We see it season after college basket season. A NCAA hoop team comes out of the gate blazing then goes into a freefall. In 2010 Syracuse started the season 18-0 and were one of the last undefeated teams standing. A loss to Pitt was followed by one to Villanova, and their confidence was totally shot. They went on to lose four straight and were clearly and obviously in a brutal slump heading into a very tough stretch of conference games. Watching them throw away a very promising start to the basketball season got me thinking – how do you tell when a good team in a bad slump is poised to break out of it? Here are six things that can give college basketball handicappers a clue:
Injury situation changes – Sometimes a slump can be started by a injury, or can happen while an important player is out of action. An end to that injury, then, could lead to an end to the slump. The player who has been hurt and out returns to play and contribute, but that’s probably not even the biggest factor. When a college basket team falls into a slump they are clearly not in a good place in terms of their chemistry and general state of mind. Sometimes a player returning to action can be enough to shake up that chemistry and get things moving in the right direction. It doesn’t have to be a star player or even a starter, either. Sometimes a guy who comes off the bench and provides a spark can be the most important player to a team. The betting public won’t notice that, so they won’t react to his absence, and could under-react to his return, which can benefit observant college bettors.
Stats improve – When a basketball team falls into a slump you can often quickly see the cause with a quick look at their stats. If a team is shooting at a much lower percentage in their last few games than they have been used to then that could be the problem. Or if the guards are recording far fewer assists. Maybe the efficiency numbers have dropped a long way. What’s particularly interesting about this is that the statistics for a team often start to make a recovery before the slump ends. That means that if you can spot the improvements as soon as they happen you can often spot a team that is about to experience a turn around in their performance – at least according to the scoreboard.
The team that started the slump loses – A slump often starts with a particularly frustrating or ugly loss. That can be enough to badly shake the confidence of the whole team – especially if the team thought that they measured up well against the team they lost to. After they lose to that team they can really start to doubt themselves in comparison. Sometimes, then, all it takes for the confidence to start to return – for the basketball team to snap out of their pity party – is for the team that beat them to lose. That reminds the college team that the team that beat them is mortal, too, and that losses are just a part of the sport.
Roster change – Beyond injuries, sometimes any change in the roster can have the impact of changing chemistry and mindset in a small but positive way. The most obvious of these is when the coach makes changes to the starting lineup. Taking one player out of the lineup and putting another one in can deliver the message that what the players have been doing isn’t good enough. More severely, a college basket coach can shake up his team by suspending a player for a short time for one of the endless minor things a player can do wrong. Bad habits can lead to bad performance for a team, and rigid discipline like a suspension can scare players back onto the right track.
Notable show of emotion – Slumps can end just because the force of will of the coach or a player leads it to end. If a coach or a respected player lets his frustration come out in public – in the media or during the course of a game – then that can be just what they need to snap out of the doldrums and get back on track. It can’t just be a simple statement of frustration, though – it needs to be an emotional explosion.
Confidence gained against a lousy team – When a college basket team in a bad slump beats a really bad team you can’t really consider the slump over – they were supposed to win the game regardless of how they were playing. What you want to be on the lookout for, though, is when the slumping team not only beats a bad team, but beats up on them. A commanding win can help to restore the team’s swagger and let them remember who they are and what they are capable of. If that happens be sure to take note before you place your next college basketball bet.