As we shift from college football to college basketball, it dawned on me that the structure of the two sports is exactly the opposite.
In football, almost all of the drama comes in the regular season and the postseason has minimal importance (minus the BCS National Championship Game, of course). In basketball, the regular season lacks real significance, but March Madness is one of the great spectacles of the year. Sometimes it feels like a three-month tuneup.
As I bemoaned the lack of importance of the college basketball regular season to a friend -- and gambler -- he thought about what I was saying and said, "Only one problem with your point. All the players think every game is important."
He was completely right. Look, no one would argue that December preseason tournaments at some neutral location have the intensity of a Sweet 16 game. But the players care. They aren't thinking about how little it matters whether you're a No. 7 seed or a No. 10 seed come March. They're in the moment.
And the college basketball regular season certainly matters to bettors. There are dozens of games to gamble on each night, and an astute handicapper can often take advantage of a misguided line on a game that isn't getting much national attention.
On this blog, every Wednesday we'll be providing the College Basketball Sweat Barometer, a tool conceived by ESPN The Magazine Editor in Chief Chad Millman and professional handicapper Sal Selvaggio of Madduxsports.com.
The Sweat Barometer is another name for what some handicappers refer to as margin of cover. It is the average, for every game on the season, that a team is either covering or not covering the spread. We'll give you the top 25 Sweat Barometer teams in the country, as well as the SB results of the AP top 25 and the bottom five SB teams in the nation.
On our debut chart, you'll see that just three of the AP top 25 are in the top 25 of the Sweat Barometer. Might be time to focus on those wannabe Cinderella schools now, not just in March.
To see the Sweat Barometer this week and the teams you should look to wager on in college basketball, you must be an ESPN Insider.