How To Handicap Day 2 of NCAAs

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

Should bettors pay attention to “conference indicators” when handicapping Friday action in the NCAA tournament?

The great thing about this second full day is that analysts now have 20 Dance contests in the rearview mirror, plus the full first round of the NIT. That’s plenty of time to spot major and mid-major conferences that may have been overrated or underrated by betting markets.

On the other hand, the bad thing about this dynamic is that there’s time to create false narratives that just trick you into bad bets.

A league champion might be fantastic because it has the skill sets to thrive in tournament basketball. The fact that mediocrities further down the ladder in their conference were overrated may not mean anything. You probably shouldn’t hold it against Tennessee that Alabama was stunned by Norfolk State in the NIT.

It’s important for bettors to realize that there’s at least a chance that certain conferences have been misread by the markets. Inter-conference connectivity virtually stopped at the end of December. And, many teams were playing cupcake schedules back then anyway.

Here are some research suggestions…

  • Keep a log of straight up and ATS records for every conference that placed at least three teams in the NCAA Tournament. It doesn’t do you much good to know that a one-and-done conference turned out to have been overrated. You want to spot potential value that has a chance of continuing through the weekend. You may find a conference that keeps cashing tickets through the Sweet 16 and Elite 8.
  • Make a separate log of differentials between the final score and closing point spread. This will help you spot important distinctions. Maybe a league starts 1-3 against the spread…but all the games were within a bucket of the number. That’s not a meaningful 75% trend…just a little random fluctuation. If several teams missed the mark by a lot, or coasted to covers…then you might have something.
  • Don’t base any bets strictly on what you find with your conference research. Edges can be nice garnishes to cocktails you were already planning to drink. If a team makes sense based on frontline talent and matchup analysis, AND colleagues from that conference have been topping market expectations, consider bumping up your bet size. Or, if you were going to fade a perceived pretender who’s soft on defense, AND other teams from that league have missed the spread this week by an average of five points…fade even more aggressively.

Just like in college football bowl games, it is possible to squeeze out some extra profit in the college basketball postseason by recognizing market inefficiencies at the conference level. The window of opportunity doesn’t stay open for long. Work you do today may help you see more clearly this evening, and throughout the “round of 32” Saturday and Sunday.

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