There are some good arguments that can be made for betting on college basketball in November – the first month of the season. There are some good arguments to be made for not betting on the sport at that time as well. So, that’s we’re going to do – we’ll make the arguments for both sides. I’ll make the arguments for college basketball handicappers to be betting on college hoops in the first month of the season here, and in an other article I’ll tackle the reverse. On this side there are five good arguments to be made:
No one else is doing it – Betting on college basketball isn’t as popular as a lot of other sports at the best of times. Early in the season there is almost no one betting on the sport. People will pay attention to some of the more public teams, but lesser teams from obscure conferences get very little attention at this point. When the betting action is light on a game there are fewer challenges to figuring out what the books and the bettors are thinking. Line movement is more transparent, and lines are slower to move and adjust to bets. When you can clearly see what is going on you can more easily spot games with value. If you are a bettor who likes favorites then situations with light betting are particularly attractive. The betting public loves favorites, so on heavily bet college games with strong public action the odds on the favorite are likely to be inflated. In these games a smart basketball bettor can get the favorite at the closest to a true price that you are likely to find.
Books aren’t heavily focused – During the early college basketball season the college football and NFL seasons are in full swing, hockey is getting rolling, and the NBA season is kicking off. With all of those betting options on the table – and with football being so important for sportsbooks – oddsmakers don’t always spend as much time as they could setting lines and adjusting them for college basketball. The betting volume can be so low for many early games that the risk is minimal for the books, and when it comes to setting and adjusting odds good enough is good enough in most cases.
Media coverage is light – With so many other sports that are at more interesting points in their schedule the media attention for college basketball in November is far less than it will be later in the season as more people turn their eyes towards college hoops. When media coverage is light early on in the season the public bettors who are betting on the sport may not have as much information about the games, and likely won’t be as familiar with the programs as they will be later on when they can read about them on mainstream websites and newspapers. There is still plenty of information out there for serious sports bettors to dig up, so it is very possible for bettors who are willing to do the work to have a significant information advantage over the general public. Having an information edge is always an advantage for bettors, and there are few times when the information edge can be greater than here.
Returning starters have an edge – Early in the NCAA basketball season teams that have returning starters can have a big edge over teams that don’t. Returning starters know what they are supposed to be doing, they know what the coach demands and expects, and they are used to the speed and physicality of the college game. That’s not the case with new players, so returning starters are often ahead of new starters, even if the new starters are ultimately more talented. That’s a handy situation for basketball bettors to be able to exploit. By later in the season the advantage is significantly decreased because the new starters have had time to get used to the game and what they need to do. The advantage will never be more significant than in the first few games, and for college basketball handicappers that is often worth betting on.
Longshots can be found when preparation exceeds reputation – When casual bettors do find their way to betting on college basketball early in the year they will often be drawn to the teams with big names and big reputations. If one team is coming off a good year with a nice tournament run while the other team is far more obscure then the more public team will get an unbalanced amount of attention. Sometimes that is deserved, but other times the obscure program will be dramatically better than they appear to be to casual bettors who aren’t familiar with them. If you do the homework and get to know these teams before the public does then an informed college basketball handicapper can often exploit that information and make value-packed bets when they play popular teams that aren’t as strong as their reputation suggests.