There are good reasons to bet on college basketball in the first month of the season in November, and good reasons not to bet on it then. In another article we looked at five reasons why you would want to bet on these games. Here I want to look at the other side – six reasons why betting on college basketball in the first month of the season may not be the best idea for college basketball handicappers.
No real preseason – Some college hoop teams will play an exhibition game or two, but generally there is no real preseason in college basketball. That means that teams will treat the first couple games as a de facto preseason. That’s when they will try things out at game speed to see what they really have. They’ll try out player combinations and different starting lineups. They’ll give some plays a try to see if they are going to work, and they’ll let players make mistakes to learn what they have to do later on. Teams are still focused on winning obviously, but some coaches are at least as focused as getting ready for the rest of the season, and making sure they are ready when the games really start to matter. When winning the game isn’t the full and complete focus of a team it can be hard for bettors to pick out winners and handicap properly.
Teams are very unpredictable – Early in the basketball season teams are dealing with the departure of starters and the arrivals of raw freshmen. They are probably adding new schemes and plays and doing some things differently than they did in the past. They aren’t entirely sure what their starting lineup and player rotation will look like, and they aren’t as comfortable with teammates as they will be. It has also been a long time since players have played at game speed. In short, all of that means that teams can be very unpredictable early in the season. It’s hard enough to know what to expect from college athletes when they are in midseason form, but early in the season you pretty much have to guess about what will happen a lot of times.
Most money bet is smart money – Betting volume is very low in the early part of the NCAA hoop season. Most casual public bettors are still focusing on the higher profile sports at the time – college football, the NFL, hockey, and the NBA. A high portion of the bets that are made early in the college basketball season, then, are made by serious bettors that have done their homework. Later in the season there is much more public money in betting pools, and that means that there can be plenty of opportunities for value when the public gets sucked into backing a team they probably shouldn’t. When most sports bettors have done their homework and are smart about their picks, though, it can be harder to find value.
Too much guessing about freshmen – Early in the season it can be impossible t predict what to expect form a freshman. Some guys make the transition from high school to college seamlessly and hit the ground running. Other guys struggle badly early on and take a while to get used to the speed and physicality of the game. Some coaches like to rely on freshmen right away, while others will ease them into the starting lineup slowly. When all you know about players is scouting reports from high school play it is very hard to accurately gauge their talent and readiness, so you are forced to guess. Guessing is never a good way for college basketball handicappers to make a long term profit.
There are better opportunities out there – Given all of the problems with betting on college basketball in November there are other sports that are more attractive. You can still be successful betting the sport – lots of guys are – but for most bettors it is easier to look to other places at this time. College football and the NFL are in full swing and are as predictable as they can be. Hockey has had several games to work out the kinks and give us an idea of what to expect, and the NBA is getting going. For most bettors several other spots will make profits more likely than early college basketball, so it makes sense to look elsewhere.
Opportunities are more plentiful later on – By later in the season college basketball will be a more attractive betting option for most bettors than it is early on. Teams will be more into a rhythm and we’ll have a much better idea of what they are capable of, and what to expect form them. We’ve seen freshmen play enough to know who is ready to contribute and who isn’t. In short, the games are just plain more predictable later in the season. There may not be a good reason for sports bettors to bet on college basketball early in the season when there will be more and better opportunities to bet on it later on.