Common Handicapping Mistakes for Beginners

College Basketball Betting: Common Handicapping Mistakes for Beginners

By Loot, NCAA Basketball Handicapper,

Beginning college basketball bettors and veterans alike sometimes fall into some bad patterns. It can be a certain handicapping strategy or a way of thinking that causes them to not realize their full potential at the betting window. Here are some areas where we always need to check ourselves and make sure we’re looking at it the right way.

Look beyond the won-loss records. We’re dealing with point-spreads for the most part, so a team’s won-loos record can be a misleading stat. Look at the texture of the record. A good record can be a mirage. A good team may have just beat up on a bunch of low-quality teams. In addition, they may not have beat them as lopsidedly as they were supposed to. Sometimes, a good won-loss record can be a poor gauge.

The same applies to teams who on paper, don’t look so good. A bad or mediocre won-loss record can have a story behind it. A team may have played a very steep level of opposition. Look to see if in the games they played close, that perhaps they gave their much higher-ranked opponent a run for their money. Or at least better than what the bookie said.

Sometimes, it’s not that easy to interpret. You might see a team with a bad record. But you notice that team is in a deep conference and has played a brutal non-conference schedule. So while their record looks bad, their level of opposition is exceptionally high. Now they’re playing a team with a better record, but from a worse conference that has played far worse overall competition. Be careful going with the team from a better conference just because their level of competition was better.

They might be a better team, but often times, a team will not respond well to a never-ending slew of beatings. Look to see if they’re at least narrowing the margin of defeat in their losses to higher-ranked teams. What might happen is that even though a team like that is playing a lower-end team, their experience at the top level might not help. Having a higher level of opposition doesn’t always do a team any good if they’re getting their butts handed to them every night.

Look at the stylistic component. Try to avoid judging teams on an abstract scale of excellence, but rather handicap how teams might play off each other. A lot of teams who shouldn’t be that competitive with a team manage to hang in there just by having a certain style that gives the favorite trouble. A more deliberate team might struggle with an effective squad that plays at a very high tempo–and vice-versa. If you’re even betting on or against a team, you should know their relative playing style. Look along the lines of which teams would give others trouble at a rate that exceeds what the bookie is forecasting.

In any team sport, we tend to hone in on the stars. They shine the brightest and attract the most attention. But look at their individual stats and then look at the team stats. Someone’s accounting for all those extra points, assists, and rebounds. If there was ever a team sport–it’s basketball. And more than any other sport, we are forced to get deep when examining rosters. The bench players can, and often times do, tilt the results.

A lot of the less-glamorous areas of the sport get neglected by many in the general betting public. We look at a lot of stats, but there are perhaps ones we should look at a bit more closely. At the end of game, many times the point-spread is hanging precariously in the balance. It could boil down to a free-throw contest. We want to know in a case like that, we will have at least a fighting chance. A poor free-throw shooting team will be poison late in a nip-and-tuck game.


The same applies to areas like team defense. Looking at how a team does in a points-allowed-pre-game sense only tells part of the story. Look into areas on the floor where the team defense is better than others. See if those match-ups are complimentary to the team they are playing. Then you can find point-spreads that are maybe a little out-of-line. We always need to keep our game sharp and not fall into bad patterns. It takes work, but so does anything that is worthwhile.