The NBA and college basketball seasons are well under way. Both deserve your attention as both offer daily opportunities to make a profit.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: when it comes to betting on basketball, take the pundits’ picks with a grain of salt. Don’t rely on their “insider” knowledge. The folks who have the statistical data and predictive models necessary to accurately forecast game outcomes aren’t sharing them with the public. They keep their picks close to their chests to maximize their returns.
Having said that, you can improve your odds of winning your basketball wagers by using a number of time-proven tactics. I’ll showcase the top 10 below. These are the tips that’ll have the greatest impact on your NBA betting success.
Check (And Double Check) The Starting Lineup
As you know, a team’s starting lineup is instrumental to the team’s scoring potential. The coach understandably wants his best players in the game from the outset.
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But there’s one thing that can throw a wrench into the works: late injuries.
A starter who suffers an injury serious enough to keep him on the bench might have a huge impact on his team’s performance. For example, suppose Kyrie Irving sustains a torn ACL at the last minute. With him warming the bench, the Cavs might have trouble if they’re playing an aggressive team, such as the Warriors or Lakers.
The takeaway: always check a team’s starting lineup before placing your bet. Make sure all starters are accounted for, and absent from the injury list. A corollary to this tip is to avoid placing your bet too early.
Don’t Overestimate The Home Court Advantage
Most teams do better on their home turf than on the road. They’re playing in front of their fans, who are rooting for them to win. The refs are sometimes biased. And they’re often more rested than visiting teams. The players are sleeping in their own beds and probably enjoying their favorite meals at home.
That’s a far cry from the experience of staying in a hotel.
Of course, the home court advantage doesn’t guarantee the home team will win. In fact, this article on ESPN argues that the advantage has become less and less pronounced over the last 40 years.
The takeaway: home court advantage is still important when it comes to betting on basketball. But don’t overestimate its value.
Forget Your Favorite Team
If you’re a fan of the sport, you undoubtedly have a favorite team. And if you’re like most NBA fans, it’s probably the team in your city or county.
The problem is, having a favorite can bias your betting decisions. You want your team to win. You’ve followed them for years and are emotionally invested in them. Understandably, when the time comes to place your bet, you’re inclined to bet with your heart.
That’s fine if you’re just betting for fun. It’s like betting on your child to win his karate match, even though you’re certain his opponent is more skilled. Again, you’re emotionally invested.
But that’s a losing proposition in sports betting. Emotions are almost guaranteed to lead to poor long-term results.
The takeaway: if you want to make a profit, set aside your favorites and bet with your head. Cold, calculated logic, preferably supported with solid data, trumps emotion every time.
Keep Your Eye On The Important Stats
You can really go into the weeds with statistics when it comes to basketball. It’s not quite as bad as baseball, but you can still literally waste hours chasing data that fail to move the needle in any significant way.
That doesn’t mean you should ignore stats altogether. Rather, identify the important stuff and disregard the rest.
What basketball stats should you focus on? Here are several that can have a big influence on the outcomes of games:
- offensive rebounds
- free-throw percentage
- tempo (or pace)
- true shooting percentage
- offensive/defensive rating
- home/away stats
- how many starters are named Lebron James
The takeaway: be wary of pursuing stats that don’t matter. Zero in on the ones that do, starting with those listed above.
Watch For Big Line Moves
This is something that most novice basketball betters miss. Oddsmakers adjust the lines on games as action pours into one side or the other. Their goal is to balance the action. When a lot of action flows in, that balancing act occasionally requires big, sudden line movements.
Such movements reveal opportunity.
For example, let’s say the Cavs are scheduled to play the Warriors. You notice that the line has shifted abruptly in favor of the latter. A smart play at that point would be to follow the line.
What’s happening behind the scenes? What’s causing the line to move?
Often, it’s smart, well-heeled sports bettors identifying and acting upon mistakes they perceive the oddsmakers to have made. Sometimes, the movements stem from major changes in personnel – for example, Lebron James yanking a hamstring during game-night practice.
The takeaway: when lines move, there’s good reason. Follow the smart action.
Look For Signs Of Court Fatigue
Eighty-two games per season makes for an exhausting grind. The fact that starters manage to move themselves up and down the court late in the season is impressive. When they manage to post big numbers night after night, it’s downright remarkable.
But they’re human and subject to the same physical laws as you and I. They get tired, particularly after playing several nights in a row. They suffer fatigue.
The effect is even more pronounced on the road. Not only does the court time take its toll, but sleeping in hotels, eating out, and being away from the comforts of home does, too. Burnout is common after a long series.
The takeaway: think twice before betting on a team suffering from court fatigue. There’s a good chance the players’ minds and bodies are operating at a suboptimal level.
Bet Against The Spread On Losing Streaks
No sportsbook in its right mind would offer straight win/loss bets on basketball. That’d be a surefire recipe to lose money.
For example, imagine if the Warriors were scheduled to play the 76ers. If Bovada were to allow folks to bet on which team was likely to win, all of the action would flow to the Warriors. And if, as most people would predict, the Warriors were to beat the 76ers, Bovada would take a major drubbing.
Spreads exist, in part, to prevent that from happening.
When you bet against the spread (ATS), you’re not as interested in which team will win. Rather, you’re interested in how the teams perform with regard to the spread.
When it comes to betting ATS in basketball, a lot of bettors focus on teams’ winning streaks. They figure a hot team is likely to maintain its momentum and cover the spread. But data show that’s actually untrue, especially for streaks that extend beyond three games.
As the streak lengthens, more action pours into the side favoring the team enjoying the streak. Oddsmakers respond by adjusting the lines and point spreads. That makes it more difficult to bet against the spread on the favored team.
The takeaway: if you’re going to bet against the spread, look for increased value among teams suffering losing streaks. These teams are avoided by most bettors, which means oddsmakers may give you an extra point or two in an attempt to balance the action.
Ignore The Betting Trends
While matchups, both in terms of teams and positions, are important to take into account, trends are all but irrelevant in basketball. Sure, you want to be familiar with a team’s track record. You want to be aware of its performance throughout the season.
But trends in basketball betting refer to something completely different. Trends point to whether a team has managed to cover its spread in the last three games. They point to the volume and percentage of action favoring one team over another, according to the money line, the point spread, and the over/under.
These numbers can be informative, but they’re far from predictive. They won’t help you to accurately forecast a game’s outcome. They merely give you general insight into what other bettors (many of them misinformed or uninformed) are doing with their bets.
The takeaway: it’s fine to look at betting trends, if only to satisfy your curiosity. But don’t rely on them as useful data. It’s like examining a city’s annual population migration data to predict whether a certain family will move to another city this week. The trends don’t provide any insight to that end.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled For “Value” Bets
Oddsmakers are adept at setting lines. They use mountains of data and vetted predictive models to accurately forecast outcomes.
But they’re not perfect. They make mistakes.
Learn to identify these mistakes, and you can uncover significant value that’ll increase your odds of winning.
Fair warning: it’s not easy. It requires deep analysis and relatively good math skills. But if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and put in the work, you can find value bets that pay off.
The takeaway: making smart basketball bets involves keeping your eyes open for hidden, unexploited value. Sometimes, you can find such value by noting big line movements. Most times, however, you’ll need to put in more effort.
If You Bet The Over/Under, Do Your Research
Betting the over/under in basketball is one of the simplest bets you can make. You don’t need to worry about money lines or point spreads. You don’t even care which team wins the game. The only thing you care about is the total number of points scored by the two teams.
The simplistic nature of basketball over/under bets poses a downside: it tempts a lot of bettors to place them without doing even a modicum of research.
Before you bet an over/under, take the following into account:
- whether each team plays offensively or defensively
- each team’s offensive efficiency
- each team’s defensive efficiency
- which sportsbook offers the best over/under odds
- each team’s pace or tempo
- each team’s level of fatigue
- injuries sustained by starters
The takeaway – Don’t place an over/under bet without doing basic research. Handicap the totals using the factors above.
Basketball betting, both NBA and college games, attract a lot of action at places like Bovada, MyBookie, and BetOnline. But much of the action is uninformed or misinformed.
You can do better. Use the 10 tips highlighted above to give yourself an advantage at these and other top online sportsbooks.