5 Adjustments College Basketball Bettors Must Make Immediately

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How will rules changes impact college basketball betting this season? Today on the blog Jeff Fogle gives us 5 adjustments to make to keep us ahead of the bookmakers in 2013/2014.

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It’s already clear in these early days of the 2013-14 college basketball season that sports bettors will be dealing with a very different game than they’ve grown accustomed to. The powers-that-be decided that the sport had become too plodding and boring because defenders were given too much liberty inside the arc. Officials have been asked to blow their whistles at the slightest of contact:

  • No hand checking
  • No forearm checking
  • No pushing
  • No benefit of the doubt on block/charge collisions

Whistles are going to blow…and they’re going to blow a lot! If that has the desired effect, eventually the game will be much more wide-open and free flowing. Maybe by February!

In the meantime, handicappers must make immediate adjustments to the way they have typically handicapped college basketball matchups in the past. Here are five I believe to be among the most important.

Adjustment #1: Pay Attention To Depth

College basketball used to be a game that one or two key stars could take over within a 40-minute battle. And, that was certainly true in the last 10 minutes of a close game. Handicappers could focus on frontline talent and have great success. Now, handicappers must have a much better handle on each team’s depth. Bench players are going to see a lot more minutes because starters will be in foul trouble. Bench players may be deciding who wins and loses much more often because starters will have fouled out.

If you’re watching games on TV, make this a point of emphasis for your own analysis. What happens when bench players are given so many meaningful minutes? Some teams have depth, and won’t notice much of a drop-off. Other teams will be in big trouble. Read as many boxscores as you can of games that aren’t being televised. Study the distribution of minutes for each team, and look at the scoring, rebound, and turnover totals for players who came in off the bench.

A significant percentage of games (and bets) in November and December will be won and lost because of what happens when the best players are sitting on the bench with foul trouble. Maybe everyone will have adjusted by the start of conference play down the road. If so, you can de-emphasize the bench at that time. For now, add depth to your arsenal!

Adjustment #2: Monitor Free Throw Shooting Percentages

Free throw totals are way up in early action this season because of all the whistles. Teams get into the bonus much quicker. Then both teams have a parade to the free throw line as referees keep enforcing the new guidelines for defensive play.

Any team who struggles at the free throw line is going to be in big trouble! Any team that has a lot of high percentage shooters will now be a more potent threat than they had been in the past. Nobody wants to see college basketball turn into a sport that’s decided by free throws. During this awkward transition period, that’s actually going to happen fairly often.

You need to know which teams are strong at the line and which teams aren’t. Again, focus on that during TV broadcasts and in your perusal of boxscores. Then put what you learn to good use.

Adjustment #3: Place More Emphasis On Head Coaches

Whenever there’s a period of uncertainty or volatility, smart is usually going to beat dumb! The smartest coaches will find loopholes quicker, exploit opposition weaknesses quicker, play to their own strengths quicker, and generally get the best of it against coaches who are too stubborn to change their old ways or who are otherwise ill-equipped to deal with challenges on the fly.

If you’ve followed the sport for years, you probably already have a sense of which coaches are most creative with their X’s and O’s, and which coaches have used their ability to recruit frontline talent to hide their weaknesses in other areas. That knowledge is going to matter more now than it ever has because poor coaching is a bigger negative than it’s ever been. Give the head coaching matchup in each game more weight than you used to.

Adjustment #4: Invest In Teams Who Attack the Basket

Athletic teams who can fly at the basket and finish are going to thrive in this new environment. That was the whole point! The sport had become too muddled in the middle, and too many games turned into boring exchanges of each team passing the ball around the arc until somebody shot (and missed) a trey.

Teams who attack the basket leave opponents with few defensive options. Either the defenders get called for a foul on anything but a perfect blocked shot…or they get out of the way and allow an easy basket to avoid foul trouble. Offensive teams who are relentless in this regard will be most favored because their scoring efficiency will skyrocket. They’ll either get two points on the bucket…a shot at two points from the free throw line…or an “and 1” where the basket counts and the shooter gets a free throw because there was defensive contact on the shot.

It’s scary to think how lethal teams who can attack the basket and make free throws will become in this brave new world. Those who can’t will be left behind…very far behind. Imagine the scoreboard potency of deep, well-coached teams who attack the basket and make their free throws! Imagine the doldrums on the other end of the spectrum.

Adjustment #5: Try To Determine “True” Pace

Those of you who have incorporated “pace” or possession counts into your basketball handicapping will be presented with an interesting challenge this season. The games are going to rack up higher numbers because whistles shorten possessions. Teams who don’t really play that quickly are going to grade out as very fast by old standards because more frequent changes of possession will create the “on paper” illusion of fast break basketball.

You need to adjust your standards, and figure out ways to determine “true” pace by subtracting free throw attempts from the picture. One option would be estimating “possessions that didn’t end with free throws.” For a team, that would be their own made field goals, their own turnovers, and opposition defensive rebounds.

Making that effort will help you see who’s truly playing fast-paced basketball, and who’s still slogging along when officials aren’t blowing their whistles. Then, you can handicap more in-depth based on your knowledge of teams who thrive or struggle at certain paces.

Hopefully these changes will be for the better in terms of creating a more appealing game experience for players, fans, and handicappers. Oddsmakers have already been quoted in the media talking about their struggles with this new style of play. This is a great sign for bettors. When oddsmakers and others in the market are challenged by uncertainty, those who can stay ahead on the learning curve will be best positioned to profit.

 

 

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Follow Jeff on Twitter: @JeffFogle

Jeff writes about Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA, and American college sports on his StatIntelligence blog