The 2018-19 college basketball season is here. There are now 353 teams in Division I college basketball, which makes it extremely hard to be aware of all of them. Only about 240 or so are lined on a regular basis, as conferences like the Atlantic Sun, Southland, and SWAC don’t get lined frequently, so it isn’t like you need to know every team.
But, you really shouldn’t try to know all of the teams that are out there. When it comes to college basketball, oddsmakers have a really tough task. They have to put a line on every game. With the sheer number of games, plus NBA, NHL, college football, NFL, and the various other sports like soccer, UFC, golf, and racing to worry about, there are bound to be mistakes.
There are only so many hours in the day. Oddsmakers and risk managers are going to pay hawk-like attention to the big games when Kentucky faces Duke or when Michigan State faces Kansas. That MAC vs. Sun Belt non-conference game or Missouri Valley vs. Ohio Valley early-season tilt won’t get the same attention.
It can seem daunting to handicap college basketball because of the insane number of games, teams, players, and the vast amount of turnover with both coaches and players.
Instead of overwhelming yourself, we have a few tips that every handicapper can use in November, December, and even on into the months of January, February, and March, when we have a much better idea of what we’re working with.
It goes without saying that you should always observe proper bankroll management. Don’t bet what you can’t afford to lose. Don’t go overboard with one game, no matter how big you think your edge is. Find a responsible unit size and stay with it. Don’t limit yourself with the number of games that you are going to play if you feel like you have edges, but also keep in mind that there are certain side effects possible when putting 25-30 percent of your bankroll in play on any given night. Be responsible.
Here are five college basketball betting tips that you should utilize this season and in future seasons:
1. Become a Specialist – As I just mentioned, oddsmakers have to put up a line on every game and there are going to be mistakes and inefficiencies in that environment. It is in your best interest to narrow your focus. Do you live in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky? Become an expert on the Ohio Valley Conference. Do you live in Mobile, Alabama? Become an expert on Conference USA or the Sun Belt. Are you in Wixom, Michigan or Boardman, Ohio? Become an expert on the Horizon League or the MAC.
Specialize in a few under-the-radar leagues and do so geographically so news is easier to find because you know where to look. You may even have a better idea of the recruits in that area going to some of those local schools. Take the 240 teams and whittle them down to 30 or 40 teams that you can know intimately inside and out. You’re sure to find edges that way.
2. Respect Low-Major Moves – When lines are moving in the low-major conferences, those are almost exclusively going to be sharp moves. Public bettors, especially early in the season, are only focused on teams like Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Arizona, Gonzaga, and Villanova. They want to go to what they know.
The true value in college basketball comes from the mid and low-major conferences. Those are largely untouched lines. With premier ACC ESPN games, you’re betting into a lot of people. With OVC or CAA games, you’re betting into lines that are only taking sharp action. That doesn’t mean that you want to blindly follow them, especially if that is one of your specialized conferences, but know that these moves are sharp in nature from long-term winners.
3. Pay Attention to the Futures Market – It’s tough to grab futures early in the season because of injuries, transfers, ineligible players, etc., but one way to really bolster and diversify your handicapping portfolio is to have some futures bets out there to win the National Championship. You don’t need to pick the winner of the whole thing in order to make money. You just need to pick teams that will get into the Big Dance. At that point, based on the odds, you can hedge those futures by playing the other side to guarantee profit.
College basketball sets up better for futures than any other sports betting market and you don’t want to forget to look for those buy signs on teams. If a team like Virginia has big games coming up against Duke, North Carolina, and NC State, maybe you want to buy them before they play those games in case they win and the futures odds drop. Maybe you want to wait and see if they lose those games and the futures price goes up.
It can be a very lucrative market if handled properly.
4. Live Betting is Your Friend – Lines are tight for TV games. Not only do oddsmakers have more data and more awareness about the market, but the more bettors there are on a game, the tighter the line is going to be because they are the ones shaping the number. In those instances, if you’re going to watch the game, look for live betting opportunities.
Most live betting interfaces are algorithmic, so they are just going to consider score, time left, and the closing line. Playing on or against foul trouble can be profitable. Paying attention to how teams are matching up can give you an edge. You don’t always have to take a pregame position. You can wait for a good live opportunity instead.
5. Trust Yourself – If you are putting in the work and the research, stand by it. Time is money in any line of work and if you’re putting in the time, you should be making some money. College basketball is a highly volatile betting market because of the number of games and the nature of the sport. Sometimes the ball will bounce your way on the rim and other times it won’t.
If you find compelling angles that increase your confidence level on a side or total, play it. If you find an undervalued team in the market, stick with them. If you think you need to adjust, do it.
If you aren’t able to put in the work, but want college basketball action, find somebody you trust and listen to them. There are a lot of good college basketball handicappers out there. But, don’t just take their plays and bet them to have action. Read their write-ups. Ask questions. Learn the process. Use your investment more like going to a class and less like a paying for a service. Get something more out of it than picks.
Good luck this season!