College Basketball Betting: Early Season Tournaments
by Trevor Whenham - 11/13/2008
College basketball has arrived. Preseason tournaments are already underway, and they start in earnest soon. This isn't a high profile time of the year in college basketball, but it can still provide some great early season action. Here's a look at the five best preseason tournaments from a betting perspective:
Old Spice Classic, Nov. 27-30, Orlando - This is not going to be a tourney full of mismatches. Seven of the eight teams here - Georgetown, Gonzaga, Maryland, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Siena, Tennessee - could easily win this one. This will lead to some evenly matched games. Early in the season that can lead to some soft lines if you are ready for the games. It will also be a good chance for us to get a sense of how some of these second tier elite teams are going to fare this year.
Coaches vs. Cancer, Nov. 20-21, New York - This one doesn't have a set field because regional playdowns are currently underway. Most likely, though, it will be Duke, UCLA, Michigan and Southern Illinois. The only real intrigue here is the Duke-UCLA final, but that game should be the best game of November. Both teams have legitimate Final Four aspirations, so this is a war.
Maui Invitational, Nov. 24-26, Maui - Another tournament that might not tell us much in early rounds, but it will likely end with a bang. Texas and Notre Dame should meet in the semis, and the winner of that on gets to play UNC in the finals. UNC is so prohibitively favored this year that it will be very helpful to see them challenged early on to see how they hold up. It won't be as useful if Tyler Hansbrough isn't healthy yet, but it will still be good to watch.
Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Nov. 20-23, San Juan - This one has two very interesting potential games. USC and Memphis will probably meet in the semifinals. Both teams can see their best player from last season starring in the NBA. Both have reloaded with lower profile, but still inspiring, talent. This is a good measure of where the teams are. The winner there will likely meet Xavier in the final. That's another team looking to figure out where they are at after a great year last year.
Jimmy V Classic, Dec. 9-10, New York - This one features Texas vs. Villanova and Davidson vs. West Virginia. Interesting for a few reasons - all four teams reached at least the Sweet 16 last year, but each one looks different this year. This will be a good chance to see if the teams are going to keep moving forward with their changed looks, or if this is a rebuilding year. I will be especially interested to see if playing shooting guard Stephen Curry at point guard will work. It seems like a big risk.
To get yourself ready to bet these tournaments, here are five tips to keep in mind:
Pick your spots - If you are a college basketball fan then it has been a long time since March. Impatience is no good reason, though, to throw your bankroll away. Because teams haven't played yet and they are welcoming new players and getting used to being without old ones, things can be very unpredictable. You want to make sure that you are only making bets at this time in the year where you are confident in your edge. There are lots of games on the horizon for you to bet on, so don't overdo it now.
Make sure you are betting on this year's team - It can be way too easy to bet on a team based on our last memory of them if we haven't done our homework yet this year. Things obviously change significantly from year to year in the sport, and a good team last year can be a rebuilding one this year. Make sure that your opinion of a game reflects the teams that are actually playing, not the teams that would have played if the teams met last March.
A team isn't terrible just because you know nothing about them - preseason tournaments can find strong teams playing against teams you have never heard of before. A team isn't necessarily lousy just because they fly way, way under the radar, though. You would never bet on an NFL game if you only knew one of the teams that was playing, so why bet on a game when you only know something about one of the teams.
The better team almost always wins the early rounds - This might seem contrary to the last point, but it's not. Once you have done your homework and you know which one of the teams has a significant edge, that team is quite likely to win in the early rounds. We can see upsets in these tournaments, but we rarely do see good teams upset early on. This is not a time to be chasing big longshots.
Home court advantage is very overrated - It can be tempting to think a team will get a big boost from playing a tournament at home. That might be partly true, but it can certainly be overcompensated for by bettors. Alaska-Anchorage is never going to win the Great Alaska Shootout. Chaminade will never pull off a Maui Invitational win. Don't get seduced by geography.