Jalen Rose was recently talking about Duke and basically said that he grew up despising them and everything they represent. He said they always represented something that he could never have, and therefore was taught at a young age to dislike their method of operating. I'm right there with him. See, I've been a fan of the Razorbacks since Todd Day. And even though we eventually climbed that mountain-top (and damn near did it TWICE), those early days always ended with me hating Duke. They were the anti-Arkansas, to my mind, but really, aren't they the anti-Everyone? There is no other program in the country that comes close to Duke basketball. I remember a friend in middle school once told me that even the name of the university sounded like a disease. Like AIDS. "Hey man, just got back from the clinic... Yeah, my Duke test came back positive." You can talk about sports hate all you want, and certainly there are valid explanations for despising the Yankees, Cowboys, Red Sox, Lakers, etc. But those are pro teams. College programs usually have a healthy dose of regional hate ("It will die. You think I care? ROLL DAMN TIDE."), but the Duke hate reaches a true national level. Seriously, EVERYONE likes to see them lose. It's one of the most enjoyable experiences we share as a nation of sports fans.
Now then, this post isn't about hate. It's about gambling. So get on with it.
I suppose the John Nash in me will never quiet down. Sure, when I see free money on the table, I grab my satchel and git all I can, but I never stop looking for that pattern. I like a framework, however loose, to guide my gambling decisions. Look, this is not Simmons' manifesto - which is so overwrought, conflicting and often just incredibly WRONG - it's a guide to general principles of gambling on a specific sport. Let me tell you of a few things that would constitute a framework of gambling in various sports:
We start here because it's the easiest. It's literally the safest way to make money outside of having a job... and even then, it's safer than your retirement plan. The plan goes like this: identify a handful of teams that are good enough to contend for a BCS bowl game, but don't happen to play for one of the DS'ing conferences. These are teams like TCU, Boise State, Utah, Nevada, etc. They are the class of their conferences, but they get absolutely no respect from voters, because Fats Turkeyroll will always vote Alabama #1 because every goddamn game is a rivalry. So how do they get votes? THEY EARN THEM BY SCORING 80 POINTS ON IDAHO. So the game is simple - identify these teams and ride them into the ground. We learned very much from our dear leader this season, and those lessons will last a lifetime.
It's tougher, because there are no votes to be had, but simple axioms do apply. During the regular season, it's pretty much all about who needs the game more. The Skins can beat the Eagles if doing so means keeping hopes alive for one of the teams. Also, in games that really matter, it's all about coaching and preparation. Anyone alive knew that the Jets had spent their entire playbook to beat the Patriots and would have nothing left for Pittsburgh. So there are a few rules to follow, but nothing too concrete.
First, it's easy to bet the playoffs once you see which refs are calling the games, and what they mean. Oh, the Celtics have fallen behind 3-2 and they need a win to force Ratings 7, I mean Game 7? TO THE BAVETTA PHONE! During the season, I generally follow the "Ghetto Ball" model, the summary of which is to find teams that play horrible ghetto ball (GOLDEN STATE'S BEEN DOING IT FOR 15 YEARS) and hammer them when the time is right. Orlando is one of those wild card teams... against Boston they are probably going under, but you stay away. Against Toronto? GO GO GO. Still though, ghetto ball is hard to read for most teams... like the Wolves don't like playing defense, but they also don't like scoring. So tread lightly.
Bet the over or under on the Grand Salami if you are drunk in Las Vegas and need more action because you are a degenerate. Spend 2 minutes thinking about stats, and then just pound a white russian and flip a coin. Hockey is stupid.
And that brings us to College Basketball. Besides the obvious "Bet Duke to lose in the tournament if they have to play west of the Mississippi, no matter who they are playing even if it is NJIT", I've always had a hard time with the league.
First, you have to throw out the law of transitive properties. Who cares if Wisconsin lost to Iowa? They are going to destroy Belmont (LEARNED THAT ONE A LITTLE LATE, EH DREW?). And, although it's fun to get down to Friends University, it clearly doesn't matter when isolated to one game. For example, Florida State lost to AUBURN. But look at them now. So you can't get caught up in single-game performances. Any team can take a game off and still make a run. Unless they are the Gophers.
Another example of what NOT to do is to bet program history. This seems like it would be obvious, and of course it is, but I find myself betting histories and past success more often than not. Oh, Pittsburgh? That's an over! But still, you have to research, and break down the matchup. When you don't, you might as well be betting hockey.
So, what's the solution? Well, one thing I've found is betting regional matchups. The theory goes like this: let's say you're betting the MAAC (and why wouldn't you?). When an underdog is at home to a favorite from the top of the conference, hammer that underdog. They'll be 8 point dogs at home and it will go down to the wire. Why? Well, first, IT'S THE MAAC. But second, you have to bet into the parity. Bet into the fact that even though Rider is good, they aren't THAT good. Basketball is one of those sports where the home crowd truly sways both the officiating and flow of the game. That home crowd for Niagara is going to BRING IT.
Also, style of play matters in the tournament. If a team is plodding, methodical and sound on defense, they are likely going to beat a team that dunks a lot. If a team makes their throws, and plays ball control, the only type of team that can upend them is another team that does that just a little bit better. HOWEVER, in the case of Arizona/Duke, there's this fun thing that happens when the underdog starts ghettoing all over the favorite, just dunking down their throat at every opportunity, and once that happens, all bets are off. So pay attention to the location of the game, and the potential for ghetto fun, but bet coaches and styles.
And really, that's what it's all about... not knowing what's going to happen but betting into the unknown. This last Duke game gave me a little glimpse at something resembling a theory forming in my head... but I still need more work. Every sport has an angle by which you can penetrate to the gambling core. I will find it in basketball. I have a beautiful mind.