College Basketball Notes

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

OUR LAST COLLEGE BASKETBALL ARTICLE UNTIL AFTER THE BCS CHAMPIONSHIP!

We were outlining our NOTEBOOK schedule for the next few weeks...figuring out how we'll get you timely previews for all the bowls and important NFL action...along with summaries of keys stats that will help you understand what just happened so you can apply it to what's about to happen...and we realized it's going to be mostly around-the-clock football from now through the week of the BCS Championship game matching Auburn and Oregon.

The bowls start TODAY (be sure you check the archives for yesterday's stat preview article if you missed it). No more basketball coverage until the final college football game is in the books.

That means, we have a lot of college hoops ground to cover in these next few minutes!

First and foremost, remember that JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK is very aggressively attacking basketball on a nightly basis for its paying customers, even if the online presence will be relatively subdued. As we've said many times in the past, the BEST time to bet the baskets is when Vegas is buried in football. The lines are softer each night, and they react more slowly to news developments. WE'LL BE TAKING ADVANTAGE, and YOU should be too. Call the office at 1-800-323-4453 if you'd like more information. Or, pop in any game night a few hours before the first tip off to try things out for a day or two online with your credit card.

Secondly, remember the unique challenges that face college basketball teams during this holiday stretch. Let's outline some of those for you.

  • Out of synch scheduling: basketball teams have awkward schedules from now through the New Year. Some play in holiday tournaments, where they'll have back-to-backs at neutral sites. Some will be off a week because of exams and the holidays, but then jump into intense action very quickly. Be sure you make adjustments for potential rustiness if a team has been off for awhile, and potential fatigue if a few games come rapid fire.
  • Experience is HUGE during this stretch because it helps to have gone through it before. Junior and senior based teams know the ropes, and can handle anything that's thrown at them. Young teams who have a key freshman or two are in uncharted waters. It's the first Christmas and New Year's away from home for some of them. The first week of college level final exams. This is NOT a great time to ask freshman to cash your tickets!
  • There are clear letdown and lookahead possibilities on the schedule because there are so many "made for TV" matchups. You see that TODAY with monster games like Texas-North Carolina, Kansas State-Florida, Gonzaga-Baylor, Stanford-Butler, and the like. Look for flat spots the next time today's winners take the floor. And, be aware that more are coming up on weeknights. We'll have UNLV-Kansas State on Tuesday Night, Texas-Michigan State and Missouri-Illinois on Wednesday Night, Georgetown-Memphis on Thursday Night (plus a lot of tournament action). And, that's just THIS week! Stay on top of this all the way through the New Year.

Note that conference play will begin for some teams right after Christmas, then for EVERYONE right after New Year's. We won't be back with you in the NOTEBOOK for more college hoops coverage until everyone is about a week into their league schedules. Here are some tips for early college play.

  • Be aware of coaching changes from last year, and assume many new coaches will struggle their first time through the league. It's a big adjustment when you're the new kid in town. You don't know the in's and out's of preparation and travel for your new foes. You don't know the tendencies of your rival coaches. You don't even know yet how to emphasize the need for your players to kick things up a notch. Don't bet on new coaches to win for you in early conference action.
  • Be aware of coaching and team trends from past seasons. Many coaches have been with their current programs for a very long time. They've established tendencies in early conference action that repeat themselves from year to year. Do you know which teams lift themselves about 3-4 points in the Power Rating as soon as the games REALLY matter? Do you know which coaches slow things down for conference games...making it easier to cover as a dog but harder as a favorite? Thanks to the internet, it's just not that hard to find this information.
  • Be aware of revenge or other emotional situations that may have carried over from last year. Kids don't forget what happened to them in conference games from one year to the next. That creates peak and valley possibilities where teams get sky high for somebody they really hate, but then lose focus the next time they take the floor. Read through team coverage online for teams in their local media to get a sense of which games have the biggest priority. It's helpful to handicappers that newspaper writers remember the controversies from the prior season, and use them as angles for coverage.

Let's talk about the market for a second. You're going to be extremely tempted to bet on highly ranked teams because they have great straight up records and are being hyped so much by ESPN and the national media in general. We've taken the current AP Top Ten...but thrown out the straight up records and replaced them with records against the spread.

AP RANKINGS
1...Duke (6-3 ATS)
2...Ohio State (3-4 ATS)
3...Kansas (4-3 ATS)
4...Connecticut (3-0 ATS)
5...Syracuse (3-6 ATS)
6...Kansas State (3-3 ATS)
7...Tennessee (5-3 ATS)
8...Pittsburgh (3-5 ATS
9...Baylor (1-1 ATS)
10...Villanova (2-4-1 ATS)

The "best teams in the country" are just 33-32-1 versus market expectations, meaning you're NOT making money by betting on them! In fact, the general public will soon be getting more involved in this sport, driving the lines of high profile teams like Duke and Kansas even higher. You should be looking to fade teams high up in the rankings from this point forward. At the very least, pass a few games you were thinking of playing. Hoping ranked teams play great every time they take the floor is a recipe for disaster. Sportsbooks get rich because too many people do that. You want to make withdrawals from their coffers, not deposits!

Also worth remembering about the market:

  • Early line moves are meaningful right now because only Wise Guys are betting the majority of the card. We put a lot of trust in our Wise Guy connections at this stage of the season. That's one reason we're doing so well in the baskets. You can read some of the Wise Guy tea leaves by monitoring line moves during the day.
  • Vegas is afraid of totals. They've been conservative in terms of putting numbers up on a lot of these games. They respond quickly to action. See if you can take advantage of this weakness. Think more about totals, and less about team sides in the conferences you follow.

Once mid-January gets here, we'll be moving very aggressively into college basketball coverage. You recall from past seasons we like to focus on two-point defense, margin averages in league play, home/road dynamics, and key boxscore stats from high profile games that help paint the picture of a team's strengths and weaknesses. We'll re-introduce you to "Phantom Score" which is two-point scoring plus rebounding...a secondary calculation that's typically more accurate than the final score when it comes to predicting future outcomes.

Before you know it, MARCH MADNESS will be upon us...and everything you've learned will pay off day-by-day through the Big Dance.

That's off in the future. NOW it's time to win big money in the bowls (starting with today's TRIPLEHEADER), in the NFL's stretch run (picking up back tomorrow with one of our biggest releases so far this season), the NFL playoffs that are just around the corner, and TONS of great basketball plays that will stay off the NOTEBOOK radar but will be a big part of our nightly portfolio.

Sign up online with your credit card. Or, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

BIG JUICY WINNERS including a BOWL TRIPLE CROWN and a COLLEGE BASKETBALL PARLAY are just a few clicks away!

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