Finding College Hoop Upsets in Conference Play
I have to say that this is one of the easiest college basketball seasons I've ever seen for finding upsets. All the top teams have vulnerabilities that can be exploited. The next level of teams are so good that they can get hot and beat anybody on any give night. And, even some of the cellar dwellers are capable of putting things together for 40 minutes.
Duke is loaded, but they already have outright losses as double-digit favorites to Boston College and NC State. Michigan State seemed like a lock for a #1 seed. Suddenly, they're getting bullied by Ohio State and Michigan, while barely getting by Rutgers laying more than 20 points. What happened to Arizona State? What happened to A LOT of teams?! Look at how many traditional powers are barely in the top 25 or are unranked.
I'm not going to talk specifics about this week or particular teams right now, because I need to protect my edge for my clients. I can talk generally about what to look for. And, once the line has caught up to some of the current slumpers, I'll review what happened in future articles.
*First, you need to be ready to go against teams who rank outside the top 50 in defensive efficiency. Too many teams aren't going all out on that side of the floor this season. Nobody has an offense that can overcome what its own soft defense is allowing every time out. Fading favorites with shaky defenses is one of the smartest things you can do this season. Some teams just get out of the way if you drive to the basket. Others are slow to guard the arc.
*Secondly, you want to find underdogs who are good at three-point shooting. Even some of the really ugly dogs are capable of going 10 of 20 (or better) every so often. It's really great when a decent long-range team is getting points from a mediocre defense. The dog gets hot, and builds such a big lead that it can't be chased down from behind. I've told you for years...when making upset calls (or bets on the moneyline to win outright), you need to find teams that can outscore their opponents.
*Look to find big name programs that are travelling poorly this season. I'm going to be very careful not to name them here. YOU need to do the work and find which road favorites are continuing to blow money. Some teams are only capable of shining on their home floors. Some coaches have a knack for getting friendly calls at home, but it boomerangs against them on the road. I can assure you, this is going to matter for another six weeks! It's not like teams who struggle on the road finally adapt. If anything, it gets worse the more fatigue and the waiting around for March Madness to arrive gets inside the heads of these kids. (Hint: you'll also want to fade these teams in postseason tournaments unless they're playing on their home floor in a conference tourney or the NIT.)
*Be aware of which favorites are likely to have trouble protecting leads because they don't shoot free throws well enough. College basketball stats are all over the internet these days. It's not hard to dig up this data, or to at least start paying more attention to it when you're watching games. It's DUMB to fade favorites who are great free throw shooters. It's MONEY to fade favorites who clank clutch free throws off the rim.
*Finally, look for "experienced dogs" taking on "inexperienced favorites." Oddsmakers and the general public pay too much attention to the names on the front of the jersey (team names), and not enough to the experience of the personnel. It's a fact of life that many major programs each season give a lot of minutes to inexperienced starters who turn out to be overrated. Lesser known "grinder" programs that have a lot of juniors and seniors love pulling off upsets over those teams. That's especially true at home when fans can storm the court afterward!