When February rolls around there is still a lot of college basketball left to play and bet on before the postseason starts. For dozens of NCAA teams, though, all they are doing is putting in time. Their records are lousy, there are no post-season prospects, and it’s probably getting harder and harder to get excited about playing yet another game they are likely to lose. Because the basketball teams that are struggling don’t typically get much media attention they have fallen out of the minds of the betting public as well. That means that there can be opportunities for real value from betting on those teams, but only if you can determine that they are still going to be playing with full effort despite their challenges. Here are six questions that college basketball handicappers can ask to determine whether a team with no hope for a bright March can still be expected to put forth a strong effort – and cover some spreads – down the stretch:
What were the expectations coming into the season? – If a college basketball team came into the season expecting to have success and hasn’t found it then they are going to be frustrated and dispirited. If they knew that they were only going to win a handful of games, though, then living up to this expectations might actually be a reasonable pleasing season. Five wins on the year could feel like a victory if you only expected to win three. Google can be your friend with this. By looking back at season previews written before the season started you can see how the season was expected to turn out, and judge how the team may be feeling right now.
How healthy is the team? – One of the things that can cause a NCAA hoop team to really struggle is being hit hard by injuries. If a team isn’t particularly deep and talented to begin with then just a few injuries can be crippling. If injuries seem to be at the root of the problem and those injury problems are continuing the the basketball team likely won’t be able to turn things around. On the other hand, if the injured players are able to return to action then the team could get a boost that will help them play better than their record – something that is almost sure to deliver value.
What does the schedule look like? – Sometimes a college team has a particularly bad schedule because their schedule was front-loaded. maybe they were a smaller conference team that played a non-conference schedule that was to challenging. Or perhaps they are a major conference team that struggled against strong non-conference opponents and played their toughest conference games early on. The scheduling could spell the end of their real hopes for the season, but if the games get easier down the stretch then they could sill fare better than their record would suggest that they would.
How old is the roster? – This is where you need to be a bit of an amateur psychologist to figure things out. In some cases a basketball team with a very young roster – starting a lot of freshmen and sophomores – could get stronger as the season goes along because the players get comfortable with the speed of the game and the demands of being a college player. Other times you could argue that an older team which starts several seniors could strengthen down the stretch as players look to finish out their college careers – and likely their competitive careers – on a high note. Of course, in both cases the opposite could be true – the young team could wear down under the strain of the new challenges, while the older players could give up due to the frustration of seeing your last year turn out like this.
Has the starting lineup changed? – This is one that can be easy for sports bettors to overlook. If the lineup that is playing most of the time in February is significantly different than the one that was playing most of the time in November then it isn’t reasonable to assume that the results in February will be the same as they were in November. Rosters can change because of a number of reasons – injuries, younger players getting more experienced, younger players proving to not be up to the challenge of starting yet, and so on. A basketball team that has changed their roster in positive ways could see positive results down the stretch, and that could be great for bettors.
What’s the status of the coach? – If a NCAA basketball team struggles early in the career of a coach at a school then there probably isn’t too much to worry about – the team knew that there would likely be a period of adjustment when a new coach is taking over and implementing his systems. If the college coach has been there for a while and is still struggling, though, then he could struggle to maintain the respect of his players – especially if it seems likely or even possible if that the coach could be nearing the end of his time at the school. College basketball handicappers can use these tips to make smart bets.