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Handicapping Basketball Conference Championships

At the end of every college basketball regular season each conference crowns a champion. For some teams those regular season titles are extremely important and highly motivating. For others, though, it is not a particularly significant motivating factor. Bettors who are able to tell the difference between teams that will elevate their game in pursuit of a conference title down the stretch and those that will keep playing like they have been playing all along can earn valuable insight into where the value might be in key games down the stretch. Here are nine factors to help  college basketball handicappers determine how motivated a team will be by the potential pursuit of a conference championship:

When have they won titles before? – A team that has recently won conference titles may not be particularly motivated to add another. At least, they may not be as motivated as a team that hasn’t won one for many years. The prospect of ending a long championship drought can be a  huge motivating factor for a team.

How good are their chances of winning? – A  college basketball team will be more motivated in the pursuit of a conference title if it is realistically theirs to grab then they will be if they need a lot of help to win it. If they need to win all their games and hope for the right teams to lose their games as well then it can seem like too much, and could even act as a negative factor for the teams.

How secure is their tournament berth? – In some conferences a regular season title secures a spot in the NCAA Tournament. In others there is no automatic bid, but a title can have a big impact on the viability of an at-large bid. The closer to the bubble a basketball team is, then, the more motivated they may be to add the regular season title to their list of accomplishments. If they are heading to the tournament no matter what then motivation may not be as high.

What aspirations do they have on the season? – If the team came into the season with few expectations then a conference title may be a huge motivating factor for them – a crowning achievement for a surprising season. If the team started the year with serious national aspirations, though – a Final Four berth and beyond – then the regular season title won’t be particularly motivating because it’s incidental to what they really want.

Is seeding significant in conference tournament? – Could winning the regular season title give them a significant advantage in their NCAA conference tournament? In many conferences – especially smaller ones – the likely matchup in the final of the tournament is clear, so seeding doesn’t really matter. If a higher seeding could help the team avoid a tough matchup, though, then that could be motivating.

Have the coach and players identified this as significant? – Some  college basketball teams will openly and very publicly rally around the pursuit of a conference title. Other teams won’t even acknowledge that a title is possible. The more open the team is in their pursuit, the more likely they are to be heavily motivated by that pursuit.

Who are they playing? – As a sports bettor, you can’t get hung up too much on the pursuit of the title if it means that you forget about who they are playing in their final games. The matchup is so important in college basketball – the style of the opponent, the location of the game, and so on – and that is still the case here.

How healthy are they? – By the end of the regular season college teams can be run down and banged up. That can be a big issue for teams if their best players are out of action or are performing at less than full strength. It can also be a problem for teams that don’t have enough depth to give players the rest they need. Sometimes the health of a team will make it challenging for a team to chase a conference title whether they want to or not.

How does the public regard the team? – The more the sports betting public likes a team in general, the more exited they are going to get about their chances of winning a conference title. If two teams are in contention for the title, and one is much  more popular with bettors than the other, then the public could bet even more heavily on the one team than normal, and be more opposed to the other than they may otherwise be. As a  college basketball handicapper use this information.

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