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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, December 26, 2011 at 12:29 PM

I hope you had a chance to study as many NBA teams as you could on Christmas Day. Hopefully your schedule will now allow you to really focus on at least the TV games this week since the holiday weekend is in the rearview mirror.

Pro basketball has just ignited what is one of the busiest first week schedules we’ve ever seen in any sport outside of baseball. In pro and college football, you have several days between games to read and react. And, many college teams open with virtual scrimmages anyway. You can slowly work your way into a season. In college basketball, the mid-November schedules are slow…and full of games nobody would want to bet anyway because the difference in talent is so huge. This week in the NBA:

MONDAY: 12 games, with 8 of the 24 teams in action already dealing with their first back-to-back challenge.

TUESDAY: 5 games, with 5 of the 10 teams playing on night two of a back-to-back, and the Los Angeles Lakers playing on night THREE of a back-to-back-to-backer!

WEDNESDAY: 10 games, with 4 more teams on night two of a back-to-back.

THURSDAY: 6 games, including the TV nightcap with the New York Knicks playing on night two of a back-to-back visiting the Lakers who will be playing in their fourth game in five nights (and their final game without suspended star Andrew Bynum).

FRIDAY: 11 games, highlighted by Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls facing Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers.

SATURDAY: 7 games, with the Houston Rockets dealing with a third game in three nights.

SUNDAY: 9 games, with the Lakers playing at altitude in Denver…on night two of a back-to-back, and playing their sixth game of the opening week. BRUTAL!

I’m tired just from writing all that…I can imagine how the players are going to feel.

If the NBA is going to hit the ground at full sprint, then handicappers must be ready to do the same thing. I would argue that only practitioners of “Advanced Handicapping” should even try. If you’re a casual do-it-yourselfer, this isn’t the sport for you. You belong in the kiddie pool…picking NBA winners right now will be doing a high dive into the deep end.

When I get a chance to discuss pro basketball here in my “College of Advanced Handicapping,” I’m going to focus on letting you see what I’m seeing when I watch the games. Picking winners will be the ultimate “read and react on the fly” challenge here in the opening days. Trends don’t matter. Systems will be useless because you can’t model what’s about to take place. Stats will be fairly irrelevant too because many teams will just throw in the towel in the second half of blowouts to save their legs for future games. With NBA stats, garbage time in means garbage out.

Here are a few of the lessons I took from the opening day of action (a few I have to keep to myself because they’ll influence selections tonight or later in the week).

*MIAMI is a team on a mission right now. I will certainly look at backing them in “statement” games, particularly on the road. They may be too expensive to back at high home prices because the bench can’t be trusted to protect a big lead. The starters will dominate in statement games over the first half of the season in my view.

*DALLAS isn’t nearly as bad as they looked Sunday. But, it will take this veteran team time to get their intensity up to peak levels on a consistent basis. New champions often have trouble getting fired up for regular season games early in the following season. That plus some new bodies in the lineup could lead to a sluggish first month for the Mavs.

*KOBE BRYANT strikes me as a player who’s going to force up a lot of shots and commit a lot of turnovers. That means you should probably fade the Lakers vs. good defenses, but back them vs. bad defenses. Kobe is trying to carry the whole load right now. Knowing his mindset, he’s still going to do that even when Bynum comes back.

*CHRIS PAUL and the L.A. Clippers impressed me in the late game. Well, I should say that they didn’t impress me at all in a very ugly first half…but then they REALLY impressed me when they ran away in the second half as road favorites. Maybe Golden State isn’t going to be very good this year…and that was a misleading result. Or, maybe the Clippers are just as good as optimists were hoping. There are important tests this week with a road trip to San Antonio, and a home game against Chicago on the card.

I had some things to say about Boston and the Knicks…but I’m afraid I’ll have to keep that information under wraps now to protect picks for my paying customers. Both of those teams will be involved in big TV games this week on TNT and the NBA Network. I may be stepping out if oddsmakers post bad numbers.

I’ll be back again for another installment from my College of Advanced Handicapping later this week. I strongly hope you’ll log in each day here at the website to get my top plays in:

*Pro Basketball

*College Basketball

*College Football Bowls

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the sports betting world won’t get interesting until the biggest bowl games come up on the schedule next Monday. We’re starting what is obviously one of the most outstanding one-week betting opportunities I’ve ever seen in all of my years in Las Vegas. The schedule-intense start of the NBA season is lining up with the start of college basketball conference action AND college bowls just before a great final Sunday of NFL action. WOW!

Selections go up daily a few hours before the first game starts (look for early reports later in the week for daytime bowls). I have great rates for the rest of the season now…and what you’ll make this week alone will more than pay for that a few times over. Be sure to check this homepage for more video updates this week too.

Thanks very much for being a part of my “College of Advanced Handicapping!"

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