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2008/09 NCAAB Betting + Handicapping Tips

College Basketball Preview

Every sport has something to offer bettors, but college basketball is like a giant warehouse – more of everything, and bargains galore. All you have to do is find them.

The start of the 2008-09 NCAA season is a golden opportunity to take your handicapping to the next level. The amount of solid information available on college hoops, both reporting and analysis, grows every year to meet the demand from an ever-expanding marketplace. Your ability to hunt and gather this information is particularly important in this sport because there are no fewer than 343 teams in Division I. Exactly 300 of them saw at least one betting line last year.

The North Carolina Tar Heels were ranked No. 3 out of those 300 teams at 24-12 against the spread. They were also one of the four No. 1 seeds at the tournament, proving that sometimes you do find good value at the top of the pile. However, it’s going to be much more difficult for the Tar Heels to make money this time. North Carolina returns all five starters from last season, while Kansas, UCLA and Memphis have lost their best players to the NBA. That leaves the Heels head and shoulders above the competition this year at 3-2 to win the national championship. Expectations this high often go unmet.

College basketball lines in the Bodog Sportsbook.

While North Carolina is the preseason No. 1 for the second year in a row, the balance of power among the conferences appears to have shifted to the Big East. Among this year’s title candidates are UConn (10-1), Louisville (12-1), Pittsburgh (15-1), Georgetown (20-1), Notre Dame (22-1), West Virginia (30-1) and even Syracuse (35-1). The Big East could put 10 teams in the Big Dance this year.

Here’s what Louisville has done at the pay window the last four years with coach Rick Pitino at the wheel:

2007-08: 20-13-1 ATS
2006-07: 17-11-2 ATS
2005-06: 12-18 ATS
2004-05: 18-16-1 ATS

The Cardinals made the Final Four coming out of Conference USA in 2005, and then made the leap to the Big East in the same year they lost leading scorers Francisco Garcia and Larry O’Bannon to the pros. Now Louisville has another fantastic chance to get right back into the Final Four. Pitino has brought in the top freshman prospect of this year’s crop, 6-foot-8 center Samardo Samuels. USA Today named Samuels their high school player of the year, and he’ll go directly into the rotation next to four returning starters.

If the Big East is rising, that means someone else has to fall. That would be the Big 12, which led all conferences in Pomeroy efficiency and put the Kansas Jayhawks in the winner’s circle. Kansas is only 25-1 to defend the title; the roster is in complete overhaul after five players went in the 2008 NBA draft. Kansas State (125-1) is even more of a mess without Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. That’s two of the best three teams in the conference taking a step back – the Texas Longhorns (20-1) are the top threat this year after going 31-7 (17-14-1 ATS) in their first year after Kevin Durant’s one-and-done performance.

The Pac-10 was second in the 2007-08 conference rankings, and a slowdown is expected on the West Coast with UCLA losing Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. The Bruins, however, figure to be as competitive as ever with the emergence of Alfred Aboya, another of the Cameroon Crazies to populate the Bruins’ dressing room. Even with the positive buzz the team is getting at No. 4 in the preseason polls, UCLA has a chance to “sneak up” on the pay window again after going 21-15-2 ATS.

The Bruins also have one of this year’s other notable first-year players in shooting guard Jrue Holiday. The rival USC Trojans (18-13 ATS) counter with freshman small forward Demar DeRozan, who could be an even stronger contributor to Tim Floyd’s offense than O.J. Mayo was. The two most profitable teams in the Pac-10 will keep going to the bank as long as the one-and-done phenoms keep coming to Los Angeles.

These are just a handful of the most prominent names in major conference hoops. Don’t forget that the biggest money is in the mid-majors: Last year’s highest earners were New Mexico (23-8-1 ATS) and Drake (20-8-1 ATS). If you’re not already a fan of these teams, maybe their friend Mr. Benjamin will change your mind.


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