Handicapping NCAA Tournament Teams
Over half of teams in the NCAA Tournament field, and a large majority of the major conference teams, come into the tournament after having lost their last game. Some of those teams not only lost their last game, but they were humiliated – totally schooled. Those teams that come into the tournament off of bad losses are hard to handicap. Were they just victims of circumstance, or was it a sign of their true selves? Here are seven questions you can ask to help evaluate the meaning of that last loss.
Was it a game they were likely fired up to win? – Coaches and teams would never admit it, but there are some conference tournament games that they just don't care about winning. Not really. For some teams the conference tournaments don't hold a lot of meaning – they have their seeding reasonably secure and they have their eye on a bigger prize. Those teams will still try to win their conference tournament if things go their way, but if the going gets tough and they need to find a whole other level they may not be as motivated to make the sacrifices winning demands as they could be.
Who did they lose to? – There is no shame in losing to a very good team in your conference tournament – you can't win them all. If the loss came against a bad team which was ranked near the bottom of the conference, though, then it could be a sign of some bigger problems. If a team is serious about success at the NCAA Tournament then they should be able to win a conference tournament game against a weak opponent even at far less than full effort. If they don't then maybe they aren't as good as we think they are – or as they think they are.
How did they lose? – Sometimes a team loses a game for reasons that are reasonably beyond their control – the opponent can't miss a shot, or the referees are particularly one-sided, for example. If that's the case then the loss can be explained away reasonably easily and might not be a real concern. If it appears, though, that the team played at full strength and just wasn't good enough, though, then it could be a problem.
How did they match up against the team that beat them during the season? – Since he loss was in the conference tournament they have played the team at least one and probably twice before during the season. If the games had been close throughout the season then the loss in the tournament likely isn't a big concern. If the team had dominated the opponent during the season and then lost badly in the tournament, though, then you really need to figure out what is going on and what it means going forward.
Were they at full strength? – If the team that played in the conference tournament isn't the one they will field in the NCAA Tournament then nothing that happened in the conference tournament really matters. If players were injured or suspended, or if they were being rested or played well less than a full game then it's very hard to learn much from the effort.
How does the coach do in conference tournaments? – Some coaches and some programs just don't care about the conference tournaments. Perhaps those coaches just don't care about a conference tournament title if they don't need the win to earn a spot in the bracket, so they don't exert full effort. If they haven't played near their best in the conference tournament in the past but have done fine in the NCAA Tournament then a poor conference tournament showing now is nothing to be concerned about.
What's their first round matchup? – The NCAA Tournament is all about matchups. A team can be very good but still lose in the first round – like half the teams do – if they aren't lucky enough to get an opponent they can be in a setting that works well for them. A bad loss in the conference tournament could be a real concern f they lost because their opponent was too athletic and then they draw a first round opponent who has a huge edge in athleticism. That bad loss might not matter at all, though, if they lost in the conference tournament because the opponent was too big and long for them, but their first round opponent is undersized.
More sports handicapping articles :