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Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Thursday, January 28, 2016 at 11:00 AM

Handicapping the NBA can be very tough for bettors who prefer the college game. The opposite is also true. In fact, it’s pretty rare here in Las Vegas to find anyone who’s very active in BOTH at the same time.

*College handicappers prefer their sport because they’re more confident they’re going to get an effort every time out from student-athletes. It’s not as bad as it used to be…but spending much time in a sportsbook in the winter will lead you to hear complaints from old-school bettors about how the pro’s are just in in for the money and not going all out every night.

*NBA handicappers don’t even see the colleges as “real” basketball these days. NBA stars are like magicians with their skill sets compared to college players who make too many turnovers and are inconsistent shooters. And, NBA handicappers don’t have much respect for college coaches, who can’t seem to figure out how the 2-for-1 works late in a half.

You know…it’s not just that there are differences of opinion. A lot of guys LOVE their favorite and HATE the other one. Won’t even watch!

You longtime readers know that I prefer the colleges. That’s always been my favorite sport to handicap and bet. If you sign up for service, the vast majority of your picks will be in the colleges until the tournaments start to wind down. I don’t hate the NBA. I just feel my reads and strengths as a bettor are in the colleges.

If you trying to make a go of it in the NBA…I believe you really do need to focus on EFFORT. Figure out which teams are trying hard almost every time out…and which teams are prone to coast, go through the motions, or even blow off games because of attitude issues.

The Toronto Raptors are a great example of a team that’s trying hard right now. Heading into Thursday Night’s TNT game against the New York Knicks, Toronto has won NINE in a row straight up. They’re 8-1 ATS during that span too. The market hasn’t been able to find the right number when this talented young team is bullying weaker Eastern Conference teams who may or may not show up.

There’s a lot to like about the Knicks this year too. Things had gotten so bad before Phil Jackson arrived to run the show. And, even his first year was a relative disaster. But, the franchise is clearly moving in the right direction right now. It’s always better for the NBA when there’s an entertaining, marquee attraction playing home games in Madison Square Garden.

The market has been chasing the Knicks too this season. New York is 27-20 ATS this season for a profit of five betting units after you count the 10% vigorish.

If you’re thinking of trying to handicap the NBA, here are some quick tips…

*Monitor “recent form” to try to determine which teams are trying on a nightly basis, and which are struggling to find the required intensity. You’re just throwing your money away if you’re placing Las Vegas bets on teams who may not even show up. On the other hand, you can string together multiple wins over a few weeks on teams who are clicking before the market catches up.

*Watch as many games as you can to get a sense of who thrives in the fourth quarter. It’s not that uncommon to see teams play relatively even through three…and THEN they play “for real” in the fourth quarter. Bet on teams who can win that quarter, particularly as cheap favorites or underdogs. Fade teams who disappear in crunch time.

*Do your best to keep up with injuries. I think it’s very hard to be a “casual” bettor in this sport because scoreboard watchers aren’t always aware when a starter or key bench player is dealing with a nagging injury. Bet on teams who are at full strength and fresh (not playing in a back-to-back). Bet against teams who are shorthanded or in a tough travel stretch. If you’re NOT following closely enough to know who’s hurt, and which teams are in tough travel stretches, YOU HAVE NO SHOT to beat this sport. I can tell you from firsthand experience behind the counter that sharps who beat the NBA are really on top of these particular angles.

The NBA can be beaten. We’ll talk more about that on Thursdays through the winter.

If you’d like some help finding the best basketball plays on the board each night (mostly college, but some pro here and there), you can purchase my top selections right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the VSM office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. Please ask about packages that take you all the way through March Madness. It’s very easy to include Super Bowl Sunday in any hoops program.

I’ll talk about that Super Bowl next week in our usual Friday time slot. A lot of betting already in Broncos/Panthers, though some insiders are suggesting that the handle will be down this year compared to the recent past. Between now and then, plenty of basketball coverage from a market perspective from your friend in Las Vegas! Thanks for reading. I’ll be back with you again Friday to look at market angles in that much anticipated SEC/Big 12 Challenge that will include great games like Kentucky/Kansas, Oklahoma/LSU, and Iowa State/Texas A&M.


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Richie B. on twitter @vsm_baccellieri

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