College Hoops Handicapping Tips for Betting on Conference Tournaments
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 3/6/2012
No two college basketball conference tournaments are exactly alike. From seeding, to timing, to byes and double byes, campus locations and neutral sites, conference tournaments are not created equally. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when handicapping college hoops conference tournaments.
Know the location of the tournament. Some tournaments are at campus sites. Some are strictly at neutral sites, Some start at campus sites and eventually move to neutral sites. And just because a tournament is at a neutral site doesn’t mean it is neutral in the sense of no team having an advantage.
The Big East Tournament is held annually at Madison Square Garden, which just so happens to be the place St. John's calls home for a few games each season. The Conference USA Tournament is at the FedEx Forum, home to conference member, Memphis. There are more than a few of these examples. Be aware of them.
Thanks to some of the bizarre conference tournament formats, teams can be given a few days off in between games or some teams will be playing on zero-day rest while another can be playing on five-day rest.
In the American East Tournament games are played on consecutive nights in the first three rounds before a week-long break to the championship game. In the Big East Tournament four teams receive single byes and another four teams receive double byes. In 2011 Connecticut made an unprecedented run to the Big East Championship without a bye. Along the way it was playing its third game of the tournament against a Pitt team who had yet to take the floor. In the semifinals the Huskies had already played 120 minutes of basketball in Madison Square Garden compared to the 40 minutes played by their opponent, Syracuse.
There is a thin line between no rest and rust, it is important to know who played when.
In the smaller conference tournaments every team knows its win or the season is over. There are plenty of one-bid conferences like that. But most conferences have multiple teams who are already locked into the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens in the conference tournament.
It is important to be aware of the motivation of a bubble team versus a team that must win out to make it versus a NCAA Tournament lock. For instance in the recent Missouri Valley Conference Championship Game, Illinois State played Creighton. Illinois State had no chance for an at-large berth so it knew it needed to win the final to get into the dance. Creighton, who was ranked No. 25, was a lock for the tournament regardless of the outcome. Creighton, a heavy favorite, ended up winning in overtime while failing to cover.
Shopping for the best college basketball odds
With games occurring often times on less than 24 hours notice, there are plenty of soft and changing lines. It is pretty easy to shop for an extra half point or point on sides and even a few points on totals. Moneyline pricing also tends to vary book to book, so shop around.
Future bets and hedging
Most conference tournaments have future bets available to wager on the winning team. Some odds are incredibly farfetched like this season, No. 16 seed DePaul to win the Big East tournament is listed +75,000 on 5dimes. Some long shots have potential like maybe Pitt at +8000 to win the Big East Tournament or Iowa State at +1150 to win the Big 12 Tournament or Purdue +2000 to win the Big Ten Tournament.
With hedging options available down the road, the teams do not actually have to win the tournament for the initial bet to be profitable. If Pitt pulls a 2011 UConn and rips off a few wins you can bet against the Panthers the remainder of the way knowing you have ridiculous 80/1 odds backing you up in case Pitt did win the tournament.
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