Looking for Toss-Up Games

College Basketball Betting: Looking for Toss-Up Games

By Loot, NCAA Basketball Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

In certain games, we will not be able to see a discernible edge for either team. We handicap the games and are left with the impression that anything can happen. In your core, you sense that either team could easily win. When faced with a game like this, you might be better off just picking the underdog.

Don’t let the point-spread guide your opinion or establish a starting point for your handicapping. We see one team is favored over another and a lot of us take that to heart too much. We then operate within the framework of one team being supposedly better than its opponent. We need to rely on our own handicapping. And when we see an underdog team in a toss-up type of situation, we need to give that team a hard look.

There are teams that are favored that have every right to be. They’re the better team. They played the tougher competition, are in the tougher conference, and have a better record. So when they play a team with a worse record that has played weaker opposition in a lower-end conference, they have a right to be favored.

Other teams, ones who may be smallish favorites, are in a more tenuous position. The reasons behind why they are favored might not be things that actually materialize in a game. A team can be favored for a multitude of reasons–not all of which are terribly legitimate. A team may have a deceivingly-good won-loss record. At first glance it looks impressive, but they haven’t even gotten deep into conference play and more or less beat up on a bunch of patsies.

A team can be favored by virtue of being at home. But not all teams are decidedly better at home. Not all teams have a packed arena with frothing fans. And if their opponent is comfortable with the road conditions, it’s even less of an edge. If a west-coast team is on the east coast, that’s one thing. When a road team takes a one-hour drive to the arena, the benefits of being at home can be quite negligible.

Look for teams that people are not that high on, but who might not be as bad or mediocre as they appear. They may have lost a slew of close games against good teams and are picking up a little steam lately. Maybe injured or suspended players are returning. Perhaps a coach’s system is becoming increasingly embraced. The team, for whatever reason, is beginning to hit its stride–almost imperceptibly.

So when we handicap games, we need to listen to our inner-voice when it’s screaming to us that this game could easily go either way. We determine that whatever factors are making one team a favorite are not going to surface in this particular 40-minute window of play. In situations like that, we are better off going with the underdog.

The underdog can win the game. And even if we’re wrong, we still have the points upon which to fall back. In other words, we have two shots to win. When taking a favorite in a game where you really have to split hairs to find an edge, there is only one way to win. That team needs to not only win the game, but do so by more points than what the bookie is forecasting.

It’s nice to give ourselves more avenues to victory. An underdog can win a few different ways, so when we see a game that we determine is a toss-up, it makes sense. This doesn’t mean to bet underdogs at an inordinately high percentage. But when we find the right spot, it’s a viable play. It’s just that not every underdog is in that role undeservedly. Some underdogs actually should be dogs. Others, however, are in that role on tenuous grounds.


When you look at some games, there are clear edges that one team has over its opponent that can’t be denied. Then we see games where the result will likely come down to happenstance. It could come down to a couple baskets that rattle out. It could come down to a few key calls by the refs. It might come down to who hits their foul shots in the final two minutes. In cases where games look likely to come down to those things, you’ll feel better having the team that is getting points.