Men’s basketball at the Summer Olympics is always among the most popular events for sports bettors – especially when the American team is playing. People who regularly bet the NBA are going to be drawn to betting on the Olympics as well. While many of the fundamentals are the same between the NBA and the Olympics, bettors have to make some real adjustments in order to maximize their chances of success. Here’s a look at six differences between the NBA and Olympic basketball that sports handicappers need to seriously consider as they get ready for Olympic action to tip off:
Rule differences – For the most part the game of basketball is similar in structure whether in the Olympics or the NBA – you still have to get the ball through the hoop more times than your opponent. There are some rule differences, though – some subtle and some overt – that can impact the way games are played. More significantly, those rules have a tendency of changing between Olympic games as the game evolves. Before each Olympic tournament starts, it is absolutely essential that basketball handicappers look at the rules of international basketball to see how they have changed, where they differ from the NBA, and what impact they could have.
Some players are more familiar with each other than others – Some basketball teams, most notably the Americans, do their best to get ready for the Olympics, but they really only spend a month or so before the games intensively preparing. The rest of the time the players are playing for their own teams. Other countries may not have nearly the same caliber of talent, but their players play together frequently – either through the year on their national squad, or through the summer when players return home to perform for their national team after their league play ends. The more a team plays together, the better chances they have of playing to their full potential, so familiarity and commitment to the program can be a major factor in these games when it comes to sports betting.
Talent gaps can be massive – The Americans send a team full of major NBA stars. Teams like Argentina and Spain do, too. Australia fields a strong blend of internationally accomplished players and domestic players who are very comfortable with each other. There is a big difference between those teams and some of the lesser teams that qualify from weaker regions or through fluky performances in qualifying tournaments. In the NBA the worst team in the league can at least be competitive against the best on any given night if they play their best. In the Olympics, though, there are frequently basketball games in which it would be as close to impossible as anything can be in sports for one team to come out on top – or even to really make it interesting. That disparity in talent requires an adjustment for bettors used to NBA betting.
Stars have to be role players – Most of the players in the Olympics that play in the NBA – at least on the major contenders – are stars on their own teams. Some of those players will also be the focus of the offense on their national team. Many of those basketball players, though, will be forced to play in far more of a support role than they are used to having to play. Some guys are able to easily set their egos aside and do what needs to be done to win, other guys just can’t seem to handle the transition. When you are handicapping the Olympics you can’t just look at the names on paper and what they do in the NBA. Basketball handicappers have to consider the playing time they will get, the role they will be asked to play, who they will be playing with and so on. The more sports bettors consider this the better off they will be. The public won’t spend much time with this at all.
Intensity likely to be high – In the midst of the NBA regular season it is not at all uncommon to see one or both teams play like they really don’t care about the game they are playing. The basketball season is so long that for teams that are serious contenders one game doesn’t really mean much one way or the other. At that point in the season, then, handicappers need to be part amateur psychologist so they can determine motivation and focus for teams involved and what that could mean for games. How often have you seen a lousy team cover the spread against a great team because the great team benched their stars and basically took the last quarter off? The short Olympic tournament creates much more urgency – almost like the playoffs in the NBA. Each win is crucial, so teams will typically play at close to full intensity most of the time. The exception could be when an elite team plays a lousy one, but they still aren’t likely to quit completely because wins still matter for seeding in the elimination round. When Olympic basketball teams are more likely to be playing hard the savvy handicapper will focus more on how they match up and less on how much they will care.
Schedule can be a big factor – As a basketball handicapper, it’s important to understand that teams that make it all the way to the finals in the Olympics will play eight games in 15 days, and will never have more (or less) than one day off between games. The schedule can have a big impact on how hoop teams perform – especially late in the tournament – and can give deeper, younger, and fitter teams a bigger edge. The first five basketball games in the Olympics are played in a round robin format from a six team group, so the makeup of that group and the schedule of those games is also very important. If hoop teams face only one or two major tests, and if those games are well spaced out, then they would likely find things easier than if they played several tough opponents in a row. That could have a big impact in their freshness later in the tournament as well. Scheduling is a major factor that winning Olympic basketball bettors utilize when handicapping