Burke: Beware the foul fest in CBB

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

USATSI_17259050

It sure feels like it takes a herculean effort for an under to come through in college basketball sometimes. When all is said and done, totals usually fall within a percent or two of 50/50 with a pretty even split of overs and unders, but it doesn’t seem that way.

Close games end up with a lot of fouling. College players are stubborn and the coaches are even more stubborn and they will extend the game right up to the bitter end. You can see why. College free throw shooters average about 70% at the line. The NBA guys are at 77%. It’s why college coaches opt to foul much deeper into the game, while NBA coaches wave the white flag a lot earlier.

There is no way of knowing when a foul fest will come. You can reasonably assume that a game lined pretty closely will have one, especially those games with spreads anywhere from -4 to -9 or so, where you’ve got the likelihood of a two or three-possession game. You need enough cushion with the under to withstand a foul fest or enough misses for the game to stay below the total.

You don’t want to blindly bet overs or stay away from games that look like unders, but you have to consider whether or not a foul fest could be a thing.

One way to counteract the possibility of a free throw contest at the end of the game is to bet the first-half under. Yesterday’s newsletter best bet was Grand Canyon/Loyola Marymount Under 130. The game wound up getting to 150 because of an 89-point second half. There was a mild foul fest at the end, exacerbated by the fact that the fouling team (LMU) hit basically every shot on the other end of the floor during the end-game situation. There were 20 points in the final 83 seconds of the game. There were 20 points in the first 7:12 of the game and just 30 points in the first 11:39 of action.

The first-half total was 61, so the game would have pushed for the first half, a pretty unlucky push given the slow start. College basketball is sort of known for these types of things, but I do like looking for first-half under opportunities. Games with a slow pace usually start pretty choppy. This game was played to 67 possessions, which is a little below average. I actually expected it to be slower, but the fouls and the end-game shenanigans did increase that number.

This may be a strategy that fits what you want to do. Take the first-half under and see where the game is at that point. Blowouts are usually good for unders because there are no fouls and teams typically use a lot of the shot clock. If it’s a close game, maybe you can speculate on the second-half over.

College basketball has a lot of swings and a lot of craziness and it may be a good idea to break the game into segments instead of betting the full-game total.

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