There are a lot of problems with polls – especially in college football. In college basketball, though, the polls are an under-appreciated means of drawing insights about teams and leagues. You aren’t going to learn a lot from just looking at the poll at face value, but some simple analysis of what you see can help you quickly get a sense of what’s going on in the sport and where opportunities may lie. Here are five ways the polls can give handicappers college basketball betting insights:
The panic factor – When a highly ranked team loses a high profile game the pollsters panic. A loss by a number one NCAA basketball team will drop them at least two spots, and even more if it’s a bad loss. When the pollsters panic the public generally panics as well. In virtually every case, though, the team isn’t in nearly as rough shape as the big drop in the polls would indicate. A loss, especially a conference loss, is not a big deal at all – for five straight years the NCAA champ has lost three or more conference games. A drop in the polls will in many cases cause a drop in public faith that s far bigger than is needed, and as a result can often create real value in betting on the dropping team next time out. Finding value on an elite level team is rare.
Lacking the buzz factor – One of my favorite things to find is a basketball team that isn’t getting the attention they warrant based on their play – something the polls can help you spot. If a team has slowly but steadily been rising up the polls over several weeks then they should probably be getting some national attention. If they aren’t getting as much as you would expect – because they play in a smaller conference or outside of a major media market – then the betting public probably isn’t paying as much attention to the team as they should. An under-appreciated NCAA basketball team is often one that provides value for the smart college basketball handicapper.
Grabbing a few votes – The single most value aspect of the polls in my mind is the list of teams that drew votes but not enough to be ranked. If just one or two voters voted for a team then it was probably local media and doesn’t mean much A team that has votes from several people, though, is worth a very close look. That means that the team is playing well enough for a few people – presumably people who pay close attention to the game – to like what they see, bu they aren’t getting enough hype for a lot of people to jump on the bandwagon. At the very least that means that the team is worth a much closer look. In my experience these teams provide a ton of betting value.
Good measure of conference strength – Being able to analyze conference strength is valuable when the postseason rolls around. The polls are a solid way of measuring that strength. At the simplest level you could say that the more teams a conference has ranked the stronger the conference is in general. You can get much more value, though, from looking a bit deeper. A good college basketball handicapper will ask the following questions. Is the number of ranked teams from the conference increasing or decreasing as the season progresses? Is the average ranking of conference teams rising or falling? Do the rankings show that the conference is really top heavy, or does it suggest parity among the better teams in the conference? Has the conference been consistent in their play, or have teams bounced around the rankings like a yo-yo?
Spotting patterns – Patterns can be very useful for some types of stock investors – if something positive often happens when stocks move in a certain way then it’s a good bet that good things will happen again if a stock moves in a similar way again. That kind of pattern recognition has always appealed to me in stocks and commodities, and with a little imagination the same type of thing can be applied to the polls as well. By looking at how teams move in the polls over time you can start to spot patterns that can be useful. One I like, for example, is what I call the horseshoe. If a college basketbakk team is ranked at the start of the season, falls 10 or more spots in the rankings at some point, and the climbs back to at least where they were originally ranked or higher then this is a team that has the mix of talent and tenacity that becomes more and more valuable – and useful for bettors – as the season progresses. Use this information in tyour college basketball handicapping.