Make Winning Bets for Sweet 16: Differences than Opening Weekend NCAA Tournament
It's almost as if the NCAA Tournament starts over after the first four days of action. The Sweet 16 and beyond feels different in almost every way from the two rounds that precede it. There is typically much less chaos - not that chaos was a big issue on the opening weekend this year. And the chance to go home and take a breath before heading out for the next game or, hopefully two, gives a chance for teams to remember who they are and get back to what they do best.
For bettors, the second weekend can still be great, but it is very different from the opening weekend. Successful bettors can identify and respect those differences and know how to adjust to increase their chances of success. There are three big ways that stand out above the rest in terms of how the second week differs.
Money is smarter: The truth is that the middle weekend of the tournament is the least interesting for most casual bettors and fans of the tournament. The opening weekend is pure heaven, with the blissful overwhelm of the first two days of the event with so many games and so many stories. And the weekend games are plentiful and often very dramatic. It's four great days. And the final Saturday of the tournament features two great games back-to-back to make for a perfect viewing opportunity, and then the Championship Game in prime time on Monday night. But after the opening weekend there is a cooling off period, and casual bettors who got their fix of college basketball action on the first weekend may not rush back in when the games begin again. There are fewer games to attract attention, the storylines that grab the attention on the opening weekend often fade by the second weekend, and the Cinderella mismatches that capture attention are often rarer on this weekend - and especially this year.
One thing that can draw people to the second weekend is the crazy types of stories that can only happen in this tournament - like Sister Jean with Loyola last year. But with the tournament so incredibly chalky this year, the imaginations of bettors are not going to be grabbed in the same way.
Add it all up, and we generally see much less casual money being thrown at the tournament in the second weekend in the first. Dumb money obviously affects how lines are set and how they move in very different ways than smart money does, so when there is less dumb money the proportion of smart money is higher. Dumb money is attracted by favorites, high-profile players, and heavily-hyped stories. Smart money looks at matchups and actual strengths of teams. It's not necessarily a problem that the makeup of betting money shifts in this weekend, but it is something to be aware of.
Teams are more evenly-matched: In general, we see fewer mismatches and fewer big underdogs in the second weekend than the first. That's just a function of how the bracket works, and the fact that teams have to win two games to get this far, so bad teams have been sent home. This is especially a factor here this year because of how the tournament has turned out. We have seen things go almost exactly to expectations, with the top 12 seeded teams all advancing, and two of the No. 4 seeds joining them. Only two remaining teams have outperformed their seeds - a stunningly small number - and neither is exactly a shocking upset. Auburn is only barely an upset as a No. 5, and they won the SEC Tournament, so we knew they were in form. And though Oregon is a No. 12, they also got hot to win the Pac-12 tournament, and their coach was in the Final Four just a couple of years ago, so they have a lot going for them.
Because the teams that remain are strong teams in good form, there is not going to be any easy games to pick in the Sweet 16. If you see a mismatch in any game, you probably aren't looking at it properly. This is going to be a true test of handicapping excellence.
Regrouping can help - or hurt: This is going to be a less significant and useful factor this year than many years because of how the opening weekend turned out. After the opening weekend, which is a stressful and chaotic time for teams, they get a chance to go home, sleep in their own beds, and regroup for the next set of challenges. That can often have a big positive impact on strong teams as they get to work on the issues that have limited them to date, and this allows them to come back stronger. On the other hand, the break can cause teams that have been playing over their heads to remember who they are, second guess what they should do, and fall back to earth.
The problem this year, though, is that all the remaining teams are pretty good, and none of them are really playing far beyond what we have seen from them over the last several weeks. We largely have good teams that we can reasonably expect to get better. Again, it just means that the better handicappers are going to have the edge.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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