Though major-college basketball conferences don’t begin their postseason tournaments until next week, leagues involving national powers Gonzaga and San Diego State start this week.
In fact, 10 mid-major or lesser conferences tip off in the next few days:
— Atlantic Sun: Led by potential dark horses Liberty and North Florida, it starts Tuesday with superior seeds hosting.
— Big South: Led by Radford and Winthrop, it starts Tuesday with superior seeds hosting.
— Horizon League: Led by Wright State and Northern Kentucky, it starts Tuesday with superior seeds hosting the first two rounds before finishing in Indianapolis.
— Patriot League: With top-seeded Colgate, it starts Tuesday with superior seeds hosting.
— Mountain West: Featuring potential No. 1 Big Dance seed San Diego State, it starts Wednesday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
— Northeast: Featuring point-spread juggernauts Merrimack and St. Francis, it starts Wednesday with superior seeds hosting.
— Ohio Valley: With always dangerous Belmont and Murray State, it starts Wednesday in Evansville.
— Missouri Valley: Where Dance dark horses are bred, it starts Thursday in St. Louis.
— West Coast: With potential No. 1 Dance seed Gonzaga and upset-minded BYU and Saint Mary’s, it starts Thursday at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
— Southern: Keep an eye on East Tennessee State and Furman when it starts Friday in Asheville, N.C.
Recreational bettors will be tempted to jump into the early days of March Madness without thinking about the dangers. Here are some tips for those planning to bet this week’s postseason action:
— If you don’t follow a conference during the regular season, don’t pretend you’re an expert in its tournament. Casual followers should wait until next week for teams they’re more familiar with. Or start by watching first-round action and reading box scores with an eye toward making smart bets in later rounds.
— Remember that elite teams in lesser leagues are much less likely to get caught napping in their tournaments. Many of these conferences are one-bid leagues in which only the champion advances. Save your dramatic upset calls against top seeds for next week.
— Study minute loads and bench contributions for teams that must play on consecutive days. Short rotations are at a disadvantage in such formats. In later rounds, bet on teams that won’t tire. Bet against fast-paced teams that are likely to wear down from fatigue.
— Be sure to note that the three-point line is deeper than in the past. That’s easy to forget if you’re a late starter because you waited for football to end. Offensive efficiency is down across the sport for many reasons triggered by the change in distance. Backing offenses that can score inside consistently should be a sound approach. Make sure you know which those are.
Betting college basketball in March is a lot more fun if you don’t dig an early hole with half-baked theories about what should work in mid-majors. Trust the fundamentals. Use evidence to build strong opinions. Cull your leans unless you see them succeeding out of the gate. If you’re new to sports betting, develop good habits that will create smart bets all month.