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Hoops Scoop

Top ways to bet the NCAA net.

As the NFL season winds down, many football bettors are left with a sense of emptiness. After the Pro Bowl, NFL fans must wait until late summer for the next competitive games to kick off. If you’re contemplating where to channel your handicapping energies in the meantime, you could do a lot worse than taking a long, hard look at college basketball.

Professional bettors will tell you that pro sports (NFL, NBA and MLB) are becoming progressively harder to beat. The lines are becoming more accurate due to an increasing number of professionals betting into them. The end result is that these once easy-to-beat sports are now more difficult to record a consistent profit.

Pinnacle Sports (, the first sportsbook to introduce reduced margin wagering, employs a fairly sophisticated player-profiling system. And by taking a quick look at the reports, it’s clear that their sharper players are having a tougher time beating the NFL, especially in the past few years. On the other hand, some of our most dangerous clients focus on NCAA basketball. From a player-profiling perspective, Pinnacle has far more players capable of winning long-term in NCAA basketball than on any of the major pro sports.

Get on the Bandwagon

If you haven’t handicapped NCAA basketball before, now is the perfect time. Most teams have played more than 10 games, giving sharp bettors enough data to get a feel for the team. With March Madness on everyone’s radar, you may simply want to focus your attention on teams likely to be invited to “The Big Dance.” Not only can your analysis pay dividends through winning bets, but it can also help you gain a year’s worth of bragging rights when you enter your office pool or bracket.

In college hoops, it’s not uncommon for a game total to move as much as 10 points, or for some point spreads to move five points. The early NCAA basketball sharps that pound these openers seemingly have a virtual license to print money. If an accurately priced, whole-point spread pushes about 4.5 percent of the time, betting into an early number, which is off five points, will win at more than a 70-percent clip. A total will land on a well-priced number almost 3 percent of the time in college totals, making an opening game total that is off even easier for a player to beat.

With over 300 Division I teams, linesmakers simply don’t have the time to analyze each game and team in depth. Most basketball fans have a favorite conference, which gives them an advantage over a book like Pinnacle Sports. If you’re a specialist in one conference and know the players, coaches, playing styles, injuries and suspensions for all the teams in that conference, you have invaluable insight on match-ups that feature those teams that bookmakers like simply don’t.

As Pinnacle opens its lines early, they often make an educated guess as to when to first put the number up for lower limits that are good for $1,000 on the point spread. This is where players who’ve done their homework on the conferences have the advantage. Pinnacle relies on these early players to quickly sharpen its line, at which point they’re able to raise the limits to $2,000 overnight.

Occasionally, you’ll see a total that’s way off. For example, it might open at over 140 with a quote of -105 (bet $105 to win $100) and then close at over 140 -170 (bet $170 to win $100). When an opener is off by five or more points, Pinnacle sometimes chooses not to move the total and look to adjust the moneyline instead. This is because it can be hard to assess how much a half-point is worth when your opener is that far from the fair total.

A standard half-point change for six cents on the moneyline doesn’t get the job done at when you’re dealing a 10-cent line on College hoops that gives players up to 50-percent better odds than other bookmakers. Pinnacle might take more than 20 limit bets to find the right number if off a full 10 points. By adjusting only the moneyline, each bet will raise the moneyline progressively, so they can find the fair price much quicker.

Hopefully, these basic betting strategies—not necessarily reserved for basketball—will fill the void left by the NFL and make you a long-term winner.
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