Here in the Tuley’s Takes home office, we can’t stop thinking about a year ago at this time. Our biggest concern was how to handicap NCAA tournament games with no fans in the stands, but then we not only lost the Big Dance, we also lost the major-conference tournaments.
We’ve had a lot of success in Championship Week in recent years, so it was disappointing not to be able to continue that. Now, of course, we have this great week of wall-to-wall basketball and will see how it plays out with no or limited fans, but at least we have games and conference futures to handicap.
VSiN colleague Gill Alexander had Jeff Parles on “A Numbers Game” on Monday, and Parles was admitting he originally thought the top seeds would dominate in the conference tourneys as they have all season. But we’ve seen No. 1 seeds such as Navy, Belmont, James Madison, Georgia State and South Dakota State not only fail to cover but get eliminated and miss out on their smaller conferences’ automatic bids. Those were teams that had to continue winning to earn the NCAA berth in their one-bid leagues, so we’re encouraged because most of our success has been in fading teams from bigger conferences that are already assured of at-large bids no matter how they do in the conference tourneys. Sure, the coaches and players say they’re motivated to win the conference title, but we all know their main focus is on staying healthy for the Big Dance. These are great play-against teams because even if they continue to win in the early rounds, they often don’t cover the inflated spreads.