Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Thursday, January 25, 2018 at 1:00 PM
This is a question I get asked a lot because people know college basketball is my favorite sport to handicap. Bettors hear so many opinions on TV broadcasts or radio shows, they want to know the real scoop!
It's a tricky issue because there isn't a pat answer. Nobody wants to hear "it depends" when they're trying to learn how to pick winners. But, a lot of sports handicapping really is understanding what causes certain things to be important sometimes, but irrelevant others.
Let me start with these two points.
*The mainstream media almost always overestimates the value of home court in college basketball. They want to hype great teams...and great teams often win blowouts at home just because they're naturally such big favorites. They also want to hype the excitement of upsets whenever a home dog pulls a shocker and the home crowd storms the floor afterward. Kansas has trouble playing to expectations in Lawrence? The announcers awkwardly clear their throats and move on. A supposedly live home dog fades down the stretch? Just hype the winner more. But...when home court looks like it "could" be important, it's given mythic dimensions
*The quants usually underestimate home court value in my opinion. You'll see several sources in the field of analytics say that home court is only worth three points these days. That is true at a lot of places. But, there's no way ANY number could be universally true. Again, "it depends" comes into play.
Here are the most important factors influencing the real value of HCA.
*Altitude of the site
*Travel distance for the visitor
*Uniqueness of home environment (shooting backdrop, for example)
*Likelihood that a loud crowd can influence officiating
Now, here are some factors that can be magnified against a visiting team that often influence results.
*If the road team is in a letdown spot off a big game, they will often have a horrible performance on the road that gets "credited" to home court advantage but is really just a letdown.
*If the road team is in a fatigue spot because of a brutal recent schedule, they will often lose a blowout that gets credited to home court advantage for the host. Then, that home court edge "disappears" the next time out when the visitor isn't exhausted.
*If the road team is ranked, and the home team knows this is a chance to make big headlines with an upset...the motivational edge will favor the host in a way that makes people give too much credit to the site and not enough to the motivational factor.
Imagine a team that's NIT caliber. Good enough to upset somebody higher up in the standings, but not good enough to earn a Dance bid. They just might have one of those big results on ESPN that ends with a group hug of several hundred students as the camera's fade to black...that's immediately followed by a flat home performance against an opponent that doesn't get their juices flowing. What's home court advantage worth for a team like that? Maybe six one night, then zero the next. Handicap the situations, don't assume a blanket number.
With my Power Ratings, I usually use a conservative three points as a starting point, then adjust to a larger value if needed based on the situation. You'll find that many oddsmakers and sharp bettors are conservative with their math. That puts us on a lot more underdogs than favorites in opposition to the public. Since this has worked GREAT over the years, it's a sound approach for you to follow. Let media hype create air in the numbers, then jump in and take those free points when they're offered.
I will go less than three with struggling programs that aren't getting any home crowd support. Particularly during the second half of conference schedules when the full gloom and doom of a lost season is hanging over the players. This can be of great value in all the mid-major conferences that stay off the radar. You'll still get fair lines on those road favorites because the game aren't being televised.
I hope that guidance helps you. The most important thing to remember is that many of the voices you listen to are overrating home court advantage. You have to fight the urge to believe that betting mostly home teams is a smart investment strategy. That's how squares think, particularly with power programs that are home chalk. I don't want you to be a square. Check out my Super Bowl / Basketball special here online.
I'll be back with you Friday with some notes on early Super Bowl betting. Many sharps are biding their time...mostly because they're looking to bet the dog and want to give the public time to lift the line. Many props are up on the board already. A lot of buzz here in Las Vegas already and we're still more than a week away from Patriots/Eagles.
In the meantime, plenty of college basketball to bet. You can purchase my BEST BETS in all sports right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions call the office at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure you ask about combination packages for all picks through March Madness and the NBA Playoffs when you call.
Thanks for reading. Best of luck with your college basketball bets this weekend. I'll see you again Friday afternoon.