College football picks

College Basketball Handicapping - Non-Conference Play – by Edward Golden (
Revised October 23rd, 2007

Talent Evaluation

The number one thing I focus on early in the season is talent evaluation. Finding out early on which teams are overrated and underrated is key to successful early season wagering. The average college basketball team uses an 8-9 man rotation and only consists of 5 starters so unlike other sports such as football, it is not impossible to evaluate most if not all key players on a team you follow closely. Team chemistry, motivation/work ethic, progression of returning players, and impact of newcomers are all items to keep close tabs on.


Get to know your coaches. Early in the season some coaches will focus on teaching fundamentals, decision making, and execution while not being too concerned about wins and losses until conference play. Other coaches will seek to make a statement and/or build confidence with big wins out of the gate. There are 43 teams on the regular betting rotation that have first year head coaches in 2007. Some new coaches will look to install new systems that can significantly impact the outcome of game totals. A defensive minded coach instead of an offensive minded coach can make a huge difference. Getting to know the philosophies of a new head coach early on in the season can lead to finding solid value.

Home Court Advantage

Home advantage is always critical in college sports, but even more so in the early stages of a basketball season. With returning players adjusting to new teammates, roles, and responsibilities, coaches experimenting with different strategies and lineups, and first year players adjusting to the Division 1-A level, it is going to take time for teams to gain confidence and find their comfort zone. These early season issues become even more prevalent when playing on the road.

Line Value

With so many teams and so much uncertainty, there is no better time of the year to find "soft" lines than in early season college basketball. Always use sportsbooks that post college basketball lines early (at least overnight) and that offer totals on all NCAA games (not just TV games). The lines will move so always place wagers as early as possible. Use multiple sportsbooks to shop for the best numbers. Every half point counts! Finding the best numbers can be the difference between a winning season and a losing one. 

Conference Focus/Local Teams

It can be a good idea to focus on 1-3 conferences that are either near you or that you already have some familiarity with. With the vast number of betable teams and games it is impossible to follow everything. Local radio, TV, and newspaper coverage can make it much easier to follow the happenings of teams in your area. You will also have the opportunity to watch teams play in person. Every year I personally attend 25-30 Big West and WCC conference games in November & December alone. I really feel it gives me the upper hand on those conferences. The better "feel" you have for a team the better you can identify favorable matchups, measure the impact of injuries, and be aware of any special motivational circumstances.

Other Factors

Number of returning starters, and returning guards with experience are always important when considering making a play on a team in the early season. Be sure to keep up to date with injuries and suspensions. Some academically ineligible players and incoming transfers can not play until the start of the second semester (typically mid-December) and can make a big difference. Keep an eye on travel schedules. Most small schools have a hard time scheduling home non-conference games and can be on the road for long stretches early in the season.

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