One of the interesting aspects of the NCAA Tournament from a betting perspective is how the feel of games can change throughout the day – especially on the first weekend of action. Basketball games on those days start early in the morning and go well into the night. It can feel like an endurance test for those watching the games. There are several distinct ways in which the later games in the day are different than the earlier games. Here are five of those reasons that stand out and can be useful to college basketball handicappers:
Crowd involvement – Two games are played in a row at each location for everything but the championship game. That means that when you buy a ticket to that session you can attend both games. In a lot of cases, though, the fans for the basketball teams in the second game won’t arrive on time for the early game unless it is a high profile game with popular teams. The crowd can be particularly slow to arrive in the morning session because fans have probably been partying and aren’t happy about the early start unless their team is playing. That means that the crowd impact on the first game of the day can be quite minimal – especially early in the game. The second basketball game can have a bigger crowd, and later games will have bigger crowds than early games on average. The size of the crowd can have a particular impact on underdogs. If an underdog is making a run in a game against a high profile program then most of the fans of other schools will typically cheer loudly for the underdog. This can be a huge boost for underdogs looking to pull off an upset, but that impact is obviously much less if the crowd is small.
Time zones – If the time zones don’t work well for a basketball team then the early game can seem like it is particularly early. For example, if a west coast school plays in a tournament site in the eastern time zone and they have to play the first game of the session then, because of the three hour time difference, it could feel like it is very early in the morning. That can throw a team off balance in their preparation, and can have a big impact on their play. The opposite is true if an eastern school travels west and plays late in the day, but it’s typically far less disruptive for a college team to play late than early.
TV viewers – The earliest games in the day – especially on weekdays – don’t get nearly as many television viewers as the evening games do. When more people are watching games then more people are going to feel compelled to make a bet on the game. The serious, informed bettors will be betting no matter what, so the large majority of the extra money placed on later games will be less informed, and likely more emotional than rational. That means that savvy college basketball handicappers need to be particularly aware of how the public is betting on later games, and what impact that is having on line movement and value. On the later games factors that aren’t as significant to the outcome of the game as they seem will have a much bigger impact on lines than they will on most early games.
Chasing losses – The NCAA tournament is often wildly unpredictable. The only thing you can predict for sure is that unexpected things will happen. That means that it is very common for people to experience some big losses through the day as they bet on the games. If those bettors who are losing don’t have good discipline when it comes to money management – and most bettors don’t – then they are likely to be chasing their losses by making bigger bets late in the day to try to get back to even – or to get ahead. That can increase the volume of bets in the later day. A majority of that chase money will end up where public money usually ends up – on the favorite and the over. That means that in the late games these sides can have even more attention than they might otherwise have. That’s another reason to be very aware of how the public is betting and how it can impact value.
Spotting ‘trends’ – The outcome of the first games in the day have absolutely no impact on the outcome of the later games in the day. When sports bettors are watching as much basketball as they do during the NCAA Tournament, though, they are often going to start to see trends that they think have an impact on the coming games. For example, if the early games in the day have been full of big upsets then the betting public will be far more likely to bet strongly on underdogs than they would be if the favorites had been cruising to easy wins all day. There are two things that college basketball bettors take from this. First, they need to be sure to avoid the temptation of falling for these supposed trends – they don’t really exist. Second, they need to be aware of what trends people are likely to be acting on, and consider what impact that will have on the line movement and value in later games that they may bet on.