College Basketball Betting: Tips on Navigating COVID the Remainder of the Season
This has unquestionably been a unique season in the college basketball world. From handicapping hundreds of back-to-backs, to the ups and downs of seemingly random COVID-related lineup absences, to the exasperation of game postponements after beating a line by multiple points – 2020-21 has certainly had its share of frustrations. But this strange slate is not yet over, and plenty of oddities still remain to be explored. Here’s a few to keep an eye on down the stretch:
1. COVID-impacted Schedules
The obvious COVID angle has been fading teams out of a long shutdown, but another opportunity may present itself around these teams in February: wildly clustered schedules that could lead to exhaustion. It’s exceedingly rare in a normal season for teams to play four games in seven or eight days, but due to COVID postponements, this issue is likely to pop up frequently this year.
This angle can work on multiple levels. Fading is the reflex; teams should be tired as games pile up, and that can impact many aspects of the game, especially shooting and pace. That means focusing on the UNDER could also be a beneficial move, particularly if squared up against a team that will happily play crawl ball in the half court as well.
More and more of these gauntlets will emerge as conferences reschedule game, but as of now, here are a few teams that have daunting weeks ahead: SIU Edwardsville, which is in the midst of an “18 games in 35 days” stretch; Elon, which will play four games in eight days starting on Saturday; Hampton, which will play its third and fourth games of the week this Thursday/Friday. The Big South and WCC may also feature some heavy months of February, as those leagues have had multiple teams on pause at a time.
2. Conference Tournament Qualification
Some leagues have already announced plans to cut down their conference tournaments; for example, the NEC has already decided to only take the top four through to its postseason event. That creates a distorted set of incentives as we move through February, as certain teams will have significantly more left to play for than others.
We’ve seen this on a smaller scale in many leagues via playing for byes, but this could show up on a much larger scale this year. Motivation does not entirely vanish for the eliminated schools – be careful to avoid rivals looking to play spoiler – but this certainly gives extra juice to teams looking to extend their campaigns and make the tournament.
Keep an eye out for conference announcements as we get closer to March. It would be a cruel twist to change the qualification standards this late in the game, but the pandemic could necessitate it, leading to advantages for the assertive bettor.
3. Late Opt-outs
This is similar to the random COVID absences alluded to in the intro, but as this season gets into its final stages, it’s entirely possible that certain players may not find the arduous process of constant testing and the stringent restrictions on outside interactions to no longer be worth it, leading to surprise opt-outs.
We may have already started to see this with a team like New Mexico, which has underperformed expectations this season and could be collapsing even further (and potentially ending its season altogether, per that article). Teams of this ilk are definitely most susceptible: less to play for, less to gain by pressing on through the circumstances.
Of course, there’s also the possibility of addition-by-subtraction in these cases: if a player is disgruntled enough to opt out before the season ends, perhaps he’s already a negative influence in the locker room. Dispersing his minutes to a player more focused on team goals could lead to a surprising renaissance.
Follow BettorIQ contributor Jim Root @2ndChancePoints.