College Basketball’s Most Important Handicapping Statistic

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When it comes to betting college basketball, the most important number bettors need to be familiar with is AOPR (Average Opponent Power Rating) or strength of schedule. That one number takes on greater significance than other when trying to analyze numerous games on a consistent basis. I usually recommend trying to narrow your focus to one or two conferences, but most people will still look at the NCAA as a collective unit, and there’s no way any one person is going to know enough about how each team plays, individual matchups, etc., to be able to handicap all 350-plus teams.

Scoring averages are a must, but they really don’t tell you anything other than how many points the team has scored and allowed. It’s far more important to know who those points were scored against. Right now, Kansas is 10-1, while scoring 81.2 points per game and allowing 70.5. The Toledo Rockets are also off to a strong start at 11-1, while scoring 83.3 points and allowing 66.9 per game. The Rockets have better scoring averages and a slightly better record, but we all know Kansas is a better team than Toledo.

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The question is how much better are they? Well, if we factor in AOPR, the Jayhawks are about 16 points better.

Obtaining an accurate AOPR is the most important factor that goes into college basketball handicapping, as numbers are going to be different, which is the primary reason I’ll use several different sets of numbers and obtain averages.

There were four college basketball games played on Christmas, all four of them being the final games for each team in the Diamond Head Classic. Looking at those four games with different AOPR numbers showed a disparity of results, as I used AOPR numbers from Ken Pomeroy, Jeff Sagarin, Sonny Moore and longtime sports tout Andy Iskoe.

Colorado vs. NC-Charlotte: There was pretty good agreement among the four sets of numbers in tthe first game of the day, as three of them had Colorado winning 71-59 and Moore’s ratings had the Buffaloes winning 73-57. Colorado won by 15 as 14.5-point favorites.

Rhode Island vs. Hawaii: Iskoe had the Rams winning by seven on the road, while Pomeroy and Moore called for a two-point and one-point Rhode Island win, respectively, and Sagarin’s numbers had it 66-66. Hawaii pulled off the upset as 4.5-point underdogs.

UNLV vs. Bucknell: The Runnin’ Rebels were favored by three in this one and Iskoe’s AOPR had them winning by six, while Pomeroy’s had Bucknell winning and Sagarin again had a tie at 72-72. Moore’s numbers had UNLV winning by two and Bucknell put a thumping on the Rebs winning by 27.

Indiana State vs. TCU: TCU was favored by 10.5 in the championship game and Iskoe had the Horned Frogs winning by 22, so a definite play on TCU, but Pomeroy had TCU winning by 3, making a play on Indiana State, while Sagarin called for a 74-69 game, also with a play on the underdog. Moore had this one 79-64, so a possible play on TCU, depending on how big of a discrepancy you look for between the line and your prediction. TCU won by 14.

The numbers used in all of the predictions were just scoring averages and AOPR, but using the same method with different AOPR numbers gave different wagers on one of the four games played, which is why I’d use at least two sets of numbers and preferably three. Pomeroy and Sagarin likely are the two with the biggest influence on the line, with Pomeroy in front, while I’d give Moore a slight nod over Iskoe.

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