Betting on conference tournaments in college basketball is something I always look forward to – it’s like an appetizer for the glorious main course that is the NCAA tournament. It’s also a good time to find some nice value and pad the bankroll for the the big show that’s about to come. A lot of people approach conference tournaments the wrong way, though, and it costs them. Here are six of the biggest mistakes that college basketball handicappers make when betting on conference tournaments:
Ignoring the tournament structure – During the regular season teams play a game every three or four days at most. They get used to that amount of rest and preparation time between games. In conference tournaments, though, teams that make the finals often have to play three or four games in just four or five days. That’s obviously a big difference, and it’s a challenge that some college hoop teams can handle better than others. Teams that are missing players to injuries, or which has a lot of teams that are banged up but still playing, could have some problems. So could teams that lack a lot of depth. Mature experienced teams will be better suited to handle the decreased preparation time and increased intensity of this time of year. A lot of good teams have failed to perform up to expectations in conference tournament play just because they couldn’t handle the challenges the structure threw at them, and some underwhelming teams have pulled off miracles at he right time because they shone under the strains of the week.
Overcompensating for momentum – If a college basketball team gets hot late in the season then the betting public will almost certainly assume that that momentum will carry over into the conference tournament. The truth is, though, that that regularly is not the case at all. Because of the differences between the conference tournaments and the regular season it can be tough for momentum to carry over – if you even believe in momentum as a significant factor. You need to look at what kind of form a team enters their conference tournament in, but relying too heavily on that form is a mistake.
Ignoring motivation – There is not a college team in the country who would rather win their conference tournament than win two or more games at the NCAA tournament. Teams that already have a tournament spot secured are going to be far more interested in most cases in getting to the tournament healthy and ready to play then they are in doing well in the conference tournament. That’s not to say that they still won’t do well – just that they aren’t guaranteed to play at or near their potential. On the flip side, a team that is absolutely desperate to win their conference tournament or at least go deep in order to punch their ticket to the dance could play with more intensity and determination than we are used to from them. In short – in conference tournaments motivation really matters and sports bettors need to measuire that motivation carefully.
Ignoring location – If a NCAA conference tournament takes place in the home court of one of the teams then that team is going to have more of an edge than they would elsewhere – home court advantage is significant in college basketball. Even if the tournament is in a neutral location it could offer some teams an advantage over others – if they have played there before, or if it is close enough to the school that they will have strong crowd support. When teams are otherwise reasonably well matched the location could be a significant factor in deciding an edge.
Backing a banged up team – If a basketball team comes into the conference tournament nursing a lot of bangs and bruises then they aren’t likely to survive the rigors of the tournament. A lot of bettors might glance at the injury report, but they won’t go further to see what players aren’t going to be playing at full capacity. After the whole regular season has been played it’s inevitable that there are going to be a lot of players who are hurting. Ignoring that is sure to be a costly move for college basketball bettors.
Betting on too many games – Being able to recognize when betting on a game doesn’t make sense is a good skill to have at any time. During the conference tournament, though, passing on games that don’t make sense is more important than ever. There are a lot of reasons why a conference tournament can have an unclear outcome. No matter what the reason, if in your college basketball handicapping you don’t see a clear winner at an attractive price then just leave your money in your pocket and wait for the next game.