Sharps Prefer College Hoops



Now that football is winding down (just one game left), it's time for me to focus on what sharps are doing in basketball. Most of my articles here at the website between now and March Madness will focus on college hoops. Among the reasons:

*Most readers are much more interested in college basketball than the NBA right now.

*Most sharps are much more active in college basketball than the NBA right now.

*There are more interesting things happening in college betting than NBA betting this year.

*I personally am a huge fan of college basketball, particularly the buzz and excitement that fills the sportsbooks during March Madness.

Don't get me wrong. I'll do the NBA justice before the playoffs arrive, and during a postseason that should feature several exciting matchups. There will come a time when LeBron James and Kobe Bryant will be on EVERYBODY's minds. Late January and early February are mostly about college hoops (plus the Super Bowl) here in Nevada.

There are some sharps who focus on the NBA. There will always be computer groups who love betting totals. Oddsmakers have computers of their own these days, and are doing a great job of holding their own in that area. There are a handful of hoop handicappers who download every NBA game on their computer and chart things play-by-play. Oddsmakers won't ever reach that level of analysis. But, they have other ways to combat that kind of sharp action (charting betting patterns, reacting quickly to informed money, etc..). If I had to sum up the battle between sharps and oddsmakers right now, it's in the field of college basketball rather than pro.

Here's why:

*There are so many teams to follow that it's very hard for oddsmakers to have every single board team pegged perfectly. You know what you're getting in the NBA. Some college teams are still sorting out their seasons even as they reach the midpoint of conference play. A few have really clicked in recent days. I mentioned in my last article that North Carolina lost its mojo. Both oddsmakers and sharps would agree that the potential for the biggest edges come in the colleges.

*There's been an emphasis on college totals from a new younger breed of handicapper. They've really attacked totals in recent seasons, causing Nevada (and offshore) sportsbooks to be much more aggressive with limits (particularly early in the season) and line movement strategies. Some of the old school guys either bought up or tried to follow this newer breed, leading to an entertaining battle of wits in the market. The NBA may have been like that in the 1980's or 90's. College totals represent the brave new world right now.

*The public prefers college action...and sharps make their money by exploiting squares! You go where the free points are. If the squares aren't really going to get too involved with LeBron and Kobe until the playoffs, you won't be getting free points betting against the Cavs and Lakers now. You'll get those free points betting against the big name college powers (think of all the power programs that have been in cover slumps of late). Sharps typically gain a bigger edge fading the public than they do in pure mathematical handicapping against the spread. Oddsmaker math and sharp math are fairly similar. When free points are in the line because of public betting, those points are arguably worth more than ever.

*College stats are much more easily available than in the distant past. Everybody's always had power ratings. Back in the 80's or 90's, that's all anybody had. It was just too hard to track down boxscores from all the board games, and to know the statistical strengths and weaknesses of teams in the lesser conferences. Now that stuff is available many places across the web. ESPN runs live in-game boxscores as they're being played! Some stat sites will tell you things that coaches don't even know about their own teams. Sharps willing to do the work (or hire people to do the work) can now build comprehensive profiles of any team on the board. It's natural to focus your efforts here now that the data is so easily accessed.

*Media coverage creates inequities in information...and inequities can be exploited. Sportsbooks run the national TV games every night on their big screens. That's what fans want to see. That's what oddsmakers are forced to watch if they're taking care of business around their sportsbook. Pick any Vegas or Reno oddsmaker. If you ask him about Duke, or Kentucky, or Kansas, or Syracuse, he'll be able to talk for as long as you want about the strengths and weaknesses of that team (and about how the money is coming in for games involving those teams). If you ask him about Northern Illinois, or Wyoming, or Tulane, he'll have to go look up his power rating while he tries to remember some recent results off the top of his head. Hardly anyone is betting games involving that type of team. They're not on his radar in the same way.

Sharps put those teams on their radars, and try to find soft spots to exploit.

For these reasons, and others we'll discuss in future weeks, I'll be focusing very intently on college hoops between now and the end of March. I will have my annual 'What the Sharps are Thinking about the Super Bowl' article up next Thursday to give you plenty of time to make your final choices in that game. Otherwise, it's a college hoops buffet through the Dance.


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