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Submitted by Jim Hurley’s Network on Friday, January 26, 2018 at 3:02 PM

With football taking a week off, Saturday's huge Duke-Virginia game is a reminder that it's time to start thinking about the road to March Madness in college basketball. Which teams are likely to close strong and cash tickets for bettors? Are there any steals at current futures prices? How do you build bankroll between now and March so you can maximize your college basketball return?

Seems like we say this every season. But, the tournament looks like it's going to be a real crapshoot. Even the teams currently near the top of the rankings have vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Purdue had been a juggernaut in recent weeks, but played very soft defensively at home against Michigan Thursday night. They'll be facing teams better than Michigan in the Dance.

Duke, as usual, has a defense that's too soft to trust in tournament action. Great offense. Smart coaching. But, anybody can take out Duke when their own shots are falling but Duke's aren't. Inexperience could become an issue down the stretch as well. When you start this many freshman, you don't know what they'll do in high pressure spots. As talented as Duke is, they might not be a money-maker in market terms from this point forward.

Virginia? Great defense as always. But, when you play THIS slow, it keeps opponents within striking distance late in the game. That's particularly true for GOOD opponents on neutral courts. Virginia has no margin for error once the elite are facing each other. Tough to string together March victories that way unless you catch breaks late in close games.

Saturday afternoon's battle on CBS will give an early glimpse into issues either could face in six weeks. Home court advantage might be the difference-maker between two teams currently ranked in the top four of the AP poll.

Who's the best of the rest? Villanova may be just as good as their recent championship roster. But, they also have a tendency to turn to stone if the shots aren't falling. Certainly, the eventual Big 12 champion will be battle tested given all the regular season wars that league is offering on a weekly basis. Will the top conference teams all be worn down by then? Nobody's currently scary in the Pac 12, though Arizona has time to develop into the threat everyone was expecting them to be back in November. The SEC? More likely a spoiler than a league that's going to launch a Final Four entry.

If you're looking to make futures bets for the eventual champion, JIM HURLEY says it's best to focus on these keys:

*Balance (quality on both offense and defense)
*Rebounding (key on both sides of the floor)
*Guard play (you'll start hearing a lot about this again soon)
*No gimmicks (teams who rely on a full-court press get beat by good guards!)
*Teams who can play effectively away from home

The last thing you want to do is bet a team on the Futures board that dominates people at home but can't be trusted anywhere else. You don't want to bet a "live by the three, die by the three" team either because nobody lives by the three six games in a row. Classic inside-out basketball that emphasizes defense and rebounding has the best chance to dodge bullets and go the distance. Gimmicks? Teams with "tricky" zone defenses eventually run into three-point shooters. Full court presses abuse bad teams but help quality opponents make layups.

In terms of finishing the regular season strong with your personal betting, JIM HURLEY wants to you emphasize these factors:

*Depth (because fatigue can set in on short rotations)
*Attitude (because teammates start to get sick of each other and their coach!)
*Health (particularly teams who are just now getting healthy)
*The Market

It's easy to forget that its you vs. the betting market if you're trying to make big money as a sports bettor. You not only have to know the strengths and weaknesses of the teams. You must know the strengths and weaknesses of the marketplace. Look for blind spots where oddsmakers and bettors continue to overprice or underprice certain teams. Free money is out there if you're willing to dig hard to find it.

JIM HURLEY'S exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach is designed to cover all the bases. We know about the coaches...the players...the dynamics of team play...and the betting marketplace. The man in the middle of an information hurricane talks to SCOUTS, SOURCES, STATHEADS, COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS, and his WISE GUY CONNECTIONS to find the handful of games worth attacking hard every day.

You can purchase our BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 to take care of business. There's a good chance we'll have something in Duke-Virginia if the line is right. But, the biggest edge bettors have is that they can PASS if there's no value. JIM HURLEY finds value!   

See you again Monday to talk more basketball. Then, next Friday we'll post the NOTEBOOK'S official Super Bowl Preview. It's a great time of year to be a sports bettor. Click here to let Jim Hurley build your bankrolls all week so you can make the most of the biggest sports betting extravaganza in the world. It's time to GET THE MONEY WITH JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!