Each year a few college basketball teams get a very nice gift right before Christmas. That’s when the academic term ends, so it’s also when basketball players who weren’t eligible in the first semester can join the team and start playing. There are usually a few intriguing, valuable players that get added. The challenge for college basketball handicappers is to determine what the impact of these midseason additions and the other lower profile ones that join their teams will actually be. Here are eight questions that college bettors can ask to help get a sense of what could happen, and where the betting value could be as a result of the additions.
What position does he play? – Some positions are easier for players to step into and contribute right away than others. For example, a shooting guard will probably have a much smoother transition than a point guard will. Even the most talented players can take a while to fit in and contribute as well as they are capable of in a tough position. You don’t have to look further than Derrick Rose as a good example – before Christmas he was pretty pedestrian for Memphis, but by tournament time he was a terrifying beast.
How well does that position fit into team need? – If a team doesn’t need a player in a certain position because they have strong players there already then the team isn’t likely to be significantly improved by the addition of the player. On the other hand, if the new player fills a glaring hole in the team then the addition could provide a huge boost and that may affect how you bet. Understanding the depth chart is important here. There is another factor to consider here as well – sometimes the new player can give his team a boost even if he doesn’t get a lot of playing time himself right away. The addition of new talent can push the players who are starting ahead of the new player to elevate their games to keep their starting spot.
How easy is the position to learn in the system? – The same position can be played very differently in different systems – playing point guard is far more complicated for John Calipari than for John Beilein, for example. In more complex systems players can’t really get comfortable and ready to contribute fully until they have had a chance to play and experience the demands at full game speed. Simpler systems can be much better understood in practice.
How skilled is the rest of the team around the player? – No basketball player can win games by himself, and it is especially difficult for a young player just starting his career to carry his team. The transition and the effectiveness of the new addition will likely be higher the more complementary talent there is around him.
How much playing time is the player likely to get? If a player is only going to play 10 or 15 minutes a game when he joins the team then you may not have to spend a lot of time worrying about his contribution. If he is going to step right in and play 30 minutes a game, though, then you have to be much more aware of his impact.
How does the coach use freshmen? – Some NCAA basketball coaches are willing to put freshmen right into the flow of game and rely on them to be valuable contributors right from the start. Others like to ease young players into the games slowly as they get more comfortable. Obviously, a player can make bigger impact the more faith his coach has in young players.
What kind of shape is the player in? – Sometimes a player becomes eligible and is ready to go right away – he has been practicing and working out had and is good to goo. Other times it takes a while for him to get into game shape. Finding out what kind of shape a player is in can help assess his early impact. Looking at local newspapers or team fan forums online are good sources for sports bettors to find this kind of information.
What are the public expectations? – If the basketball player is a heavily hyped prized player – like Josh Selby at Kansas – then the wagering public is going to have high expectations and that is going to have a significant impact on the lines and line movement. A talented but lower profile player could have an impact that is solidly bigger than is reflected in the lines. That means value for the intelligent college basketball handicapper.