Betting on regular-season NCAA basketball games and betting on conference tournament games is a completely different animal.
During the course of the regular season, you have the opportunity to play teams off rest, with revenge, or in a letdown/bounce-back spots.
Conference tournament games present a unique handicapping challenge. While they may seem like any ordinary game to handicap, they combine a tight schedule with high-pressure stakes, which makes for a dynamic atmosphere and a headache to bettors who don't put in the time to research the games beforehand.
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I would advise you to stick to your guns and the methods that have been working for you throughout the regular season, but you must dig deeper and handicap smarter if you want to find any edges in conference tournament play.
Some teams will have their entire season on the line. Those teams would likely have to win out for the automatic March Madness spot or see their season and tournament dreams come to a disappointing end.
Other teams, such as Villanova, UNC, Kansas, etc., will use the conference tournaments to fine tune their game in preparation for their journey to the Final Four.
The keys to success are to tread lightly and avoid blindly betting big-named teams. Always have a solid reasoning for playing any team, which is very important at this time of the season.
Let's take a look a few factors you should strongly consider before laying down a conference tournament bet.
There is no bigger home-court/field advantage than the one college basketball has. Next to soccer, playing at home or on the road could be that extra
factor which could will you to a win or intimidate you enough to choke away a game.
Knowing the location of these conference tournament games is crucial because there is a big difference between playing at home, away or on a neutral court.
One clear example here is UNLV. The Mountain West Tournament is in Las Vegas every year, and the Rebels are always treated to home cooking and hometown hospitality.
Most conferences do not have an advantage that obvious, but there are a few things to consider after finding out the location of the games. The first is travel and the second is the willingness of fans to travel to the venue. Fans might be more willing to travel to warmer destinations for conference tournaments or if they are relatively close to home.
You have to remember, though, the game is played on the court and you probably don't want to make the location the be-all and end-all factor for the teams you choose to bet on.
Teams play to win games. That has been the concept of sports since the dawn of time. Every team would love nothing more than to claim they are the last team standing in their conference and take home conference tournament title.
In reality though, there are always a handful of teams who are a hell of a lot more motivated than others and some teams who are just there because they play in the conference.
For example, San Diego State is a team that will probably need to win their conference tournament to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Despite blowing through the MWC with a one-loss record, they are at best an "extremely shaky" bubble team that possesses no significant wins. Brutal, but true nonetheless.
A team like Villanova, however, that already has a high seeding secured, regardless of how they perform in the conference tournament, can afford to fine tune their game at the expense of winning. They have a bigger goal, and that starts March 17.
Lastly, a team that has no hopes of securing an at-large bid and no realistic shot at winning the conference tournament probably is not going to be that fired up or that excited at the prospect of yet another loss.
It would be stupid to say the more motivated team will win or cover - it's just not that easy - but you can definitely say that the more motivated team will have more of an edge than they otherwise would.
Just like any sport on this planet, the best teams seem to win games when they are healthy as a whole.
As we approach the end of a long and demanding regular season, teams who are battling injuries at the key positions are already behind the eight ball heading into the conference tournaments.
I have already mentioned the break-neck pace these tournaments are played at, which leaves teams with little rest and almost no time to heal up before the next game.
No team is completely healthy at this point in the season, but some teams are in better shape than others.
My advice to you is to scour social media and follow beat writers. They usually are aware of any injuries well before you can figure out if a team is being honest with you when the injury report is released.
Conference tournaments are played at a break-neck pace. They usually include back-to-back games or four games in four nights if a team makes the championship game.
Teams with short benches and a lack of depth are always ones to consider fading after a win. The deeper into the tournament you get, the harder the games get. Depth and durability can go along way in determining your team's fate.
If you throw in the added stress of travel and living life out of a suitcase for a week or so, many 18-22 year olds will have a tough go of it.
Fatigue is the one problem that cannot be solved with Xs and Os or in game adjustments. Fatigue is usually to blame when teams can't knock down a jumper (always hitting front rim) or can't track down loose ball rebounds.
Always double-check a team's rotation and how deep they are on the bench. The ability to have an eight- or nine-man rotation is a huge benefit when it comes down to crunch time. Rest or fatigue could be the determining factor late in the game when free throws are needed to ice the game.
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