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EARLY SEASON COLLEGE HOOP TIPS

EARLY SEASON COLLEGE HOOP TIPS

EARLY SEASON COLLEGE HOOP TIPS
BY NICK BOGDANOVICH

We've seen enough college basketball with the new three-point line now to get a sense of how you should be handicapping these early season games. I'm devoting Wednesdays to basketball right now to make sure you spend some time profiting in BOTH football and basketball instead of just football. Let's spend today going over some key hoop fundamentals.

Experience probably matters more than anything right now in college basketball. Hotshot freshman (the "one and done" guys) destined to be stars usually aren't impact players until later in the season. Well, they may be impact players now but it's a BAD impact. They force up bad shots. They don't know the offense. They don't know how to rotate on defense because they rarely guarded anybody in high school. There's an adjustment period early on that greatly favors experienced teams.

Be sure you know how many returning starters are back in the games you're betting. Be sure you know which bench guys saw a lot of minutes. There have been some absolute steals already where experienced teams have won outright as underdogs against inexperienced opponents who will be good in February, but aren't anything special right now.

Point guard play is always important in basketball. Make sure you're investing in quality and experience at point guard. Freshman points are often very turnover prone early in their careers because they're trying to do too much too soon. They're not used to running into defenders who can stay with them. Avoid betting on teams with a new point early in the season, particularly as favorites. Look for quality and experience at the position as cheap favorites or as underdogs.

Obviously, by now you've probably figured you'll need one or two of those preseason newsstand magazines to help you keep track of personnel. Always a wise investment. If you're an avid fan of teams in your area, you probably know the personnel in your local conference well enough to pick winners. If you're trying to be those tournament TV games, or other board games featuring ranked teams...you probably need to do some homework.

Sharps and oddsmakers always focus on defense because the public loves betting on offense. You'll get the money much more often between now and the start of conference play if you're betting on the top defensive teams. Let the public load up on the shooters, and whoever ESPN is hyping at any particular time. That will drive the lines up too high. You can step in with defensive underdogs who will either keep the game close or find a way to win outright.

This is advice you should follow all season long. But, it's particularly important early in the season because the public bets on big name teams and whoever Dick Vitale is yelling about when they haven't had time themselves to watch many games yet. Look for off-the-radar teams with sound fundamentals.

Speaking of sound fundamentals, have you ever noticed how it's often the same teams or same head coaches (getting promoted from station to station) that keep posting good early season results? At a time when execution trumps talent, you'll want to bet on coaches who emphasize execution. I know some sharps who keep non-conference ATS records on all head coaches just for the purpose of riding fast starters out of the gate. It might be a good idea for you to review your notes from last year about who started well.

One thing I've noticed about coaching in college hoops, pointspread characteristics follow guys around. Definitely the most respected sharps pay a lot of attention to the strengths and weaknesses of coaches. This serves them very well in November and December of a new season. They bet the system tendencies figuring newcomers will just be pieces in the traditional system. Man those guys clean up against the early season numbers.

Look at the travel schedules! Some teams are flying all over the country (or to islands) to play in tournaments. This can wreak havoc with players who aren't used to the challenge. Coaches lose some practice time, which they hate. Players get tired playing three games in three days after one long plane flight and before another one. Fatigue can show up on that third day, or in the first home game back after a trip.

See if you can take advantage of weird starting times, weird travel scenarios, and other fatigue issues that can really mess with the minds of young players. Remember what I talked about with the fundamentals. Poor coaches or inexperienced players are greatly affected by these types of sequences. Sometimes it takes a few games to recover. Smart coaches and experienced teams may overachieve expectations.

This is an area of handicapping that doesn't get enough attention in my view. Even some sharps ignore travel and just bet the team tendencies. The public barely knows who's played who...they just know there's a marquee matchup on TV. Be smarter than the market and pay attention to this!

I haven't even mentioned the new three point line yet. Know why? I don't think it matters! As I discussed last week, I don't think the new distance is going to have a great effect on scoring. But, there are some teams who are struggling offensively at the new distance. It won't matter for the sport...but it will matter for those teams! See if you can find out which offenses are having trouble putting points on the board. Go against them and bet Unders in their games. The internet now has several college basketball stat sites that will help you in this regard.

I always talk about not leaving money on the table. If you're only betting football now, that's what you're doing because there's money to be made in the baskets. With the college football season pretty much ending this weekend, NOW is the perfect time for YOU to get up to speed in college hoops. Start doing the work I talked about today. Follow the key fundamentals. You'll be surprised how quickly one or two winners jump off the schedule at you every night.

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