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Of all the betting opportunities in major sports, the college basketball totals are widely considered the most beatable.
That is the reason most sports books are hesitant to make them readily available early in the season, and when they do they “shorten the game” by lining only the TV games with lower limits.
But once football season ends and oddsmakers have a reasonable amount of info to go from, the market opens up. For bettors looking to build their bankroll, it’s a great opportunity.
Over the last month we’ve seen nearly every major offshore and Las Vegas sports book offer totals on televised games. It would make a lot of bettors, including myself, a lot happier if they lined every game, but the current climate is certainly better than nothing.
Tips on how to beat college basketball totals:
Know line origin: Ken Pomeroy – as well as Jeff Sagarin – has a massive influence on the college basketball betting markets; both in relation to side and totals. Few sports books offer overnight totals, but Pomeroy provides you with what oddsmakers will use as a baseline – adjusting up or down a few points on their own accord.
I’ve noticed with some of KP’s “extreme” numbers, oddsmakers will make bigger adjustments. For example, Pomeroy had a recent meeting between Virginia and Clemson “lined” at 99 points. CRIS opened the game 103.5 and it was bet up to 109.5.
The opposite is true with games involving the likes of Iowa State, Oklahoma, and other “all up-tempo offense, little defense” squads. KP’s numbers are routinely in the 160’s whereas oddsmakers seem reluctant to post a power conference game above the mid-150’s.
Another example: Pomeroy had Sunday’s Oregon-Oregon State game “lined” at 163. CRIS opened 155 and the closing number was 152. The game hit 176.
Handicapping the pace: This is the most important factor. Like betting sides, you are going to lose (and win!) totals due to aspects you really can’t handicap – abnormally hot or cold shooting, referees, late fouls or lack thereof, etc. However, if you correctly project the pace/number of possessions of the game, you’ll win a lot more than you lose.
If there is a total of 135, and I’m projecting there to be 140 possessions, that is likely going to be a play on the OVER, assuming both teams aren’t offensively inept. On Sunday, the market was suggesting Northwestern-Minnesota would have around 122 possessions despite there being only 108 in the first meeting. Instead there were roughly 116 possessions and, coupled with poor shooting efforts from both squads, the game barely topped 100 points.
Don’t be afraid to play “low” totals UNDER: Like most sports, oddsmakers know most college basketball bettors prefer OVERs to UNDERs. Playing a game under 120 means at least one team will fail to score 60 points. Considering you can count the number of teams in all of Division 1 that average less than 60 ppg on one hand, I can understand the “fear.”
A lot of teams fail to reach that mark throughout the season – Syracuse for example has played three straight games where both teams failed to notch 60!
Teams like Syracuse, Florida, Arizona, San Diego, State, Northwestern, and Cincinnati who have a plethora of UNDER attributes will often see their totals shaded a handful of points too high and support from the betting markets based solely on being too “low” a total.
Even with the recently implemented rule changes to assist offenses, these teams have routinely played games that had less than 120 points.
Watch the game: I’ve watched countless games where what I saw and what the final box score read were two different things. This is where you can really find value.
A foul fest late can take a relatively slow paced game and make it seem like it was moderate to even up-tempo. In conference play a lot of games are decided by margins of less than 10; put together four or five games that went “crazy” late, and all of a sudden your pacing and scoring numbers aren’t reflective of your true identity.
Another benefit to watching games is seeing what teams do in certain scenarios. I like to break those down into four categories: playing at home as a favorite or underdog, playing on the road as a favorite or underdog.
I’ve seen teams that race up and down on their home floor against competition they can outclass, but on the road the coach is constantly telling his point guard to slow down the pace and work to get a good shot.
The seasonal numbers for that team are probably right in the middle of that fast/slow dichotomy but by watching and knowing said dichotomy, you’ve discovered something that is unlikely to be accounted for in the betting line.
Read about the games: This late in the season, there aren’t many readily available statistics that on their own are going to lead to winners. Unless you are a “numbers bettor” and create your own totals and play nothing but discrepancies, it should be your goal to find reasons why a team won’t play to its statistical profile.
I spend a lot of time trying to find information on what I call “changes in play.” That could range from installing a press, playing more 2-3 zone, practicing defense all week, or looking to get out in transition – they all have the potential to impact the pace of a game.
Unfortunately, most coaches keep that type of stuff under wraps but occasionally they’ll open up and, in a lot of cases, a little reading-in-between-the-lines is all that is needed to spot change. And “change” is the biggest key to not only college basketball totals but sports betting in general.
Remember, lines are based on what has happened, whereas a bettor’s focus should be on what will happen.
Andrew Lange was a colleague of Ted Sevransky on the weekday Tim Trushel SPORTSMEMO national radio sports handicapping show that was broadcast in Las Vegas from Nashville. Lange was pinch hitting for ex-bachelor Sevransky, who was on his honeymoon.
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