NCAA Tournament Handicapping: The Biggest Challenges
by Aaron Smith - 3/15/2011
This is one of the most exciting weeks of the year for sports fans and bettors. March Madness captures the attention of nearly everyone with its trademark tremendous finishes. There’s no doubt this year’s tournament will be another exciting one. If there is a negative to March Madness for the average sports bettor, it clearly is the amazing amount of challenges that come with handicapping the NCAA Tournament. College basketball handicapping during the tournament is far different than during the regular season. Let’s take a closer look at some of the challenges that are specific to the NCAA Tournament.
One of the most intriguing parts of the tournament is trying to figure out who might be this year’s Cinderella team. This is also one of the primary reasons that the NCAA Tournament is difficult to handicap. There is always going to be a Cinderella team out there somewhere, but there are plenty of trap games that trick the average bettor into losing money. Picking too many huge upsets can derail both your bracket and your bankroll management. Sure, it is great when a Cinderella team upsets the big-name school, but you have to remember that doesn’t happen too often. Don’t avoid Cinderella teams altogether, but don’t overdo it either.
Travel and Fan Support
Make no mistake about it, a large fan base can mean a great deal in college basketball. Many teams find it extremely difficult to win on the road. No team will be playing an actual home game in this tournament, but there are some teams that will have a clear advantage when it comes to fan support. A team like Notre Dame will have a large advantage by playing in Chicago for the first weekend. What about teams on the other end of the spectrum? The Washington Huskies will play in Charlotte, which is 2,802 miles from their Seattle campus. Before making your March Madness picks, make sure you consider travel times and fan support.
Experience definitely matters when you get on a big stage like the NCAA Tournament. Though it certainly makes a difference, it can be difficult to quantify exactly how much that experience means when it comes to the point spread. Does it really help a team a lot if they have been to the NCAA Tournament two straight times and been beaten badly in both of the years? I tend to think that experience should count for a lot more if the team, and its core players, has seen what winning in the NCAA Tournament tastes like. Not all experience is created equal!
Conference Strength Questions
One of the biggest difficulties of handicapping during the NCAA Tournament is considering the relative strength of each conference and how that will affect each game. There are plenty of computers that spit out conference power rankings, but those computers don’t necessarily lead you in the right direction during March Madness. The depth of the conference should be something you consider strongly before backing a team. Those teams who commonly play a tough opponent during the regular season are far more prepared for the big stage. Keep in mind that some of the smaller conferences are much deeper than the average television expert will lead you to believe.
Every team is motivated to try their best to advance in the NCAA Tournament, but not all teams are equally motivated. There is no doubt that some teams are simply “hungrier” for that win in March compared to others. Motivation is often a very difficult factor to handicap, but it is also one of the most important factors in finding value. Never underestimate a highly motivated team that appears to be upset with its seeding entering the tournament. If you can spot a team that you believe will have the edge in motivation, you have likely found a winner!
There is no use in pretending you are going to find a soft line during March Madness. The oddsmakers have had their sights set on this tournament from the time the college basketball season began. March Madness is a major cash flow boost to the books, and they aren’t about to put out lines without a ton of research being done first.
Doc’s Sports is your home for NCAA Tournament betting information! We have our Main March Madness page HERE where you can find our very popular updated March Madness Brackets, up-to-the-minute March Madness Odds and daily exclusive NCAA Tournament betting articles. Check Doc’s every day until the Final Four for all the information you need to beat your bookie throughout the tournament. Also, if you don’t have the time to do your own homework, Doc has a team of expert college basketball handicappers that are working 24/7 on their March Madness picks and you can get a package from each one through the Final Four for only $199.
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