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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 9:00 AM

The college basketball season starts this Friday with a long list of games sports bettors can attack at Las Vegas sportsbooks. That makes our Tuesday edition the ideal time to discuss the best ways for those interested in Advanced Handicapping principles to prepare for battle.

PLAYMAKERS AND GAMEBREAKERS

You regulars know that I emphasize the importance of PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS in the Advanced Handicapping process. This is very important in ALL betting sports. I’d argue it’s MOST important in college basketball. The reasons for that are very simple:

*Only 5 games play at a time per team

*There are well over 200 teams on the Vegas board

*Games last 40 minutes instead of 48 or 60 minutes

One SUPERSTAR in college basketball can carry a team all by himself to a great season and a great pointspread record. If a team has two players like this…they can really dominate. Kentucky has a knack for bringing in even more than that, even if it’s just a one-year rental for head coach John Calipari.

You need to go through published team previews (either online or purchased from your local newsstand) and introduce yourself to these PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS. By Friday, if I give you the name of a team, you’ll need to tell me who their star is if they have one. And, frankly, knowing which teams DON’T have at least one will help you out tremendously as well. You’ve seen that with my big play football betting this year…I’ve been going AGAINST some truly horrible teams and we’ve been making a fortune.

I can’t emphasize this enough, you have to know WHO will be determining the outcomes of games this year and HOW they’re going to be doing it. Victory margins are determined on the floor by players in uniforms…not by stats in a spreadsheet or trends in a computer printout.

EXPOSE THE OVERRATED

My second priority heading into this year is to compare what I’ve learned about PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS to the early season poll rankings. Las Vegas odds are typically unduly influenced by media hype. That means ranked teams are often overrated in the numbers. Sure, a few teams will be able to play to lofty expectations. A lot more will be media disappointments. And, those disappointments won’t be hard to see coming if you’ve actually done your homework. Too many oddsmakers think “homework” is knowing who’s ranked!

We’ve just seen a great example of this with USC in college football. The Trojans have disappointed me and a lot of other people. But, they REALLY missed the mark in terms of media rankings and Vegas pointspreads. USC was supposed to have the best team in the country this year. They’ve already lost three games straight up, and may not survive unscathed against Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame the rest of the way. If they do, they’ll just lose again in the Pac 12 championship game. Worse, USC is only 2-7 against the spread!

There are basketball examples like this every year. Usually several of them. You definitely don’t want to bet on overrated teams (which far too many of you are still doing when it’s not justified), and you want to find the best spots to fade them before the line eventually catches up (if it ever does).

SMART TEAMS MAKE MONEY

My final task for you today involves asking you to find the handful of smart, experienced teams who are best suited to perform consistently well. Think of Butler…think of their head coach as a GAMEBREAKER rather than a star player…and then realize that there are several teams across the country who play similar roles within the context of their own conferences.

Go through your research materials to find senior laden teams with proven head coaches. If you’re into stats, look for teams who were great at avoiding turnovers last year…and who were efficient from long range. Three-point success is a characteristic of smart offenses in the modern game. Bad three-point percentages are a red flag for teams who don’t really know what they’re doing and are constantly forcing up bad shots.

You want to bet on talent. You want to bet on brains. You want to bet against untalented teams who have poor fundamentals.  That’s as basic as Advanced Handicapping gets in this sport. It’s your job to find the most likely qualifiers before the season starts. You will score some very easy wins in the opening days, and you’re likely to keep grinding out a profit because oddsmakers do such a poor job of adjusting in this sport.

I’ll talk much more about college basketball as we get deeper into the season. I didn’t even talk about defense today…and that’s obviously critical in this sport. History professors can’t cover everything in one class session, and neither can the Dean of Sports Handicapping! If you have time after introducing yourself to PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS, evaluating team intelligence, and looking for soft spots in the media rankings, please review last year’s team defense numbers as well. I’ll go more in depth on that topic at a future time.

We return Friday for our next class here in my College of Advanced Handicapping. That’s likely to be a football topic as we get set for a busy weekend on the gridiron. You can build your bankrolls for Saturday and Sunday blockbusters with weeknight NBA (and some bonus MAC football). My top plays are always available for purchase with your major credit card.

I hope you’re remembering to print out the coursework so you can create a virtual textbook that you can always have handy. The more resources you have, the more money you’ll win!

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