The final weeks of college basketball season bring interesting betting opportunities. Even more so than in professional sports, emotional swings and fatigue are always a big factor in college hoops. However, some of the emotions are predictable, and you may be able to take advantage of a handful of circumstances.
Let’s take a look.
(1) Don’t underestimate “Senior Day”
We expect pro athletes to play every game equally hard. In college hoops, the night fans come to honor players who have given four years to the program tend to be particularly intense. Underclassmen give everything to send the seniors out with a win, and the crowd buzzes a bit louder. Seniors dig deep to make their final memory positive.
If you like to wager in-game, often times, home teams get off to a slow start after the emotions of a pregame ceremony, and then bare down as they recognize this is their last chance in front of a friendly crowd.
(2) Look for de facto home games in conference tournaments
A lot of conference tournaments take place in neutral locations, while others are hosted by schools in the league. Whatever the case, there will be times that the team listed as the “road” team is actually playing at home … or much closer to home that its opponent.
For instance, if a tourney is hosted by a specific team, and that team is the four seed, they may appear to be the road team against the top seed in the semifinals. But that doesn’t mean the crowd won’t be completely one-sided in favor of their home-town heroes.
(3) Be careful of fatigue in conference tournaments
As conference tournaments get to their final stages, consider whether one team has had a bye or even a double-bye while their opposition has played an extra game or two. It is very difficult to win three or four nights in a row, particularly if your opponent is better rested (or gets to sleep at home).
(4) Know which teams need to win
In leagues that will receive multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament, be aware of which teams need wins. Some teams will need one or more wins (or even a conference title) to reach the tourney, while others will already have a seed locked up. Be wary of hungry teams playing against ostensibly better squads that have a lot less to play for.
(5) Not all head coaches are created equal
Arguably, coaching means more in college hoops than any other sport. Guys like Mike Brey at Notre Dame, Rick Barnes at Texas, and Mark Few at Gonzaga frequently find a way to lose tournament games they should win. On the flip side, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, SMU’s Larry Brown, and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo are very difficult to beat in March. When evaluating smaller leagues, take a look at how coaches have done historically, and if any have a proven pedigree.
(6) Veterans are important come March, especially for smaller schools
When the Big Dance begins, don’t listen to every yapping face on television. Most of them have watched North Dakota and Stephen F. Austin the same number of times you have (zero). The smaller teams that usually perform well in the NCAA Tournament have something in their resume that alerts you that they are going to be competitive. How did they do in non-conference games? How well do they defend and rebound? Have they been in this position before?
No factor is bigger for a March Madness upset than veteran guards. The Power Five conference teams often try to rattle smaller schools with their superior athleticism and depth; that often leads to a press defense of some sort or a ton of man-on-man pressure on the ball handler. The guys that handle the ball for most of the game – the guards – must be good decision-makers and must remain poised. Veteran mid-major guards (i.e. 100 games or more) tend to be less phased by the extreme pressure.
Good luck as college basketball comes down the home stretch. With a little research, that 12-seed’s run to the Sweet 16 will have you climbing the ranks of your office pool instead of tearing up your bracket.
(Photo credit: Adam Glantzman (flickr user Adam Glanzman) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)