College basketball fans have a betting edge with these NIT rules changes

The NCAA is eyeing another step toward creating more possessions and more scoring in college basketball, floating a couple trial balloons in the upcoming National Invitation Tournament. And those adjustments should have alarm bells going off in the heads of college basketball bettors as the postseason draws near.

The first change eliminates the 1-and-1 free-throw situation, while also ostensibly breaking the game into quarters without actually doing so. Presently, a team would shoot the 1-and-1 after its opponent commits seven fouls in a half, and would get two free throws when 10 fouls are reached.

During the NIT, a team will get two shots after the opponents’ fifth and subsequent fouls in the first 10 minutes. Then, at the 10-minute mark, both teams’ foul totals will reset to zero and a team will again be awarded two shots after an opponents’ fifth and subsequent fouls. The second half will unfold the same way.

The second change again involves the shot clock. In 2015, the NIT experimented with a 30-second clock, instead of 35, and the NCAA put the 30-second clock into full effect for the 2015-16 season. Now, for inbounds plays in the frontcourt due to a foul or play being stopped due to a bleeding player/blood on a uniform, the shot clock will remain the same as when play stopped or reset to 20 seconds, whichever is greater, rather than resetting to the full 30 seconds.

The changes should lead to more offense, which means college hoops oddsmakers will have to adjust their numbers for the NIT before, during, and even after – if the NCAA writes these new rules in stone across the country next season.

“It’s very tricky,” said Scott Kaminsky, director for offshore sportsbook TheGreek.com. “My take on it is that it’s gonna help the teams that are very high-scoring teams. It’s gonna make the totals a little higher.”

But it could also hurt a high-scoring team such as West Virginia, which averages 84.5 points per game (14th nationally) but plays end-to-end on offense and defense to do so.

“West Virginia always does the full-court press, and they commit more fouls than an average team,” Kaminsky said, alluding to the Mountaineers’ average of 20.6 fouls per game, among the most of any team in the nation. “You’re gonna have more possessions, you’re gonna have more fouls, the totals are gonna be higher. If you get to five fouls at the 15-minute mark, the other team is shooting two free throws until the 10-minute mark.”

Kaminsky said the change in totals won’t be as dramatic as when the shot-clock shifted from 35 to 30 seconds. Just three weeks into the 2015-16 season, the average final combined score was 146 points, up a whopping 13 points from the 2014-15 season average.

“The shot clock going to 30, that was worth six to eight points (on average),” he said. “This is gonna be more subtle. A total of 159, maybe now it should be 162. But that’s something. That’s an edge if you can figure it out – teams that foul more.”

Kaminsky added the opposite would likely hold true for a low-scoring, plodding team such as Virginia, which might not commit nor take five fouls in 10 minutes’ time.

Aaron Kessler, supervisor and oddsmaker at the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas, wasn’t as concerned with totals as he was with teams that are behind having one less tool to catch up.

“I like the 1-and-1, and this takes that strategy away,” he said. “I think what it’s gonna do is turn games into more of a free-throw-shooting contest. Teams that shoot free throws better will benefit.”

South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews, speaking to both changes, enjoined points from both Kaminsky and Kessler.

“The total, you’ve got to tick up a little bit. That’s the first thing I saw when I looked at it,” Andrews said. “Second, the game is really being geared toward shooters. It’s really a shooting match, whereas there used to be strategy. I don’t know that they need to do that.”

Andrews added that the expected increase in possessions and/or scoring would seem to benefit favorites. Maybe.

“I think that makes a lot of sense,” he said. “But compare it to college football, way back when they decided to stop the clock after every first down. My thought was that would greatly help favorites. I’m not sure that really wound up happening. We thought that’s what would happen in football, and we think that again with this. But it might not happen.”

Should the NIT changes gain full implementation, Kaminsky seems more certain that it’s a big win for favorites.

“These rules are gonna help the better team,” he said. “I think you’ll have less upsets, since you’ll have a few more possessions where the clock resets to 20. You might get six extra possessions. Another reason why you might have a few less upsets is that the better team, leading at the end, is now gonna get two shots at it from the free-throw line. That gives the weaker team less of a chance to rally and come back at the end.”

And considering upsets are arguably the best part of college basketball – think court-storming and Cinderella stories – these changes might not be such a good thing.

“For the pros, I don’t give a damn, but upsets are cool in college,” Kaminsky said. “And there aren’t gonna be as many.”

Kessler summarized, “I think these are changes for the sake of change. I’m not very fond of them.”

Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.


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