Transitioning To Colege Basketball

With Nick Bogdanovich


The college football regular season has come to an end, with the exception of this Saturday's Army-Navy classic on CBS. We still have about three dozen bowl games coming up (more on that next week in this space). But, that's fewer games over a few weeks than you typically see on a regular season Saturday in September, October, or November.

If you've grown accustomed to a certain level of action on weekends...and a certain level of income through the Fall with your profitable legal sports's time to get serious about transitioning from college football to college basketball.

Many of you are aware that college basketball is my favorite sport to handicap, bet, and watch on TV. Here are what I consider to be the most important handicapping differences between college football and college basketball.

There are about 120 teams on the college football board, but well over 200 in college basketball. That means handicappers have to be very careful about not spreading themselves too thin. Don't force selections where you're just playing a hunch because of something you read in an article or at an online forum. Don't let your eyes be bigger than your stomach in terms of those big Saturday feasts.

The biggest mistake you can make is to increase your action when it's not warranted. Focus on the number of teams you can comfortably handle. That's probably the same in basketball as it is in football. Study your local conferences because you probably get media coverage on those teams. Study the main ESPN conferences because you can watch a lot of games on TV, or record them for later analysis. You only have so many hours for handicapping and making your Las Vegas bets. Use those hours for maximum benefit. Don't try to do the impossible.

College football is mostly jammed into Saturday, with only a very few games each week on other nights.  This makes for one crazy day...but allows you a few days off to rest up, get your head clear, then study a new set of games. College basketball is played SEVEN DAYS A WEEK! It's very easy to lose your focus because you're just too tired to do the proper amount of homework and analytical work.

If this is an issue for you, focus on conferences that play most of their games on just two days a week. Many leagues play Wednesdays and Saturdays, or Thursdays and Saturdays. Trying to handicap every day's card will wear down all but the most avid fans. Give yourself a set schedule that allows for rest and reflection.

Now, it's true that professional wagerers are attacking the board seven days a week. Are YOU good enough to be a professional? Probably not yet. Focus on what you can do, and work toward fulfilling your dreams gradually. Don't try to run before you walk.

I don't want to diminish the role head coaches play in college football. We all know they're important. But, college basketball is very much a coach's sport...much more so than any other of the wagering pastimes. Who has a bigger impact on the field or court when a game is on the line than a college basketball coach? The NBA is a player's league. Major League baseball is all about pitching and production, with strategies playing a secondary role. The NFL is so compartmentalized now that it's arguably a coordinator's league, outside of a few superstar quarterbacks who can take over a game. Coaches are important in college football, but literally GENERALS of very small armies in college hoops.

That means you need to think more about coaching trends and tendencies in this sport than any other. Which coaches emphasize defense? Which teach the fundamentals so their teams avoid turnovers? Which just recruit athletes and let them go out and play (leading to blowouts of bad teams but losses to better coached opponents)? Which teams peak early because their head coaches emphasize a fast tempo? Which teams build toward playing their best basketball in February and March?

You study these factors, and you're going to win. There are more than a few longtime sharps in Nevada who bet largely on coaching tendencies. They can't name the players on every team because there are just too many. They know the coaches like the back of their hands, particularly those who have been with the same program for many years.

Sharp action is pretty transparent in the college basketball markets. Those of you prefer to be "followers" rather than "originators" will find it possible to just ride the steam (early market moves). I think it's clear that there are more market followers in college basketball than any other sport. The daily schedules are so big that those with patience and some computer savvy can make a living following the sharps.

Sharps bet early. So, early line moves are sharp moves by definition. Some followers look for stale lines that haven't budged yet once the most popular stores start to move their numbers. Others just take a half point or a point the worst of it figuring sharps will hit 58-60% at the early numbers, and still 54-55% against lines that have moved a little.

I don't advise this approach for casual gamblers. I have to admit though that many current sharps entered the market this way...and gave themselves a very quick education in the field of legal sports betting. Maybe on the days your favorite conferences aren't playing, you can spend some time just eyeballing early moves to see how they do. I'm always telling you to think like a sharp and bet like a sharp. College basketball line moves provide a daily tutorial on how to do that.

I advise bettors to keep their own Power Ratings in football and basketball. You need to develop a sense for what the "right" number is between two teams. Keeping your own ratings allows you to stay on top of things as a season progresses.

You can probably get away with Power Ratings in college football that are off by a bit because intangibles play such a large role. Teams get sky high for one game, but are then flat the next week. Over the course of a 12-game regular season, they may only "play to their rating" half the time because of motivation, fatigue, injuries, and off-field media distractions. Beating college football for cash is very much about recognizing the influences that lead to up or down performances.

In college basketball, a roughly 30-game schedule is much less susceptible to these intangibles. They still happen. But, they play a smaller role, and they influence a smaller percentage of games. You NEED accurate and fresh Power Ratings. Keep them on your own, or find a website you respect that does computer ratings. Then, ride herd over them with a sharp eye when teams aren't playing to expectations.

Let's put those all together now. If you keep accurate Power Ratings, with an eye on head coaching tendencies, while monitoring what the smart money is become a dangerous player very quickly against an active schedule that you can exploit as long as you don't overdo your workload. Dangerous...VERY QUICKLY!

Focus on all five of those keys, and you'll make a solid transition from college football to college basketball in December...and you'll be ready to earn big profits all the way through March Madness.

I'll return the focus to college football in the coming weeks with all the bowls and BCS action on the agenda this month. And, pro football will be front and center down the stretch and through the playoffs on these pages as well. This Army-Navy weekend seemed like the ideal time to help you maximize your big picture earning potential by talking briefly about your transition to college hoops.


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