The February Motivation Factor

Now that the Super Bowl is behind us, it's time for students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping to focus on basketball. For most of you, that means COLLEGE basketball. History has made it very clear that most gamblers love riding down to the to March Madness through February and March, before switching over to the NBA once the playoffs begin.

Regular students know that my fundamentals for handicapping any sport involve the study of PLAYMAKERS AND GAMEBREAKERS, followed by THE MOTIVATION FACTOR. When the stars align, those provide a very powerful combination that will lead to a high winning percentage and easy covers.

Unfortunately, February is all about the LACK of motivation for many college teams. Players at all the top programs know that nobody wins trophies for what happens this month. Everyone's just biding their time until the tournaments arrive. Often elite teams play flat through their conference tournaments too because they all want to shine in the Big Dance.

Further down the ladder, mediocrities also have trouble getting up. In fact, you can  have implosions where the players all get sick of each other and the head coach. This is particularly true for teams who were supposed to be top 25 but turned out not to be. Things can go south very quickly in February for mid-level programs.

What about "bad" teams? Some will actually score shocking upsets because opponents are so flat! But, others will play some of their worst games of the season. Even for "bad" teams, nothing matters until the conference tournament arrives to provide a shot to salvage the season.

We saw a great example of how ugly "flat" basketball can get this past Saturday. North Carolina State was a RANKED team playing at HOME against a conference rival that was ranked even higher. Yet, the disinterested and droopy Wolfpack scored an embarrassing 14 points in the first half...and an even more embarrassing 10 points in the second half of a 47-24 loss to Virginia Tech. That was "the lack of motivation" factor in action. Even a good team that should have been motivated found it hard to get up for an early Saturday tip off.

How can YOU anticipate when such ugly performances will occur?

*First, make an active effort to find flat spots. Those games aren't ugly if you made the right bet! Make it job one each day to go through the schedule to find possible flat spots. For most of you, that should be a local conference of interest or your favorite TV leagues to handicap. Trying to do that for the full schedule should be limited to professional bettors who have hours to study the card.

*Second, look through recent results to find teams that are yo-yoing between good and bad games...or at least are sporadic in their results. Nobody is flat "every" time out. And, teams will often bounce back from a horrible game with a good one out of shame. It's not hard to get into rhythm with these teams once they establish inconsistency.

*Third, if you have time, tabulate straight up and ATS records for each team "after a win" in your conferences of focus. Flat games are most likely to happen right after a big win...particularly if that win was an upset or came against a rival. You'll be surprised how many decent teams flounder in February immediately after a win.

*Finally, given the work you've already done on PLAYMAKERS AND GAMEBREAKERS, go through box scores to see which high-impact players are having trouble with consistency. What can seem like a "flat" performance on the scoreboard is sometimes just a star scorer running out of gas. Getting in synch with the star players on "one-man teams" will work just as well as trying to get in synch with whole teams.

We'll talk more about this theme through the month of February. I'll also be looking for prime examples we can use as a tutorial. If you do today's homework, you may find a few before I do!

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Unfortunately, the Super Bowl didn't go as we had hoped. I'm very disappointed in the coaching and quarterback performance of the Rams. It was clear early on that adjustments needed to be made to the initial game plan. Los Angeles refused to make those adjustments until it was too late...and did so with a quarterback that had become so rattled beyond belief that he couldn't execute even after the defense softened. Very frustrating.

The Dean of Sports Handicapping plans to make up for that this week in basketball. For you do-it-yourselfers, congratulations if the Super Bowl went your way. I think you were a bit lucky to get the money with just 13 points on the scoreboard! Luck is a part of the game.

I'll be back again Friday at the usual time for our next class get-together. We'll obviously be all basketball until baseball begins in March. I'll mix in some NBA notes here and there when logic dictates. We'll probably be about 75% college hoops in February. I always try to include real-world dynamics into the coursework. To some degree, important hoop headlines will influence our direction.

Thanks very much for your time and attention. See you again at the end of the week.