While college basketball can be one of the most fun sports to bet on, it can also be one of the trickiest. The fun of it is that college basketball has a full schedule every week once the season gets going, which gives you the opportunity to bet any time your heart desires. And of course, it all ends with the biggest tournament in all of sports; March Madness. But what makes March Madness so fun in the first place? It’s the upsets; the absolute chaos. And that is precisely what makes betting on college basketball so tricky.
Remember, we are talking about college athletes here and sometimes they just don’t show up to play, or a bad team looks great out of nowhere. Just take a look at some of the shocking upsets already this season. Stephen F. Austin beat Duke, DePaul beat Butler, and Evansville beat Kentucky. The point is, college basketball can sometimes be incredibly difficult to predict no matter how much you study. While there are certain trends that can mostly be trusted, we’re going to take a look at some of the trends you should be wary of, no matter how enticing they make a bet look.
SEASON TO SEASON TRENDS
This seems so simple, and yet so many novice bettors fall for it. Every season it seems as though more and more Freshmen and Sophomores are leaving programs to head to the NBA. While some of the blue-blood schools are easily able to recover from this loss of talent with great recruiting, there are other programs that need a year or so to rebuild after losing star players.
So how can you trust a team simply because they’ve historically been dominant over another team when it’s not the same players on the court? You need to look at other more telling trends very closely before wagering on a team because they are 5-0 in their last five games against another program. This season’s North Carolina Tar Heels are a great example of just how much damage can be done to a program when a large amount of excellent talent leaves. The Tar Heels have been historically great and came into the 2019-2020 season with the second-highest win percentage of any program in NCAA history. Last season they got a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament and were bounced in the Sweet 16. And none of it means anything now as their season spirals out of control. In early January, they lost to Clemson in Chapel Hill for the first time in school history, and have been hanging out in the basement of the ACC all season. The point is, even historically good blue-blood programs have off years, so you should be looking at more recent trends than those that date back to previous seasons.
HIGH OVERS IN MISMATCHES
A lot of times it takes books a little while to adjust to teams, especially from smaller conferences. While all eyes are on Michigan State vs. Michigan, there are Sun Belt games and MEAC games taking place that books just can’t focus on. So while we’re all watching a huge top-10 matchup there may be a 100-99 epic going on in a smaller conference. That may drive up totals for future games despite the fact that no one actually knows what the game looked like.
Be wary of this. Just because a team was hot in one game, doesn’t mean they should be trusted in their next with a total up to around 160. This is especially true when a great team plays a high-scoring team from a smaller conference. If the better team is as good as we think they are, then eventually they are going to pull away from the lesser team and slow the game down. In 2018, North Carolina played Lipscomb in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Both teams came into the game averaging over 80 points per game, which led to an over/under of 165.5 points. The final score was 84-66 and a lot of bettors left scratching their heads. This isn’t a one-off occurrence, rather this happens all the time. Teams from smaller conferences are able to pad stats against weaker defenses, but when they play against far superior teams they can’t get into a rhythm, and thus you are left with unders that hit by a wide margin.
Looking at records is by far the easiest way to judge if a team is good. Right? Wrong! This is especially important to note when conference play begins, as many teams that are not equal by any means will have equal records. It’s because of who these teams are playing. When conference play starts you can just about throw out the records when it comes to major conference teams. There is a good chance that a lackluster program padded their wins with victories over lesser schools, while a great blue-blood program had to play against teams ranked near the top of the NCAA. Don’t fall for this. If 12-3 Duke is a 19 point favorite over 12-3 Wake Forest as ACC Conference play begins, there is probably a good reason for it.
As fans and bettors, looking at a team’s record is by far the simplest way to judge how good a team is, but when it comes to college basketball one must really look at the schedule to gain a better understanding of how good a team is. Wins over a bunch of MEAC schools obviously won’t carry as much weight as wins over teams from one of the major seven conferences or even some of the bigger mid-major conferences. Do your homework, and you’ll be able to avoid these traps.