Saturday is the busiest and most action-packed day for betting college basketball. The all-day sweat features 140-plus games beginning at noon and going well past midnight. Thursday is quietly the second biggest day of the week for betting college hoops with roughly 60-plus games on the docket.
As we've discussed in this space before, days with heavy volume can be both a gift and a curse for sports bettors. On the one hand, you have dozens of games to choose from. On the other hand, you can feel overwhelmed, bet too many games or miss out on a valuable play because it gets lost in the weeds. On busy days like today, a good idea is to split the board into two categories: the most heavily bet games where you can lean on going contrarian and the low bet games (added or extra games) where you can lean on line movement because it is driven almost exclusively by sharps.
No matter how you approach the board, you should always do your homework. Study the matchups, look for situational angles, analyze the line movement. Another hidden gem to add to your handicapping resources is "Ken Pom." A vast majority of wiseguy college hoops bettors lean on Ken Pomeroy's advanced analysis and ratings. Pomeroy keeps an up to date ranking of every team along with a "FanMatch" matchup page predicting final scores for every game on the slate.
Pomeroy is one of the most trusted sources in college hoops and an excellent factor to consider when breaking down a game. You will often find that the Vegas lines are dead on with the Ken Pom predictions. You can also find value by looking for discrepancies between Ken Pom and the sportsbooks.
Thursday's action features 6 NBA games, 62 College Basketball games and 3 NHL games. For an updated breakdown of sharp action across the marketplace be sure to tune in to the VSiN Market Insights Podcast with Josh Appelbaum. It will be posted at 3:30 p.m. ET.
With a huge Thursday slate on tap, let's discuss a trio of games receiving early sharp money.
7:30 p.m. ET: Minnesota (11-9) at Illinois (15-5, ranked 19th)
This Big Ten showdown looks like a blowout on paper. Illinois has a much better record, has won six in a row and is a short favorite on their home court against an unranked team. Illinois is also 11-1 at home while Minnesota is 1-6 on the road. However, despite all of this, the line opened with Illinois listed as a short 5-point home favorite. The public is hammering the Illini, but smart money has come down on the Gophers, dropping the line down from 5 to 4.5. Minnesota has value as a conference road dog and an unranked team vs a ranked team. This is also the most heavily bet game of the night thus far, giving Minnesota excellent contrarian value.
8:30 p.m. ET: Iowa (15-5, ranked 18th) at Maryland (16-4, ranked 15th)
This Big Ten showdown between ranked teams is sure to attract heavy public betting. Iowa is riding a five-game winning streak which began by beating Maryland 67-49 on their home court as 2-point dogs. Maryland has won three in a row, most recently taking down Indiana 77-76 as a 2.5-point road dog. This line opened with the Terps listed as 5.5-point home favorites. The public sees two highly ranked teams, expects a close game and says give me the dog getting the points. However, despite more than two-thirds of bets backing Iowa, this line has remained frozen at 5.5 or even ticked up to 6 at some shops. This signals sharps fading the trendy dog. Big Ten home favorites are 56% ATS this season and 41-8 straight up.
10:30 p.m. ET: Gonzaga (21-1, ranked 2nd) at Santa Clara (17-5)
The Zags enter this showdown ranked 2nd in the country. If the tournament started today Mark Few's squad would be a one-seed. This line opened with Gonzaga listed as a big 16-point road favorite. We haven't seen much movement on the spread but the total has been receiving heavy smart money. It opened at 158 and has quickly fallen to 156.5, signaling wiseguys hitting the under. When the total is 150 or higher the under is 55% this season. When the road favorite is -10 or more with a total of 150 or higher the under is 15-5 this season and 59% since 2005 according to Bet Labs Sports. The Zags are 17-5 to the over and Santa Clara is 12-8 to the over. This creates an inflated line due to public bias, allowing value-driven sharps a buy-low opportunity to back the under. Gonzaga beat Santa Clara 104-54 two weeks ago, with the over 155 hitting.