NCAA Basketball Betting Advice: Handicapping Bubble Teams Down the Stretch
The calendar is about to turn to March, and that means that we are inching towards the college basketball postseason. Teams have a small handful of regular-season games remaining and then their conference tournaments. After that the brackets will be set, and the NCAA Tournament is here. This is the time of year when all talk turns towards bubble teams. We know which teams are certainly in the NCAA Tournament field and which ones have no hope. But the teams in the middle of those two groups are the interesting ones. There are more teams that could break into the tournament field than there are spots for them.
Bubble teams fascinate the public because of the general obsession with the bracket. As bettors, then, we have to be careful of how we deal with bubble teams. They can provide profit potential down the stretch, but they can also create traps if we aren't careful.
Which way are they trending?: There are a couple of different kinds of bubble teams. There are those that started out with some issues but have played their way into contention with strong play down the stretch. And then there are those that are falling to the bubble after having played well early on. They are struggling and just hope to hold on. Needless to say, it is almost always more attractive to be backing the former kind of teams than the latter ones. Recent form is such a big factor in college basketball betting at the best of times. Therefore, when you add in the pressure of being on the bubble, that impact is even more intense than usual.
Does the public have an opinion?: There are some teams that the public loves and others that they love to hate. And then there are teams - the largest majority of them - that the public knows little about and cares about even less. They just don't register in the collective public attention. The public will have an inflated opinion of teams that they like and their chances down the stretch. They will be overly negative about teams that are not popular. And they will have opinions about those middle teams that will not be accurate and cannot be trusted. Whenever the public is involved, you need to be very aware of what their opinion is and what impact it has on how lines are set and how they move.
How experienced are they?: Being on the bubble means that pressure has been amplified intensely. It is as if the playoffs start earlier and every game is crucial. Every play matters, and every loss feels massive. Some teams can deal with that much better than others, and the driving force for that ability to cope is experience as much as any other factor. Teams that know what to expect because they have been through pressure situations before - whether it is being on the bubble or playing in past tournaments - are going to have an edge over those who are going through this pressure for the first time. Experience from players is ideal, but an absence of that to some extent can be overcome if the coaching staff has experience going into the postseason and dealing with the issues and distractions that come with it.
How healthy are they?: Sometimes it doesn't matter how a team has been playing and how experienced they are if they aren't healthy, and if they can't put their ideal lineup on the court. The season has been long by this point, and no team is at full strength. When we are dealing with bubble teams, though, we need to spend extra time looking at how healthy teams are and how close to their best roster they can field.
How realistic are their chances?: There is often a big difference between the number of teams that are called bubble teams in the media and the number of teams that actually have a chance of making the tournament. Bettors need to be sure that they are aware of the difference and know where teams fit on that spectrum. If a team has very little chance of actually making the tournament, then they aren't going to be playing with a massive amount of added pressure, and it won't likely have an impact on hem down the stretch. On the other hand, if a team is technically on the bubble, but is far more likely to be in than out, then the pressure isn't going to be quite as intense, either. To oversimplify things, you need to know how much of a bubble team the bubble team really is in order to evaluate the impact of the bubble on them properly.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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