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Early-season college hoops? Let the market be your guide

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

College basketball officially tips off its 2018-19 season today with a huge schedule. 

No doubt you’ll be tempted to jump in right away for that huge TV doubleheader from Indianapolis featuring #10 Michigan State vs. #1 Kansas and #2 Kentucky vs. #4 Duke (ESPN, 7 and 9:30 p.m.). But unless you’ve been scouting the personnel inside and out, patience may be a virtue. Get “smarter” quickly by monitoring the markets from opening line to tip-off to get a read on how the sharps (professional wagerers) have rated teams on the betting board.

Remember, the first lines up on the board reflect how ODDSMAKERS alone see things. Those are best guesses from men who have been buried in football the past several weeks, and the NBA since mid-October. And, frankly, these days…it’s the best guesses of “a few” guys offshore who are then copied by everyone else. Do you think every single sports book director at every single shop has time to properly scout teams like Towson, IUPUI, or Cal-Davis? 

The sharpest pro bettors DO have time to do all the research it requires to get an informed read on teams. Some leave football alone and specialize in this sport. Sure, mistakes will be made. Some projected high-impact freshmen will bust. Some previously mediocre veteran teams will develop into value bets because of experience and maturity. But, over a large sampling, sharps will typically get the best of November openers. 

They’re called “sharps” because they “sharpen” opening lines. 

Will public money mess up your ability to read sharp intent? Generally, no. The public leaves most of the college basketball board alone until football ends. Maybe they’ll step in for a big TV game (though both Duke and Kentucky have large betting constituencies, so that “dumb” money might cancel out anyway). Most of the board features “sharps vs. oddsmakers.” Any line move will represent sharp interest in the team being bet, or against the opponent. 

Monitor line movements through the first few weeks, and you’ll know very quickly which teams sharps want to support, and which teams they want to fade. This will give you an opportunity to exploit soft opening lines yourself. And, it will help educate you about the landscape in your favorite conference or the national picture in advance of league play. 

How do you monitor the market? Some sites, including, shows you line histories throughout the day.

If you’ve done advanced prep work, best of luck to you out of the gate. If not, monitoring the market will get you up to speed very quickly.

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