Time to study up for conference tournaments

Championship Week has arrived for major-college basketball conferences. It’s going to be wall-to-wall basketball all week as teams fight to qualify for, or improve their seeding in, the NCAA tournament. 

Here are some general tips for handicapping the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC tournaments:

— First, a brief reminder of keys we’ve talked about recently: Study minute loads and bench contributions because of all the back-to-back dynamics in play. ... Remember that the 3-point line is deeper than in the past and could be even more awkward at unfamiliar sites. … And be aware that teams on the bubble are often untrustworthy, inconsistent squads likely to fold under pressure rather than rise to a need-to-win challenge. 

— Next, note that top seeds are known to underperform in major-conference tournaments because they lack a sense of urgency. They’re aware the most important games of their season begin next week rather than this week. They also have a target on their backs from revenge-minded opponents looking to score upsets. Recreational bettors consistently fall into the trap of backing top seeds at point spreads that look cheap. Better to assume national powers won’t dominate the weekend. 

— Force yourself to read box scores rather than assuming that a final score told the story. It’s easy to just scoreboard-watch other games while rooting for your bets. You need to know which teams advanced because they happened to shoot way over their heads or had a huge edge in free throw attempts because of uneven officiating. And you need to know which teams advanced despite shooting poorly, meaning they’re positioned for a much better result the next time out with normal shooting. 

— Think in advance about possible point spreads for future games so you can pounce on soft openers as soon as they go up. Brackets are easy to find. You should already be thinking about possible later-round matchups. Tweak those expectations as you watch and research. Sharps attack soft openers. Try to think and bet like a sharp.

— If you like betting Over/Unders, be sure you’re paying attention to the impact of pace. Teams that like to run might be too tired to do it in their third game in three days — or fourth game in four days in larger leagues.

— Don’t get frustrated by losses in nail-biters. A lot of bets will come right down to the wire because we have a slew of relatively evenly matched teams playing on neutral courts at lines priced near pick-’em. You’re not going to win them all no matter how smart you are. You’re not going to lose them all no matter how unlucky. Frustrated bettors make bad choices — the worst thing you can do early in what many consider the most important betting month of the year. 

Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a wild week.

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