College Basketball Handicapping: Tips and Advice for Conference Tournament Betting
by Trevor Whenham - 3/5/2015
We are about to head into college basketball conference tournament season. In the eyes of most people it's just an appetizer before the main course of the NCAA Tournament. For bettors who are prepared and focused, though, betting conference tournaments can actually be a very profitable activity. In order to do your best at this time of year, though, you need to be very aware of what makes these tournaments different than other games that we bet on.
Here are five of the biggest differences for these tournaments:
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Health: It has been a long season by now. Teams have been playing since early November, and the wear and tear is piling up on these young athletes. You need to be very aware of what the health status of teams is before you make any bet. There is more to it than usual, too. If a team has already secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament and a key player is at less than full strength then there is a very good chance that they will rest him or at least use him less than they normally would. Unless a player isn't going to be dressed, there is no reason for a coaching staff to let us know how they plan to use players, so we have to be very cautious about what is likely to happen and what it could mean. You have to be an amateur psychologist and try to peer into the heads of coaches.
Urgency: For some teams the conference tournament means absolutely everything. Maybe they are fighting to get a berth into the NCAA Tournament, and they need a win or two to convince the committee they are worthy. Maybe their only shot at making the tournament is winning their conference tournament. Or maybe they are already in the field but have a chance to improve their seeding significantly with a strong performance. For other teams, winning the tournament would be nice, but their bigger interest is in staying healthy and getting ready to have the best NCAA Tournament that they possibly can. You have to make a best guess at the urgency levels of teams heading into the tournament to be sure you are making the best picks you can. When assessing motivation, one big consideration can be to look at the head coach and his tendencies. Some guys tend to play the conference tournament with massive urgency as if it is the most important thing facing their team. Others play cautiously and conservatively and don't seem too worried as long as they don't hurt their NCAA Tournament seeding too much.
Going for a sweep: There is a common bit of wisdom that you hear a lot at this time of year. The only problem is that it hasn't actually proven to be true. A lot of people will tell you that it is very hard for one team to beat another three times in a row, so if a team has beaten another twice already this year then it is a good idea to bet against them. The problem, though, is that neither betting against those teams nor betting on them has proven to be profitable over the years. Teams actually complete the sweep slightly more often than they don't but not often enough to help us.
Locale: Some tournaments play in fixed locations, while others move around. In either case you need to know where the tournament is and if that gives a team an edge. Is a team playing at home? Will some teams have bigger crowd support than others? Are some teams more familiar with the setting than others? The location of the tournament alone won't be the difference between profit and loss for you, but it can be the difference in an otherwise tight matchup.
The big prize is still ahead: For most teams that are in contention in their conference tournament, the bigger prize is still ahead - the NCAA Tournament. The same thing is true for us as bettors. If there is value in the conference tournaments then we should obviously bet them. If the value isn't there, though, then there is no reason to force things here when we can save ourselves - and our bankrolls - for the tournament that really matters. No one ever really remembers who wins the conference tournament after the fact, so you would feel pretty foolish if you lost bets that weren't packed with value now and weren't able to tackle March Madness.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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