Early Season CBB Tourneys Provide Betting Value
by Trevor Whenham - 11/21/2006
It's time for early season college basketball tournaments. Not only are they a great way to make a time of the year that would otherwise be fairly dull seem interesting, but they can also provide a bunch of great betting opportunities and knowledge. There are endless tournaments that are either just ending or are just about to get underway, including the NIT, the Great Alaska Shootout, the CBE Classic, the Maui Invitational, the ESPNU Classic and the inaugural Las Vegas Invitational, among others. Here are some of the reasons that you should love this tournament season if you don't already:
No home court - Home court can be a clear advantage, or it can be a complication. When teams are playing in tournaments, especially in places like Alaska or Hawaii, they are truly playing on a neutral court. That means that the best team should win in most cases. It takes away the difficulty of deciding how much a visiting team that you like will be impacted by visiting a raucous stadium.
Short schedules - Whenever teams have to play several games in a short period, things get unpredictable. In ideal conditions, when both teams are well rested, the better team will usually beat the opposition. When players aren't rested and coaches haven't had a chance to prepare fully, though, anything can happen. That means that you can look towards other factors to make your decision, and you may be able to find attractive underdogs that might not normally be in play.
Wild card teams - It's always an interesting challenge when a team you know very well takes on a team you have never heard of. Take UCLA's first game at the Maui Invitational for example. They played Chaminade, a Division II team that only the local Honolulu basketball fans could truly claim to know much about. The spread moved from 24 to 25, UCLA won by 25, and bettors were either really happy or extremely sullen. It might not be the most profitable betting opportunity, but if you get off on a good challenge then it might be just the thing for you.
Great matchups - Tournaments have to sell tickets, so they need interesting matchups. That means we can see some amazing Top 25 showdowns, or we can see interesting battles between teams that we normally would never get a chance to see. Kentucky and UCLA in Maui, Duke and Marquette at the CBE, or Florida and Kansas in Las Vegas are all classic games made possible by these tournaments. If those games don't get you excited then you aren't a basketball fan.
Boost for a team - An unexpected team can serve notice in a tournament that they are serious about winning this season. That can either be in the form of a team breaking through and winning or going deep, or even a team quietly putting together a strong performance in a loss to a powerhouse of a caliber that they haven't played before. If you watch the tournaments closely you can often end up seeing a thing or two that can make you money later in the season.
Loose lines - Because some of the match-ups are so unlikely and teams have never played against each other in many cases, some of the lines books set are no more than reasonable guesses. If you do your homework you can often find a line or a total that seems completely out of whack in your mind. This is especially true in shorter tournaments where lines have to be set quickly and not much preparation can be done in advance of the games.
If you're convinced that tournaments are worth your time, here are a few spots you might want to check out:
Maui Invitational - The semi-finals feature UCLA-Kentucky and Memphis-Georgia Tech. That's four ranked teams. UCLA and Memphis would seem most likely to play each other in the final on Wednesday, but this early in the season we don't really know what any of the teams truly have, so any combination is possible. It will be particularly interesting to see how Georgia Tech's very young guards do under the pressure of real competition.
ESPNU Classic - This one kicks off Thursday in Orlando. It's not a marquee tournament, but it will certainly be interesting. Southern Illinois had 22 wins last year, and they have their top eight players all back this year. Their biggest competition will be Virginia Tech, and it will be interesting to see if the Salukis are as good as they obviously have the potential to be.
Great Alaska Shootout - With no top-notch teams, this eight-team tournament is a great chance to check out some teams that you probably wouldn't follow otherwise. Cal will be there without superstar Leon Powe, who went to the NBA, so they will be trying to find their way. Loyola Marymount is interesting because they had a solid win over the Oral Roberts team that shocked Kansas. Pacific was a tournament team last year that lost their top three starters from last year and has to reinvent themselves entirely.