College basketball mostly comes to an end in March, but not before a whole lot of games are played. There is the NCAA Tournament – which every sports fan in the country pays attention to. Then there is the NIT, which used to be great and is now largely ignored by all but hardcore fans of the sports, fans of the teams in the tournament, and serious bettors. Then there are the two new tournaments that most casual fans don’t even know exist. Those would be the College Basketball Invitational, or CBI, and the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, or CIT. The CBI started in 2008 and features16 teams that are not in the fields of the two bigger tournaments. They are mostly but not necessarily drawn from mid-major conferences. The CIT is one year newer. It features exclusively mid-major teams, and was expanded from 16 to 24 teams in 2011.
These two tournaments operate way under the radar, and they don’t generally make for thrilling watching unless you are a massive basketball fan. There are some compelling reasons to bet on them, though – namely that you can make some nice profit. If you can’t get enough betting action with the bigger name tournaments and you are drawn to these two then here are five things to consider as a college basketball handicapper looking to cash in:
Betting volume is very low – These college tournaments often feature obscure teams, and they certainly don’t feature anything close to a sexy matchup. The only people betting on these games are serious bettors and perhaps fans of the teams. Betting volume will be a tiny fraction of what will be played on an NCAA Tournament game. In the NCAA Tournament the heavy betting volume means that the oddsmakers have worked hard to set their lines, and that you have to be very aware of public biases, line movement, smart money action, and so on. That means that handicapping the games is only the start, and that you can’t make a sound decision without considering the line factors. The dramatically lower betting volume means a couple of things. First, oddsmakers aren’t going to work nearly as hard to set strong lines here as they will in more popular games, so there is a chance of finding inaccurate lines if you do your homework. Second, the lack of public action to any significant extent means that you don’t need to worry about public teams, or strange line movement based on hype or media attention. That means that there are fewer factors to consider when handicapping these basketball games. In a lot of cases fewer factors is a good thing.
Quirky formats – Both of the college tournaments have some unique aspects to their formats. That can potentially create some opportunities, but only if you are aware of the formats and what they might mean. For example, in the CIT all 24 teams play a first round game, and then the four best teams remaining according to the tournament organizers are give a second round bye and the remaining eight teams are re-seeded. The more significant quirk comes in the CBI. Not only are teams re-seeded after the second round, but the final is a best of three series. A best of three is totally unique in college basketball, and is therefore both challenging and intriguing for the avid basketball bettor.
Location of games – Far less quirky but still significant is where the games are played – on the home court of the higher seeded team in both tournaments. Home court advantage is very significant in college basketball, so a chance to keep betting on home teams is attractive – especially with the NCAA Tournament and later rounds in the NIT played on neutral sites.
Matchups are significant – This is obviously the case in every college game, but it is especially important in a tournament like this. These teams come from all over the country, and from conferences that are very different in terms of competitiveness and talent level. Some teams and conferences will be much better known than others. That doesn’t mean that those better known college teams will always be the better teams, though. You need to spend your time looking at who the teams are, who they are playing, how healthy they are, what style they play, what style the opponent plays, how those styles meet, and so on. You can often find lines that don’t make a lot of sense just by evaluating the matchups. Lines that don’t make sense are money in the bank for bettors in the long term.
Will the team care? – There isn’t a college basketball team in the country that starts the season hoping to make the NIT, so there certainly aren’t teams that dream of making the CBI or CIT. That doesn’t mean that all of the teams will be disappointed to be here, though. For some teams even being invited to a tournament like this is a serious accomplishment – something for the teams to enjoy and be motivated by. Other basketball teams will be pouting terribly about winding up in these tournaments – not only didn’t they make the big dance, but they didn’t even get a spot in the NIT. That puts them behind at least 100 teams – not a very flattering place to be if the team started the season dreaming of much bigger things. In the CBI and CIT, then, you can find situations where the lesser team is dramatically more motivated, and that could be enough to get them a win, or at least a cover.