Betting on college basketball is great for a whole lot of reasons. One of the biggest reasons is how varied it can be – every day is different. Much more than any of the other major sports college basketball is so varied. That’s what happens when you have more than 300 teams playing at a wide range of talent levels, but all playing towards one goal – making the NCAA Tournament.
In a lot of ways betting on any game in college basketball is like betting on any other – it’s all just basketball, and the fundamentals are the same. To be truly successful as a bettor, though, you need to look beyond those similarities into the differences that can create real opportunities if college basketball handicappers can spot them and capitalize on them. One of those differences is the subtle but significant differences between betting on games featuring major conference teams, and those from the smaller mid-major conferences. Here are five ways in which those two types of bets are different:
Betting action – Simply put, the large majority of public bettors don’t care about mid-majors – at least not until they make the bracket and have a chance at pulling off an upset. Almost any game between two major conference basketball teams will draw much more betting action than almost any game between two mid-majors. Whenever the betting action is heavier on a basketball game you have to be more concerned about where the public loyalties are, where the smart money is, how and why the line is moving, and whether the value has already been bet out of a line. In games without a lot of action the line movement will be slow, books aren’t going to be as concerned about their exposure, and the chances for real value – significant value – is far greater for the observant college basketball bettor.
Public knowledge – The average college basketball bettor knows a lot more about a team in the ACC than they do about a team in the Sun Belt. That means that the bets made on teams in the major conferences are more likely to be made based on what the teams are truly capable of than in the mid-majors. That doesn’t mean that bettors in major conferences won’t miss anything, or that mid-major bettors will miss out on every detail. It just means that it is far more likely that an injury or a benching will go largely unnoticed in the mid-major than in the major conference.
Media coverage – With the exception of the big name mid-majors like Butler, Gonzaga, and Davidson the media spends little time during the regular season writing about and talking about the mid-majors. The networks rarely broadcast their games, and nothing but the very biggest stories get any attention. The lack of media coverage for the mid-majors is, in my mind, a very good thing. It means that people are less likely to have a sense of which teams are deceptively good, and which players are game-changers. It also means that there is far less chance that you can be subjected to misleading or downright incorrect analysis from the experts. The media likes to tell a good story – whether that story actually makes any sense when you look closely at it or not. It’s way too easy to be misled by media hype, so being able to bet on games largely devoid of that hype can be refreshing for the college basketball handicapper.
Talent level – When you are betting on mid-major games you have to get used to the fact that the general level of talent on teams is far lower than in major conferences. That has more of an overall impact when a mid-major is playing a major, but it is significant in a few ways in mid-major games as well. Most significantly, you have to remember that sometimes there are players playing in mid-majors who have major conference talent and who have the ability to influence the outcome of a game single-handedly to a far larger extent than is possible in major conferences – the two Curry brothers jump to mind as recent examples.
Significance of past record – You have to think about the records of NCAA basketball teams differently when dealing with mid-majors. If a major conference team has played several other major conference teams in non-conference action and lost most of the games then chances are that it just isn’t a very good team. If a mid-major were to lose to the same teams, but was consistently close – covering the spread and playing well – then they deserve respect despite the losses, and will quite likely prove to be quite strong once conference play starts. This is important for college basketball handicappers to understand.