The best sportsbooks make their lines tighter as the season progresses. This is because, as more games get played, teams tend to reveal how good or bad they are. As sportsbooks get more data, their lines are able to approximate the actual results more closely.
This creates a problem for bettors because they want sportsbooks’ lines to be off. If the lines deviate from the final results (that is if sportsbooks are “wrong” by a larger margin) then it’s possible for bettors to perceive value in a given bet.
Otherwise, the lines are effectively just like computer predictions, and so there is no good bet to be made. The lines would just be accurate reflections of how the games will proceed, and so betting would be tantamount to flipping a coin.
Having identified the problem, let’s discuss a solution for your college basketball bets.
The Problem Restated
The problem is that the lines are getting sharper. If the lines are always just like amazing computer predictions, then there’s nothing we can do; the NCAAB odds would simply be what they are, and the exact result of a given game would be like a coin flip.
In order to solve this problem, we have to ascertain why sportsbooks are able to make their lines sharper, and what we can do about it.
By getting more data, I mean that sportsbooks have more games to go off of. Let’s say, for example, that Virginia was awful last season. This year, let’s say, Virginia has transformed into a juggernaut.
Oddsmakers would be way off in lining Virginia’s games at the beginning of the season; they might have Virginia as an underdog in a game in which the Cavaliers win by so many points because they suddenly had become a juggernaut. But, over time, as the Cavs continue to play like juggernauts, oddsmakers would adjust to how good the Cavs are.
So, let’s say that the Cavs were to face a team a second time in February after decimating it back in November. In that rematch, Virginia might be favored whereas it was an underdog in the first meeting, and so oddsmakers are closer to “guessing” the final result of the rematch than they were to the final result of the teams’ first meeting.
The Problem Rearticulated
The problem is with teams that are consistent. If Virginia, for example, is consistently better than it was last season, then oddsmakers will catch up.
In other words, college basketball betting is harder to profit from when one bets on certain teams’ games rather than on those of others.
Who to Bet On
In the case of Virginia suddenly becoming a juggernaut, a bettor should eventually want to find other teams to bet on their games. One key strategy for bettors looking to succeed in the latter stages of a college basketball season is to know more teams well enough to be able to bet on their games.
To return to our hypothetical example, we knew that Virginia would suddenly be different this year, and we benefitted from it as long as oddsmakers failed to adjust sufficiently to the new reality.
Once oddsmakers adjusted, we have to find other teams to which oddsmakers have not adjusted. What sort of team is there for us to be interested in?
Team Type A
Because oddsmakers make tighter lines for teams who are consistent in the sense described above, we need to find teams that are not so consistent. For example, whereas Virginia in our hypothetical example was consistently superior, we need to identify teams that are likelier to change their performance level. Such teams will be ones undergoing a steep learning curve.
Let’s consider Florida. This year, Florida has a new head coach, a new basketball philosophy, and players who are new to playing each other. These guys will, of course, struggle, and oddsmakers will continue to create lines that do a better job of reflecting Florida’s struggles. But these players are also highly talented and able.
So, when they do figure things out, when they do gain chemistry with each other and gain an understanding of what their new coach wants, they will improve markedly.
Look for a team like Florida to improve, given the playing quality and talent level of its personnel, such that betting on the Gators to cover will become easily profitable in the way that our hypothetical juggernaut Virginia was initially profitable to invest in.
There are other teams like Florida. Just look at the new coach hirings to identify them.
Team Type B
Another key type of team worth looking at is one that has suffered an important injury. Oddsmakers collect data on teams as those teams perform with their players.
But if an important player on a given team gets injured, then an important factor in the way oddsmakers line that team’s games will no longer be in play, and the lines are likelier to be off by more points.
Watch out for teams that are different in key ways, in addition to the team’s quality changing, its ability to match up with its opponent also changes, as players get injured.
Of course, oddsmakers remain far from perfect, so I do not mean to suggest at all that one should stop betting on a given team’s games.
But, as the lines get tighter, one should get to know more teams, and one should look for the sort of opportunities that I described, in order to find more value for one’s NCAAB picks.