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NCAAB Betting Strategies

NCAAB Betting Strategies

Malcolm Darnley
Malcolm Darnley
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6 Min
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Betting On The Top Rank Teams Matters
Betting Spreads and Totals
Tracking Your Betting Record

Betting on college basketball carries over many of the same fundamentals required to bet on all sports. Knowledge and information about the teams competing are still extremely important.

Proper money management strategies and great record keeping are still an essential part of the business.

However, college basketball, like many other sports, also has some unique nuances to it. These subtle distinctions can sometimes provide an edge for a bettor and when a bettor has a small edge, they also have a bigger opportunity to be profitable.

How To Bet The Top Ranked Teams

The majority of public bettors prefer to bet on teams they are familiar with, have watched on TV, or have even watched live. This means that the public money is more often invested in the favorites rather than the underdogs.

Betting on the favorites (all the time) can be a difficult way to show a profit long term, as sportsbooks are believed to inflate lines in college basketball based on name recognition and the strength of the brand a specific school has.

Certainly college basketball fans are more familiar with the Duke Blue Devils or the Kansas Jayhawks, compared to the University of Nevada, Reno Wolf Pack.

However, it was the Wolf Pack (19-6 ATS) who covered 70% of their games in 2020, something neither Duke (9-15 ATS) nor Kansas (14-14-1) were able to do.

This can be especially true when you have a ranked opponent playing against an unranked opponent.

An example of how difficult it can be to bet only on the top-ranked teams is the 2020 Gonzaga Bulldogs. Gonzaga finished their 2020 season with an incredible 31-1 record and was consistently the #1 ranked team in the country throughout the year and a prime candidate to win the March Madness tournament.

However, against the spread, the Bulldogs were only 16-14-2, which equates to a 53% spread winning percentage. Once you factor in the juice, the 53% means a bettor would have just broken even if they had bet Gonzaga to cover every game, despite the Bulldogs finishing with that incredible 31-1 record.

Another common trap is for a casual bettor to see an unranked team favored against a ranked team. The most common reaction is for a bettor to jump on the underdog ranked team and take the points.

The rankings tell us one team is definitely better than the other team and that the better team is somehow being awarded points by the sportsbook. It can feel like a no-brainer type of bet.

This strategy isn’t wrong, but it isn’t right either.

Obviously, sportsbooks are very good at setting lines and if they have an unranked team listed as the favorite, there is definitely a reason why. Always make sure you do your research, especially when a line seems too good to be true because, in the long run, it normally is.

How To Bet Big Spreads And High Totals

When we talk about big point spreads and high totals, we don’t mean one or the other, we are talking about a game that has both a large spread AND a high total. (O/U)

The reason why we highlight this betting scenario is because often it can require even more homework than a game with a much smaller spread difference would. There are certain assumptions we can make when a game is expected to be close.

Barring injury or foul trouble, if a game is close, a bettor can expect that both teams will be playing their best players. When the best players are on the floor, a bettor can expect that offenses will be operating to the best of their ability and we would expect scoring to be very close to the normal average for teams in that scenario.

However, when you get to a game where the score is expected to be lopsided in favor of one particular team, that provides some unknown circumstances for a bettor. How long will a coach keep his best players on the court when they are leading by a lot of points?

How comfortable is a coach beating another team by a significant amount of points? What is the recent and upcoming schedule like for a team playing an inferior opponent? Is there a reason for a team to rest their better players because of an upcoming game or because they just played recently?

This large spread AND high total scenario can be easily researched and should be done so on a team by team basis. Some of the things you will want to look for are: How has a particular team done recently when they are a big favorite? Do they still reach their regular scoring average in that scenario?

How long does a team typically keep their starters in when they are playing an inferior opponent? How good is a team’s second unit in comparison to the inferior team’s starting unit?

All of this information exists for us to study and help us make better-informed decisions. Sometimes it isn’t a lack of effort with our research that holds us back, it can be not knowing what information is valuable for that specific game.

The Impact Of A Neutral Court

It is hard to put an exact value on the advantage of home court in college basketball for several reasons, including the venue itself and the fans who show up to support their team.

Certainly, the Cameron Crazies at Duke University can significantly impact a visiting team. They are known for their creative taunting methods and can help provide an intimidating environment for opposition players to perform in.

A home-court advantage is generally somewhere between 2-6 points in college basketball, depending on the team, the arena, and the fans. But when it comes to the bettor having an advantage with neutral court games, it is with the overall total and not the spread.

With early season and mid-season tournament play, you have lots of situations where teams are facing each other in a neutral arena. If you can find teams who have little to no experience playing in that arena, you might have an edge with the under.

Think about how we all perform in new environments, whether that be at a new house, a new job, even driving a new car – there is a period of adjustment for all of us in these situations.

Basketball and playing basketball in a new environment are no different. Players talk about adjusting to lighting, different sightlines, and other small details that can lead to an extra missed shot or two, especially early in a game.

Regular Season Conference Games

I like to compare conference play in basketball to divisional play in the NFL. On paper, there often appears to be a giant mismatch between teams. However, familiarity with an opponent and a passionate long-time rivalry with an opponent can often provide an underdog with a slight edge.

For the most part, when experts handicap a sporting event, they are using advanced analytics and key stats they believe help tell the story of how a team is performing. What can be an extremely difficult thing for sportsbooks and handicappers to do is to quantify the emotional impact of playing a fierce rival.

Players can be more emotional in a rivalry game, coaches and fans can certainly be more emotional in a big game, even referees can get caught up in games where there is a lot of energy and emotion surrounding the event.

More often than not, it is the underdog who benefits from this added emotion, especially if they are playing as a home underdog. Their crowd base is often more lively and impactful because of the opposition and the overall emotions of the game.

Document, Track, Analyze, Repeat

Our last piece of advice when betting on college basketball is applicable in all sports. Help yourself by being thorough with your documenting, tracking, and researching of all of your bets.

There is no doubt that documenting and properly tracking your wagers leads to more paperwork and can be a little bit more time-consuming, but the value it will provide you over time far outweighs the effort it takes to do it.

Every great gambler takes the time to document all of their wagers, including the teams involved, location of the game, final result, NCAAB odds wagered, and an overall total of where they are at from a profitability point of view.

Thorough tracking allows a bettor to review their own data and do a level of self-analysis on their betting strengths and weaknesses that the rest of the wagering community can’t do.

If you are an NFL gambler and you notice that you have a 65% success rate on Over/Under bets, but a 44% success rate on spread bets, that is extremely valuable information.

That data doesn’t necessarily tell you to only bet totals moving forward, it is telling you that your formula for spread betting might not be as sharp as you need it to be.

You will be able to look over your spread bets and decide what percentage of your losing bets were made because of poor decisions or because you interpreted some key game data wrong.

It is only through diligent record-keeping can one start the process of actually trying to make better, more informed decisions moving forward.

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