College Basketball Betting: What I Would Look For in March Madness

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For a lot of customers at BetAnySports, the idea of wagering on March Madness might be a little intimidating. So perhaps a piece that gives you some “direction” is in order.

I look at the college basketball season the way some college basketball coaches look at it. That’s not to say I’m seeking out the most lucrative shoe deal, but that all season long I’m pointing myself toward the NCAA Tournament.

College Basketball Betting: March Madness Tips

I don’t go that heavy during the regular season, at least until after New Year’s. Then I start to get into it a little bit more. The sharper handicappers like to concentrate on two or three conferences because the best approach is generally to go narrow and deep. In addition to that, though, I also make sure I handicap at least a couple of games for the top 30 or 40 teams in the country, as well as games in the mid-majors and mini-majors that include teams that might be favored to win those conferences. This way, I’m going to have at least a little familiarity with the strengths and weaknesses of those teams when the post-season starts.

 

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I also make notes on those teams from the smaller conferences that may wind up as a #15 or #16 seed, and try to keep tabs on them. There will always be some schools that slip through the cracks, but you do the best you can.

One of the great challenges is finding those teams who can pull upsets in the tournament. Forget about getting a lot of pointspread value with a team that is a heck of a lot better than it is given credit for; the oddsmakers do an excellent job of recognizing who can really play, and that is reflected in the tight numbers, which may be a surprise to the pedestrian observer. For example, while members of the media may refer to a team from, say, the Southern Conference as an “upset possibility” against an ACC team, they’re only a four-point underdog, and rightly so. Within that context, how much of an upset would it actually be?

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“Diamonds in the rough” can no doubt be found. Probably only as part of a process by which you can identify certain team characteristics that might work well in this tournament atmosphere. Here are some of them:

The Big Star

If a guy is a legit superstar, he is going to rise to the top when the games mean the most. There are those times when a true college superstar can carry his team through the whole thing. It always sticks in my mind how Wally Szczerbiak was a one-man wrecking crew for Miami of Ohio during the 1999 season, as the Redhawks got to the Sweet 16 by beating a #2 seeded Utah club. Then again, there was a guy from Vermont who really tanked that same season. Some people were calling him the next Larry Bird, but only for a moment, I can assure you.

Scoring Balance

I like this better because good teams with good coaching can figure out a way to neutralize a star. But a team that has a lot of people who can make big plays is dangerous, not just because it can spread a defense all over the floor, but because other players can pick up the slack when one player goes cold. Look for teams with players at every position who can score when the opportunity arises.

Three-Point Shooting

This is often an equalizer for teams with lesser talent. Being able to shoot threes can keep a David right in the ballgame against a Goliath. And if they get especially hot, you can see the upset. Remember, defenses generally afford an offense the opportunity to kick the ball out and find an open three-pointer from somewhere. Not many teams will get right out on the perimeter and challenge their opponent. The other side of the coin is that a sizable favorite who can shoot from beyond the arc, particularly among its bench players, has a real chance to extend leads.

Inside Scoring

Easy baskets are critical. Big men who really know how to score give teams a genuine chance to go far. That’s why talented centers, who can gain a physical advantage over their opponents, are a factor every year in the tournament. Big men with great inside moves put tremendous pressure on the opposing defense at this level, even if those teams collapse in the middle.

Experienced Guards

These guys don’t necessarily have to be stars, though it doesn’t hurt. The fact is, experience in the backcourt shows at tournament time. That’s because you want people who have encountered all kinds of different situations. Presses, traps, matchup zones, double-teams – you can get a lot of things thrown at you come tournament time, all from good teams, and you don’t have a whole lot of time to prepare for it.

Tempo Control

If you look at tournament history, you find many cases where deliberate teams who slowed the game down, milked the clock and made the opposition work on offense were able to pull upsets or at least come close. Remember what #16 seed Princeton almost did to top-seeded Georgetown squad in 1989 (a 50-49 squeaker)? There are no doubt going to be several teams who fit that description in this year’s tourney. Find them, and address them accordingly.

Coaches

Ah, coaches. I have always held that some of the best coaches in the country are the guys in the mid-majors and what I call the “mini-majors” who have managed to be competitive with the big boys, both in the regular season and during tournament time, despite not having any chance to recruit the same kind of players.

Do you remember when Gregg Marshall, who was then at Winthrop, came within a whisker of beating Wisconsin – which had at one point occupied the #1 ranking – before falling in overtime? Marshall eventually surfaced at Wichita State, where he led his team to the Final Four. And of course, a famous example is Brad Stevens, who took Butler (then in the Horizon League) to TWO championship games in a row and went on to become one of the best coaches in the NBA with the Boston Celtics.

Meanwhile, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, who is deified in coaching circles, has ALL the advantages in recruiting, ALL the advantages of exposure, yet has not done anything on the national level in those years where he didn’t have several genuine star players on his roster. Anything less and his teams downright underachieves. That may sound sacrilegious, but if you look it up it’s true. This should put things in their proper perspective. The point is when it comes to coaches, don’t judge the book by its cover; look at what they are able to accomplish relative to what they have.

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