In February of 2012 in college basketball the New Mexico Lobos were red hot and were quickly becoming regarded as one of the mid-majors that could make some real noise in the NCAA tournament. They had won seven in a row capped by consecutive decisive wins over fellow Mountain West powers San Diego State and UNLV. They were rolling, and the nation was taking note. Then they went out and lost badly to a pretty lousy Colorado State team – a squad that had no business competing with the Lobos. The loss was far from a unique one for a good team, but it was a frustrating one for many bettors. When a good NCAA basketball team plays an uncharacteristically weak game it can be perplexing and frustrating – not to mention costly. Bettors who can effectively spot situations where good teams could stumble can be well positioned to avoid bad bets and improve their bottom line. Here are five types of situations for college basketball handicappers to understand that could lead a good team to forget that they are good:
Coming off a tough, successful stretch of games – New Mexico was a classic example of this. After wins at #15 San Diego State and against #11 UNLV it was understandable that they may have let up – especially with only four games against easy opponents remaining before the Mountain West Tournament and the NCAA tournament. It was an ideal spot for a letdown game, and that’s exactly what they had. It is quite common on a schedule to have a string of tough games followed by easier ones. If focus is at all an issue – especially if the basketball team is likely to be tired – then basketball bettors should be on the edge. That doesn’t mean that teams will always lose these games or fail to cover spreads, or that they shouldn’t be bet on in any circumstances. It just means that these are areas in which bettors should be particularly aware of the possibilities, and particularly certain of the edge in this situation, before they make the bet.
Depth challenged – Sometimes college basketball teams put together stretches of success while only relying on five or six players to carry the bulk of the load. That’s often not sustainable over the long term. The issues can become significant in a number of ways – after a stretch of tough games the player could be worn out, against a physical opponent the team could become tired, or in foul trouble, and so on. If the team doesn’t have a lot of depth behind their starters then they could be vulnerable.
Hidden weakness – Sometimes a stretch of strong success can mask problems that a team has had. For example, maybe they are not a strong team on the road, or they have struggled to play their best midweek, or they are not strong against up-tempo teams. The betting public isn’t likely to pay attention to those situations, so they aren’t going to be reflected accurately in the lines. If the game they are faced with fits with one of these hidden weaknesses then the team could be primed for a disappointing performance.
Change from common style of opponent – This is particularly a problem in conference play. Many of the teams in a given conference will play basically the same style of play, and they will recruit basically the same caliber of player. if a team is designed to play well against that style of play then they could put together a very nice hot streak. When a team comes along on the schedule that throws something different at them, though – a change in tempo, a difference in styles of shots, a change in physicality of play, and so on – the team may not be capable of adjusting quickly and effectively, and they could have an issue. The public won’t adapt to this situation well, either – especially if the college team that plays in a very different style is not a high profile or particularly successful team.
Psychic disruption – Topnotch college basketball handicappers know that the mental health and focus of a team can be very fragile, so it may not take much to knock the team’s focus and chemistry off of where it has been while they have been enjoying their success. Maybe there are rumors that their coach or an assistant is going to leave for a higher profile position elsewhere. Perhaps there has been a discipline issue on the team relating to off-court issues or academics. Maybe a key player – either in terms of production or leadership – has been injured and limited from playing. Sometimes it only takes something like that to change the way the basketball team looks on the court entirely and significantly alter their performance.