The importance of following team’s news leading up to game time cannot be understated. It can be extremely profitable for a bettor to find a motivational edge for teams. Reading the situation correctly for motivational edges can be difficult at times. Paying attention to the news cycle and identifying patterns can be useful in identifying who the public will be backing. Every other sports article I read this week seemed to be focused on how easy Kentucky’s route to the Final Four is. I guarantee the Kansas State basketball team has been seeing the same thing. Motivational factors can include the opponent trash talking, an event that rallies the team, or the underdog theme (see Philadelphia Eagles).
When a player runs his mouth before a collegiate or professional level game, it can be a sign of a lack of discipline, nerves getting the best of someone, and a secret admiration for the opponent. NFL players take shots at the Patriots all the time, but they rarely feel the need to disrespect the Browns before a game. There is nothing to prove by trashing the Browns. Trash talking an opponent is oftentimes a way to get inside their head, possibly because the initiator is worried about the outcome.
The University of Louisiana Lafayette’s head basketball coach did a pregame interview last week before playing LSU in the NIT tournament. He railed on LSU for being afraid to play them, claiming the game should have been a home game for the Ragin’ Cajuns. If you listened to Monday’s edition of the BangtheBook podcast featuring Kyle Hunter, you heard about the edges that can be found by following news. He went on and predicted LSU’s basketball team was going into a bad spot in the following game, facing Utah. Sure enough, LSU lost by 24 points.
Flashback to the 2017 AFC Divisional Round football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Le’veon Bell and several other Steelers mentioned throughout the week how excited they were to play the New England Patriots the following week. They spoke as though they were not playing a professional football game the next day against some of the best athletes in the world. Le’Veon Bell’s demeanor carried throughout the locker room and the Pittsburgh Steelers went on to lose outright to the 7.5 point underdog Jacksonville Jaguars, giving up 4.5 times more points than the Buffalo Bills did to the Jags the week before.
Another example occurred during the last College Football Playoffs. Dabo Swinney, before Clemson faced Alabama in the first round, stated that he voted for Ohio State instead of Alabama to be in the playoffs. Alabama won 24-6, and covered the spread. During postgame interviews Alabama players thanked Dabo Swinney for all the bulletin board material he gave them. If the head coach is setting examples like that, it’s certainly going to be imitated by the team. Athletes rallying during tough times is one of my favorite aspects about sports.
Last NFL season, the Houston Texans were getting prepared to travel to Seattle as 5.5 point underdogs. During the week, news broke that their owner had referred to football players as “inmates.” The initial reaction was to fade the Texans who moved to a 6.5 point underdog. The Texans went on to play in the one of the best games of the season and cover the spread, nearly winning outright in Seattle.
You should never blindly bet a game solely based on a motivational factor, but it certainly can provide edges. Everyone should be checking team social media accounts and websites for injuries, but do not overlook the importance of motivational edges in the news stream. With the NBA playoffs starting soon, some of the premier trash talkers will be showcasing their skills in a very drama-filled league. I will be looking for matchups with history between the teams and slights by opponents. The same concept applies to baseball. If you see a nasty series, circle the next time those teams play and look for slumping teams to get up in those spots.