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The value of betting early-season upsets in NCAA basketball

Author: americangambler | Last Updated: December 1, 2020

NCAA Basketball: Count On Early-Season Upsets

When it comes to college sports betting – and especially NCAA basketball – people love to bet on upsets. There’s certainly a romance to playing the longshot underdog, the old David vs Goliath angle. Still, we’re pretty certain that had David and Goliath been a best-of-seven set, Goliath would’ve come up big and taken the series.

Nonetheless, there is some merit to the theory of betting underdogs in NCAA basketball, and it especially applies to early-season contests.

Already this season, Richmond has toppled No. 10 Kentucky. The victory over the Wildcats gave the Spiders their first-ever win against an AP top-10 team. Virginia Tech worked overtime to upset Villanova.

Still Working Out The Kinks

The thing about preseason rankings is that they are based on potential. And as is often the case with potential, all it means is that they haven’t done anything yet.

Just because a team has four starters back, it doesn’t mean they are destined to be as good as they were a year earlier. Perhaps their bench depth was gutted by graduation, or that piece of the puzzle who left was the straw that stirred the drink. 

At the start of the season, freshmen are just getting familiar with the college game and returning players are often adjusting to new roles in the team’s scheme. Uncertainty rules and that’s a prime market for upsets.

Massive Point Spreads Available

Big-time schools often schedule cupcakes to start off the season and that guarantees that massive point spreads will be available. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the small school is going to win outright but the chance that the favorite might not cover is much more prevalent during the early games of any season.

Another factor to remember this year is that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the raucous home crowds aren’t in place. The massive home-court edge usually afforded to schools like Duke, Kansas and Syracuse won’t be there to rattle visiting underdogs.

Neutral Site Matchups

Another factor that enters the picture at the outset of the NCAA basketball season is the numerous early-season tournaments. These are played at neutral sites that are almost always unfamiliar to the players.

The team that adapts to new surroundings the quickest will have a huge edge and that’s not always the favorite.