College Basketball Betting: Conference Tournaments
By Loot, NCAA Basketball Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Conference tournaments are a unique time of the season. It's the set-up for the big dance--the NCAA tournament. But it's also a time where teams start ratcheting up their intensity. Different teams have varying agendas, needs, and situations that could throw conference tournament games into a new light. Here's some things to look for when wagering on conference tournaments.
It's an important time of the season, the most important up to that point. You have training camp. Then comes the early-season, which features varying degrees of non-conference play. Then teams buckle down for their conference schedule games. Now here comes the conference tournament and everything kicks up a notch.
One key piece of advice is to look for point-spreads in the conference tourneys that don't really take urgency into account. In other words, there will be times where one team will be exponentially more motivated to do well. For a lot of teams, the conference tourney is just a warm-up for the big dance. Oh, they're looking to win. Conference stuff is big in college and teams are looking to do well. It's not like top teams are going to phone it in against teams that are supposedly more motivated.
At the same time, there are different considerations when gauging motivation. A top team has their NCAA tournament berth locked up already. A middling team might need to win the conference tourney or at least do well to guarantee an invite to the big dance. Now, the struggling team might simply not be good enough to do anything about it. Being motivated doesn't automatically take a mediocre team and allow them to beat great teams, even if the favored team is somewhat wishy-washy about their motivation.
The motivation gap, while not always capable of turning losers into winners could aid us from a point-spread perspective. The bookies understand all the motivation factors that play into various conference game match-ups, but not all bettors do. In some specialized scenarios, you can find exceptionally good value on some underdogs who are playing for their basketball futures, which could lead to some inspired performances and covers for us.
Don't go overboard analyzing location, especially on neutral sites. Conference games cover the gamut. It could be at the home court of a team or a site where neither team seems to hold an advantage. Conference teams that host the entire tourney certainly have an advantage. But come late in a tournament, a visiting team has had time to settle in. The edge for the home team could become more negligible as the tournament grows older.
In a neutral setting, the tendency is to try and gauge which teams will feel more at home--both in terms of proximity to home and fan support. Sometimes, it will be clear. If one team has to travel 40 miles and another team is 1000 miles away, that could be worth something. But unless the difference is particularly stark, it might not even be worth noting.
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Don't just look at the box scores. In a grueling tournament setting, teams could start getting ragged. Teams are playing conference rivals. There are feelings involved, which gives way to some dogged and hotly-contested affairs. By the time a team is moving along in the tournament, injuries could start playing a role. Look to see which teams have guys that are on unsteady pins late in a tournament.
Some teams are simply not willing to leave it all on the floor during this time of the year. If you're a top-20 team, you know you're going to the big dance already. It makes little sense to risk the health of your players for what amounts to a tiny accommodation in future tournament seedings.
Some underdogs just match up better with some teams more than others. If some of the teams they match up well with are squads they will be facing in the conference tournament, look to see if there's some good value on those point-spreads. If some of these other elements are in place along with a good-value point-spread, it could be a good move.
Don't force it and try to find things that aren't there. This is by no means an invitation to just start betting underdogs in conference tournaments. That won't work. That doesn't mean, however, that there aren't spots where we see a lot things pointing in the right direction. If we can win a few more of those than we lose--we're on the right track.