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Looking for Dark-Horse Teams in the Preseason

College Basketball Betting: Looking for Darkhorse Teams in the Preseason

By Loot, NCAA Basketball Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

We never want to just show up unprepared at the tip-off of the college hoops season. We should be doing some work in the preseason--putting in the hours so we can get off to a good start. And part of any good preseason analysis is looking for team that might be a little better than what the bookies and general betting public are forecasting.

If we are able to hone in on a few of these teams, we can be poised to make cash during a period where the rest of the world is coming around to the realization that this team was in fact underrated. Some are more obvious than others, but regardless, this time represents an opportunity to capitalize on the gap between perception and reality.

While late last season, everyone was focused on which teams were in the best spot to win the tournament, there were probably a lot of things that went under our radar. Among those things are the teams who really got their act together. They didn't thrive in a way that would make a national splash and their mediocre overall record prevented them from making a tourney run, but they are a team on the rise.

Look for teams that started to come together and improve late in the previous season. Then of course, verify that the other spots are in place. Are they returning most of their guys? Did they get someone who might give them an even bigger boost this season? It can take a discerning eye to determine this.

Every coach has a philosophy and a system. They have a way they like to work and generally do better when they are in charge of setting the pieces. A coach coming in will be saddled with the players the previous coach wanted. So maybe his first year is rough, the next two are a bit better. But you can just tell something is due to kick up a notch. They finished last year in strong fashion. The coach is now embedded. Everyone on the team are guys he hand-picked. They could be ready to surprise.

A darkhorse can emerge not just by what it did right, but by what others are doing wrong. It could be in a conference where the balance of power is shifting or the top teams that gave them trouble last season are now in rebuilding mode. When trying to gauge whether you have honed in a real diamond-in-the-rough, we have to do so on a relative level. Teams don't operate in a vacuum.

Therefore, when you are inclined to anticipate an upswing for a team no one else is really talking about, look at what they will be facing. Look for good signs, like if 2 of the top 3 teams in the conference lost several starters or got a new coach. Maybe the team you are focusing on scheduled a much easier roster of games for the early season, making it a little easier for their improved status to actually manifest in a way that helps us cover some early spreads.

It takes a little work. Optimally, it's something that you see during the season itself. You see a team playing well later in the season, but by the time you notice, the season is about finished. So during the preseason, you remind yourself of that team. Look for some of these other variables to be in place. You see a coach now fully immersed in the program with a cast of his players. You see returning starters who were picking up the pace to end the previous campaign. Their schedule is a little cushier. Most of their conference rivals are something lesser than what they were last season. The team has a promising freshman class.

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When you see all or most of these things lining up, you might in fact have a darkhorse on your hands that will offer good betting value. It won't always be there. Don't just look for a team that finished the season in better form than they showed early on. That alone is not necessarily a guiding light. Other things need to be in place. And if they are, you might have found a way to cover more wagers than you would have otherwise.

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