Are you ready to handicap postseason college basketball? A few mid-major tournaments start this week!
Here’s a quick look at the immediate tournament betting schedule…
- Tuesday: Horizon Conference action begins with quarterfinal play at campus sites. The semifinals and finals will then be played next Monday and Tuesday in Detroit. Wright State and Northern Kentucky are the favorites, with no chance for anything beyond an auto-bid in this league.
- Wednesday: Ohio Valley Conference opens in Evansville, and continues daily through Saturday. Chronologically, the first “auto-bid” to a conference winner will to the OVC. Belmont and Murray State (both 14-2 in league play) have computer rating profiles that could earn at-large consideration for the NCAA’s. Potential spoilers Austin Peay and Jacksonville State (both 13-3) know what they need to do.
- Thursday: Three new events get under way. First, the always exciting Metro-Atlantic tournament tips off in Albany. Unfortunately, it’s a down year in the MAAC in terms of national presence. This week’s auto-bid winner from a wide-open field will likely earn a poor Dance seed.
Later, the Missouri Valley tournament, better known as “Arch Madness,” begins in St. Louis. Loyola-Chicago took this conference all the way to the Final Four a year ago. The Ramblers, Drake, and Southern Illinois are virtual co-favorites in another conference that‘s dropped from past standards.
Finally, the West Coast tourney starts at the Orleans in Las Vegas. Gonzaga is the prohibitive favorite, and will be double digit favorites every time it takes the floor. St. Mary’s and San Francisco are on the “bracketology bubble.”
- Friday: Southern Conference tournament action starts in Asheville, NC. Wofford is the best team in this league, and has probably already locked in a Dance invite. NC Greensboro, East Tennessee State, and Furman are hoping to steal a bid with a tourney sweep.
Some quick handicapping tips for finding smart bets in the mid-majors:
- Look at team depth, because fatigue becomes an issue for contenders forced to play three games in three days or four in four.
- Remember that quality defense looms very large in neutral site games matching relatively even teams. It’s a lot easier to string together defensive intensity through a daily gauntlet than it is to stay hot from the field. Be sure you look up every team’s “adjusted defensive efficiency” ranking at kenpom.com before putting any money down. Be prepared to bet aggressively against soft defenses that are likely to suffer fatigue issues caused by poor depth.
- Respected analysts have always emphasized “guard play” in tournament basketball. Not only is ball distribution important on offense, but turnover avoidance is often a hidden key because every possession is so important. Looking up offensive turnover rates at teamrankings.com should prove fruitful. That particular stat is heavily influenced by guard play.
- Be careful investing in too many favorites because the point spreads seem “cheap.” That’s a trap from neutral court basketball that swallows up too many casual bettors. Only bet favorites that have skill sets known to thrive in playoff style basketball…and who know they HAVE to win to reach the Big Dance.
More on tournament handicapping next week when major conferences grab the spotlight.