7 Key College Basketball Handicapping Factors

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what pro bettors think about before betting college basketball games

Home Court is an obvious advantage:

While the crowd is definitely a factor, there are some other reasons why you should consider backing the home team. Opponents who are jump-shooting teams have trouble winning on the road because they aren’t used to the host’s rims or shooting background. Looking at the number of times a team gets fouled can tell you about a team’s emphasis on inside vs. jump-shooting offense.

Tempo dictates play:

Some teams struggle with particular defenses due to the type of offense they play. For example, a team’s 3-point shooting can suffer against strong perimeter defenses and thrive against poor ones. Some conferences also do not see particular defenses on a regular basis. This factor can become even more important in the NCAA Tournament against non-conference foes. In 1996, the Syracuse Orange beat four Big 12 teams en route to the national championship by playing a 2-3 zone defense none of the teams had seen much during the regular season.

Adjustments are made in conference rivalry games:

The second game between two conference teams is about adjustments – some coaches do it much better than others. Another good angle is to take a road favorite in the second meeting if they were a big favorite of 8 or more and won a close game in the first meeting but did not cover. Chances are that in that first meeting the team may have looked past their opponent since they were a big favorite and thus had a flat game. In the rematch, you pick up great line value as Vegas over-compensates for the narrow loss in the first meeting. So you get the road team at a shorter price and they will be totally focused because they almost got beat at home by this team. This is a great situational play.

Overlooking an opponent can result in a win but no cover:

Rivalries are huge in college basketball. In fact, there’s a whole week dedicated to them on ESPN. What you need to be leery of are the games before and after that big game because some teams can get caught looking ahead. The same can be said about “sandwich” games where a favorite is coming off a big win and has another big game approaching with a weaker opponent in between. A lack of motivation can result in a tougher game than expected against an underdog that ultimately covers.

Free-throw shooting matters:

In the NBA, you’ve probably heard about the hack-a-Shaq approach of fouling Shaquille O’Neal late in the game because he is a poor free-throw shooter. In college basketball, some teams as a whole are very poor shooters from the free-throw line and will falter down the stretch if they are forced to make free throws. The numbers 6 through 8 are very key under this scenario – teams down by 6 will foul late, needing only two possessions – down by 7 they are less likely to foul needing 3 possessions. Lay -6 and know the underdog will be fouling if the favorite is winning but not covering. Take +8 and you’re much less likely to lose due to late fouls.

Rebounding can be the difference:

One of the most important stats to examine is rebounding margin to find out how out-rebounding an opponent correlates to bottom-line results. For example, Texas was 12-0 when out-rebounding opponents and faced Texas Tech as a 2.5-point road underdog on January 31st, 2007. The Longhorns had a significant advantage inside in this matchup and ended up out-rebounding the Red Raiders 43-38, translating to a 76-64 victory.

Road warriors are the best teams:

Most good teams play few difficult road games out of conference, so their first game or two in conference on the road can be very difficult. The true test of a great team is whether or not they can win consistently away from home and beat that advantage for the host. This is even more critical when NCAA Tournament time rolls around because all of the games are played at a neutral site. Teams that can adjust well to different atmospheres and travel well are the most battle-tested for the biggest games. Altitude can also play a factor since some teams without much depth can get fatigued in their next game following a game played at a high elevation. The lesson learned here is to thoroughly study the strengths and weaknesses of both sides and bet accordingly!

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