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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 12:58 PM

Most games on Wednesday’s busy 13-game schedule, and all NBA games Thursday Night will feature at least one team playing in a back-to-back situation. I’ve been following this phenomenon very closely all season because I knew fatigue was going to be bigger than ever in a jam-packed shortened campaign. Today’s installment of my College of Advanced Handicapping will feature keys I’ve learned thus far as we approach the season’s midpoint.

The first thing to look at is MOTIVATION. It’s very difficult for most teams to play well on back-to-back nights, particularly if they’re facing top opposition. Sure, you can sweep Washington and New Jersey on the road, or maybe Sacramento on the road and then a decent visitor to your home floor. But, generally speaking, most teams are going to accept a split and move on. It’s your job to figure out which game they’re going to try to win, and which game they’re going to take off.

Note that some of the worst teams may take BOTH nights off if they’re having chemistry issues behind the scenes. The very best teams may go for the sweep if they have a chance to send a message to potential playoff foes. We just saw that exact thing happen with the Miami Heat in one of the most amazing basketball performances I’ve ever seen in my many years as a Vegas bettor:

Sunday: Miami crushed Atlanta on the road

Monday: Miami dominated Milwaukee on the road

Tuesday: Miami annihilated Indiana on the road

That was three games in three days for the Heat…and they absolutely humiliated two locked in playoff teams and one contender. We heard you Miami, loud and clear. You’re championship material…and nobody in Indiana, or Philadelphia, or even Chicago should be getting any ideas. Chicago will have something to say about that if Derrick Rose can get back to 100% healthy. The rest of the East just learned its place.

Handicappers should remember that only elite teams could even try to pull something like that off. But, it was in fact motivation…the motivation to send a message…that led to those very impressive results for Miami.

The second thing to look at with back-to-backs is DEPTH. Teams with short rotations are really behind the eight-ball this year because everything’s flying at them so fast. There’s just no time to recover, and no margin for error if somebody gets hurt. You want to go against ANY team that’s shorthanded on night two of a back-to-back, particular if it’s a non-playoff team. Bad shorthanded teams have to hope to get lucky if they want to cover night two spreads.

Be sure you’re reading every NBA boxscore to see how each coach distributes his minutes. And, be sure you’re reading the injury reports so you know which starters or key bench players are out. Remember, we’re talking about ADVANCED HANDICAPPING here. You can take your shots with Power Ratings. You can maybe pick a few spots against tired teams without doing the additional work. But, if you’re serious about taking your approach to a higher level, you need to read those boxscores and injury reports.

Thirdly, go beyond two and three-day stretches to see how many games each team has been playing recently. I call this CUMULATIVE FATIGUE. Sometimes a back-to-back came after two days off, and it’s not particularly grueling. Other times, it’s the second back-to-back with a day off in the middle (four games in five days), which is brutal. Orlando had a period this year where they played six games in eight days because of three pairings in a short burst. That’s when the media thought the sky was falling on the Magic. When teams get really tired because of brutal one or two week challenges, they’ll play so badly it will seem like the sky is falling.

How much money can you make betting against exhausted teams in a free fall?

The schedule these next two nights will give you a GREAT opportunity to really study this phenomenon and how different teams handle the challenge. You know who played last night. Go through tonight’s schedule and put a star by every team who will be back on the floor again. Then, look at Thursday’s brief schedule and star anyone who’s playing tonight. This is something you should make a habit of doing ALL THE TIME. The schedules are printed far enough in advance that you can do most of your work in one sitting on a quiet schedule day.

I’ll be back again for another installment from my College of Advanced Handicapping late this week. The topic will likely be college basketball at that time given the important schedule this weekend. Don’t forget that you can purchase my top plays right here every day at the website. My top plays can supplement your picks as you continue to improve your strategies and overall approach.

Thanks again to all of you who visit through the season to read the coursework. It’s gratifying to know so many of you are regular readers. Best of luck to you tonight and this week

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