Wagering on Conference Play

By Loot, NCAA Basketball Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

College Basketball Betting: Wagering on Conference Play

This is when the real college basketball season really begins. The teams start off with weeks and weeks of non-conference play and it all leads up to conference time–when the games are more for keeps. This is where teams forge their cases to be in the NCAA tourney. This is where players and coaches alike kick it into overdrive.

How we perceive the non-conference play of teams is a key consideration. For example, we might see some teams that have great success to begin the year. Their opponents are not used to their style of play. Then when they settle into conference play, the same things that made them effective are no longer deciding games. That’s because the teams they are facing in conference play are familiar with them. They’re not going to be as thrown-off as some of their non-conference foes.

Just as teams that play a little over their head come down to earth a little bit for conference play, the same can apply to teams that are struggling early in the season. Perhaps they were thrown off by the travel or the newness of their opponents. Now, they’re going into gyms where they are familiar. They’re playing teams they have seen before. Often times, they are able to get things on track during this time of year.

Look for teams that are taking opponents by surprise. They have a quirky offense. Their defense includes sets that an opponent never sees. They’re not a particularly talented team, but are managing to throw teams off their game with a bunch of bizarre tactics. That isn’t going to go over as big against conference opposition, where the levels of familiarity tend to cancel out those quirky edges that worked earlier in the season.

In conference play, the teams know their stuff. They know their opponents. The coaches are familiar with each other. Some of the players might even have mutual histories that stretches back to their youth. This is a time where things normalize. Teams playing above or under their expected form tend to come back to the middle a little bit during this time of the season.

We need to remember to not write off young players or teams based on unsuccessful non-conference play. A team with a strong freshman presence needs time to get acclimated to the very different world of college hoops. They’re playing in big arenas now. With all the invitational tournaments, there are travel concerns they are dealing with. But this is also a time of rapid growth and by the time these young guys hit the conference time of the season, they are actually not as green as some would think.

In addition, a team with a lot of young talent and perhaps a new coach that is used to success might use the non-conference time of the season as a warm-up, of sorts. Those looking in on the games might jump to conclusions about a team like that. They might think they are not very good or are too young. It could be a little bit of a mirage. Rather than trying to win games or crush opponents, the coach is more concerned with development. He’s trying to establish player roles more clearly and create a team identity. Then come conference play, they are ready to start being the team everyone thought they could be when the season started.

We shouldn’t rely to heavily on the power of experience. Come conference play, we might tend to increasingly bet on teams with some veteran starters, especially a team with a seasoned point-guard. Our reasoning is that their opponent has a lot of key players who simply have no experience in conference play. While experience is a consideration, we should be careful to not underestimate young teams, who had a good 7-8 weeks to develop experience. If conference play took place to open the season, experience would be a greater factor.


The college hoops season really comes in three parts, if not four. You have the non-conference part of the season, followed by in-conference play, then the conference tourneys, followed by the big dance. Each phase of the campaign requires a different outlook. One of the bigger adjustment periods is when teams go from non-conference play into their conference schedule. We can’t look at it the same way as we did at the beginning of the season. We need to make the correct adjustments to make sure we don’t get eaten up during conference play.

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College Basketball Betting

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