Astute college basketball bettors know that they can gain a big edge over the general public by paying attention to the first couple of weeks of college basketball practice in October. Midnight Madness draws some attention in some schools, but after that most bettors are too distracted by the NFL, college football, the World Series and the start of the hockey and NBA seasons to spend too much time worrying about what is going on in the campus gyms around the country. By paying attention to what is going on you can have a far more accurate picture of where teams are at than the public will when the regular season starts, and that advantage can typically extend well into the regular season. Here are six things that college basketball handicappers should follow closely in the fall:
Are the freshmen physically ready? – More and more every year the sports betting public expects big things from freshmen right out of the gate. Players like Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, and Tyreke Evans have made it easy to forget that not all young players are ready to be stars right away. When high school stars enter college they take a huge step up not only in level of competition, but in the level of commitment to the game that is required from them. They also play against much older and stronger players that play a more physical style. Some players are able to make that transition relatively smoothly, but they are definitely the exception. More often it takes time to adjust to the speed, physicality and complexity of the college game. You won’t truly get a sense of how freshmen are doing until they start playing real games, but by following the news out of practices you can hear about players who could be well positioned for success right away, and those which will require some patience.
What is the coach’s mood? – Once a college basketball coach has been with a team for a while you can get a sense of what their typical mood is and what can usually be expected of them in terms of attitude, openness, and relationship with the media. If the coach is acting differently than you have come to expect then you can reasonably assume that something has him off balance. Most likely that has something to do with his team not being where he would like it to be. That kind of information can be very useful for bettors.
What players are getting noticed? – When the media goes to NFL training camps in August it’s hard to trust a lot of what you hear about what players are standing out. There is so much hype around the league and the appetite for information is so huge that the media will focus on the players that will get them the most attention. The market for college football news in October is dramatically smaller, and the people who will be interested in it are more hardcore fans. That means that the media who attends basketball camp is less likely to be into sensational stories, and more into recording and reporting what they see. When a player is getting some strong coverage after camp visits in college basketball, then, there is a good chance that that player will be ready for a big season.
Are last year’s injured players back strong? – If a player missed significant time last season and are being relied upon to be a big part of the team this year then it’s obviously important to quickly get a sense of what the status of that player is and whether he is going to be able to contribute right away. You’ll often be able to quickly get a sense of the strategy the team has with the player – whether they are treating him like he is back and ready to go, or if they are likely to patiently ease him back into service.
Any players in the doghouse? – If a basketball player is on the outs with his coach in October then it could be a long year for him and the team. Any signs of tension or disciplinary actions in the early practice sessions is definitely something to take note of. Online fan forums are a very good place to look for this kind of information in particular.
What smaller programs are getting attention? – Smaller conferences are more interesting than larger ones for a lot of bettors because the search for value is often much easier. Most NCAA hoop teams in small conferences get absolutely no attention at all. Each year, though, a few teams from smaller conferences will get extra attention and media respect. If the media pays attention to them then the public is more likely to pay attention to them once the season starts. If betting volumes are low on a game then the public attention on one team can have a pronounced effect, so it is important for the college basketball handicapper to know what teams are getting attention early on. If you aren’t into betting smaller conferences very much then paying attention to the buzz teams is also a good way to know what teams are worth your time, and which ones could make things interesting when they play a team form a major conference.