Understanding a Key Dichotomy
I haven't talked much about this in the past here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping. But, it's an important theme for students to understand as they continue to handicap mid-major tournaments this weekend, and then major events beginning next week.
There are two types of teams that can make you money in tournaments.
*For individual games, you can score easy winners by recognizing the highs and lows of INCONSISTENT teams. This characteristic rarely wins a conference tournament because teams can't win games in their "down" performances. Tough to string together three or four straight victories if you're up one game then down the next. But, these teams ARE great choices to spring upsets when they're positioned to play their best. They'll be getting too many points from good teams, and can earn a high return on the money line if you want to bet on the outright victory.
St. John's is an extreme example from the regular season (playing great vs. Marquette and Villanova in the Big East, but posting some very poor results vs. also-rans). There are others. Inconsistent teams are dangerous floaters in tournaments, and can wreak havoc with brackets even if they only score one high profile win.
*For winning tournaments, you should only back CONSISTENT teams who can maintain quality at a steady pace. Virginia is the most obvious example of this from the regular season. Though, they'll always be famous for choking in last year's Dance in the 1-16 game! But, this type of team can string together wins unless an opponent shoots lights out against them. Gonzaga is on the short list of teams who can maintain steady excellence.
Your handicapping over the next several days is going to present you with several teams who "make a lot of sense" for value bets in one-off situations, but who make no sense at all for futures bets to win a conference tournament or the Dance. You need to fall in love with them at the right time, then know when to fall in love with their opponents!
What are the characteristics of inconsistent teams that can be great bets in certain situations?
*Teams lead by one or two PLAYMAKERS or GAMEBREAKERS who can score at will vs. soft defenses or flat opponents that aren't taking the game seriously...but who struggle when they run into quality defenses that can shut down the stars. I can tell you already there will be some great "upset special" scenarios next week when big name favorites with mediocre defenses will get stunned when the star on an opposing underdog wins a game on his own. (Note: if the winner of the upset special then runs into a great defense the next day, bet against them HARD! The star will be exhausted, and the party will end after one big win.)
Homework: Review your notes on PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS that you've been keeping throughout the season.
*Teams that emphasize three-point shooting. Scrappy underdogs who throw the ball around the arc and drain bombs can have hot games against big favorites. Maryland-Baltimore County over Virginia is a great example. If a dog keeps making treys, the favorite can find itself in a hole it can't dig out of. That said, it's very hard to stay hot from long range several games in a row. You should think about fading any mid-level team in the game immediately after they shoot way over their heads.
Homework: Use a stat site like teamrankings.com to see what percentage of each team's shots come from three-pointers. Be sure you're aware who the "inside" teams and "outside" teams are in every conference you follow.
*Teams who play unique defenses. Maybe it's a full-court press, maybe it's a tricky zone. But, teams who use quirks to win can be inconsistent in tournament play. In fact, you should probably AVOID these teams completely in conference tournaments. Their opponents have seen the quirks and know what to do! It makes more sense to call for upsets with this type of team against opponents who can't deal with it. Full-court press teams are great against bad guards, lousy against good guards. Zone defenses are great against offenses that can't make treys, lousy vs. offenses that can.
Homework: Review your notes on defensive styles. Research additional teams you haven't been following who may come up in Dance handicapping. (Did you know Washington's jump in the Pac 12 this season is a result of benefitting from the "Syracuse zone" on defense?)
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I am very excited about the college basketball challenges that await the rest of the month and into early April. The championship chase is becoming more wide open because of injuries and other developments. The Dean of Sports Handicapping knows you're excited too. Let's go make some money!
Our next class get-together will be Monday. I'll provide additional tips for how to handicap major conference tournaments. All the big guns go next week. Next Friday's report will likely be an on-the-fly reaction to midweek developments in those tournaments. I always try to keep our coursework fresh from the headlines so you understand real-world betting in real time.