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To cover or not to cover: Luck plays role in NCAAs

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

If this is your first March Madness betting experience, you’ve probably noticed that luck plays an important role in determining which team covers any given game.

While it’s true that sports betting is “beatable,” compared to casino options like roulette, craps, and slot machines that favor the house…that doesn’t mean bettors are immune from luck!

Here are few “randomizers” in college basketball… 

  • Three-point Shooting: offenses can blow hot and cold with little warning. Even the best long-range teams will have off nights. Even the worst will have hot runs. You’ll see NCAA tournament stretches where it seems like every cover goes to the team that just happened to shoot better on bombs. 
  • Crunch Time Shooting: Because team skill sets and tendencies are so well known, many games are close to the point spread in the final minutes. Who’s going to get good looks and make them? Who’s going to see close shots spin out? No way to know in advance. In Dance contests within a bucket of pick-em, it’s often blind luck that determines who wins and advances.
  • Officiating: some refs have a quick whistle, others let players play, particularly when the game is on the line. If you’ve backed an underdog with a short rotation in front of an official that wants to be on camera all day, bad news!
  • Player health: it’s a physical game, and star players can go down without any notice. When making long-range bets on futures or season-win totals in pro sports, you can account for “injury prone” veterans. In a one-game college basketball sprint, you just have to hope for the best. 

This is why you should never bet outside your means during the NCAA Tournament. No matter how logical a pick might seem…how dominant a favorite might look in your matchup analysis…how hot you’ve been with your prior picks…any of these randomizers can come along to ruin your day. 

Blackjack pros don’t always get their face card after doubling down on an 11 in a loaded deck. The dealer doesn’t always bust when hitting a vulnerable hand. Even when “advantage” bettors are in a position of strength, they must respect the potential of bad luck. Over time, they’ll also catch some good luck that will turn probable losers into winners. 

It’s a good habit for new bettors to evaluate their picks after-the-fact to determine how much of the result was determined by luck. Were winners really a sign of smart handicapping? Or, did you just catch a few breaks? Were losers really the fault of the refs, the coaches, or shooters “choking?” Maybe you were just wrong!

How did your Saturday go in the “round of 32?” You likely know what your won-lost record was. What “should” it have been? Try to be an accurate judge. Give yourself credit where it’s deserved. Be honest if you’re betting too many games and need to cut back…or if you over-bet your bankroll in terms of dollar amounts.

Before the Sweet 16 gets underway Thursday, a full “diagnostic” for the tournament-to-date is probably in order. Have you truly been betting smart?

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