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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Sunday, January 3, 2016 at 4:00 PM

College Basketball is about to move front and center in your handicapping efforts. Conference play is under way across the land. The Road to March Madness has begun…and it’s time for you to get in your car and ride along with the rest of the sports betting world.

You regulars know that I emphasize PLAYMAKERS AND GAMEBREAKERS as well as THE MOTIVATION FACTOR in all betting sports. We’ll talk plenty about those in the coming weeks. Today, as you start to lock in through this transition period, I want you to do some high quality homework on DEFENSE. If you understand which teams play defense (and which don’t) in this sport, you’ll already be well ahead of the markets.

Great defenses cover a lot of spreads, and even good defenses provide consistent value. Poor defenses fail to cover spreads…and “good” teams with “bad” defenses are money burners because oddsmakers and the general public have a blind spot to this weakness.

Let me first say that studying and handicapping the full college basketball landscape is probably too tall a task for most of you. There are just too many teams! No matter how smart you are, you can’t just jump over from football and suddenly be in tune with well over 200 board teams. So, pick a meal you can actually eat before sitting down at the table. Maybe that’s your favorite conference, or a few local conferences. Maybe that’s your alma mater and its conference. Maybe it’s the leagues you’re going to watch on ESPN the next few months (ACC, Big 10, etc…).

Bottom line…it’s better to focus on 20-30 teams and win, then it is to focus on 200 teams and lose because you’ve spread yourself too thin.

With THAT in mind, here’s your homework this week for evaluating the DEFENSES of teams in your handicapping sphere.

 

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Before looking at any stats, be sure you know who’s played a strong schedule so far, and who’s played mostly cupcakes. It’s possible for teams to create the illusion of having a top notch defense in November and December basketball when they weren’t playing anybody! Don’t be tricked by these illusions. You want to back defenses who have been accumulating good stats vs. quality teams…not pretenders who have been standing idly by while bad opponents missed open looks.

 

EFFICIENCY

This is the buzzword for “points allowed per possession.” Tempo plays a big role in college basketball. Some teams have great “defensive” reputations just because they play slow on offense. Be sure you’re looking at the major stat sites for “defensive efficiency.” You need to clear through the pollution that is caused by fast or slow pace. Yes, the shortened shot clock has helped reduce this issue a little bit. You must still be aware of “per-possession” performance.

 

TWO-POINT SCORING PREVENTION

You want to invest in teams that protect the rim. You want to fade teams who let opponents score easy buckets inside. So, be sure you focus intently on two-point defense. Some stat sites calculate that for you. Or, you can simply take the full season shooting data and subtract out three-point shots. I promise you that your eyes will be opened very wide by what you see after doing this work.

 

DEFENSIVE REBOUNDING

A defensive rebound is like a steal, because a defense has taken the ball away from their opponents to end that possession. The best defensive rebounding teams get a lot of stops, and are able to go on quick scoring scoreboard spurts because the other team isn’t making any buckets! This will become even more important come tournament time. You want to invest in the best defensive rebounding teams. One of the worst things you can do in this sport is lay points with a poor defensive rebounding team.

 

FORCING TURNOVERS

Once you start studying the sport, you’ll realize that there are some wild extremes in this category. Some coaches really emphasize pressing and trying to take the ball away. Others prefer a more passive approach where you pack everyone in and let the other team throw the ball around outside the arc. You will earn some absolute gifts this year when you back aggressive defenses vs. sloppy offenses with bad guards. I’m talking 30 point wins at single digit spreads. (On the other hand, aggressive defenses can get embarrassed by good ball handlers). Be sure you know which defenses force a lot of turnovers, and look for spots on the schedule where that will be most valuable.

Obviously, that level of homework is almost impossible to do quickly if you’re trying to handicap a couple of hundred teams. But, if you’re focused on just a couple of conferences, you can take care of the research in a matter of hours. You will ultimately be very well paid for those hours! This industry rewards the hardest workers. I know you longtime students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping are fully aware of that.

If you prefer taking the easy way out in this fun but time-consuming betting sport, KELSO STURGEON’S best bets can always be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters’ office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.

We’ll be looking at a mix of football and basketball for the time being. Coming up soon will be discussions on Wildcard Weekend in the NFL Playoffs and, of course, thoughts on the Alabama/Clemson game that will determine the National Champion in college football. The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your attendance. See you again in a couple of days.  

 

Be sure to follow:

Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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