College basketball betting fans will have thousands of betting opportunities each season. Whether they win or lose will come down to how well they understand five key elements of NCAA hoops. Billions is bet on March Madness each year. Follow the tips below and you'll be among the group that finds college basketball betting success:
It's A Numbers Game
Major League Baseball, NFL and NBA offer no more than 16 games in a single day. Even college football maxes out at about 50. However, the betting field for college basketball, which now includes more than 200 teams on the board, is significantly larger.
For bettors, that means more options, more choices and more likelihood that overworked and harried oddsmakers, who must deal with a sport that plays every day, will make a mistake. So college basketball betting enthusiasts always should look at the entire board. Scan the full menu for opportunity where you might never have expected to find one.
Home, Sweet Home
No matter what the sport, it's always an advantage to be at home. It's been conventional wisdom that, because the season is relatively short and the debilitating effect of travel is mitigated due to the fact that NCAA teams don't go on extended road trips, that the home court is of lesser value for college outfits. Assume that at your own risk.
In fact, with its highly partisan contingent of chanting, sign-waving and sometimes abusive student seat holders, there can be double-digit swings in home-and-home series point spread.
For example, when LSU hosted Alabama for an SEC game, Jan. 9, 2010, the Tigers were 2-point favorites. But when the Crimson Tide was at home, Jan. 17, LSU closed as an 8 1/2-point underdog, a line change of 10 1/2 points in less than three weeks.
And when UCLA (+4 1/2) hosted Washington, Jan. 21, 2010, the Bruins won, 62-61. But when the teams met in Seattle, Feb. 20, UCLA (+11 1/2) was blown out of the building, 97-68.
Don't Get Mad, Get Even
Although the formation of larger leagues has meant that teams don't play each other as often as they once did, where home-and-home series exist, revenge often can be a huge factor. A team that lost to an opponent once (see the UCLA-Washington example above) often is bent on revenge in its second encounter. Because of that, point spread splits are more common than sweeps.
One & Done
Assessing a team's strength at the start of a season used to take little more than seeing how many starters were returning to that team. That's no longer a recommended procedure as freshmen, the best of whom will play one season in college before heading to the NBA, are having an enormous impact. Look at Duke, which lost three starters from last season's National Championship team but, because of its freshmen, may be even better this year than last. To wit, freshman Kyrie Irving scored 31 points in Duke's 84-79 victory over Michigan State, Dec. 1.
The emergence of freshmen as major contributors now requires that college basketball betting devotees be up-to-date on where the top senior high school players have chosen to go to school. This year, Kentucky, Memphis, Ohio State, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Missouri, NC State, Syracuse, Texas and Tennessee seem to have landed the best recruits.
Savvy college basketball betting aficionados understand that the NCAA hoop season really is three seasons rolled into one. Each has its own point spread challenges.
The first third of the season, which usually extends through the end of the calendar year, often features games against non-conference opponents. This is a time of uncertainty when coaches shuffle their lineups, try different defenses and expose their teams to extended travel in an effort to prepare them for what lies ahead. Clearly, teams with experienced players have an obvious advantage in cohesiveness, a factor bettors need to recognize.
The middle third of the season begins with the start of conference play. That typically tips off in late December or early January. Most questions have been answered by now. There are fewer surprises as teams and coaches with some familiarity of one another prepare to renew rivalries. These games often are close and points are at a premium.
For 68 teams, the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is the third and final leg of the season. Often difficult to analyze, the March Madness odds present a whole new set of college basketball betting and handicapping challenges. Many of which we'll explore as we get closer to the title event.