In the NCAA Tournament every win counts, and winning is ultimately all that matters. Sometimes, though, the wins that teams get are particularly ugly. In the first round in particular you’ll often see a highly seeded team play very poorly but still come out on top because of a massive skill and athleticism advantage. They often don’t deserve to win, and if they keep playing like that then they might not continue winning, but they still have another chance to show what they can do. For sports handicappers, teams that win ugly can create a real headache – you have to determine whether the teams can play better and keep winning, or if the bad performance was a sign of bigger problems. Here are seven questions that college basketball handicappers can ask to help determine the ability of a team to bounce back strong:
Who were they playing? – This is a big question. If the college team they played lousy against was a talented team – one that was a low seed because of their conference but was definitely dangerous – then an ugly win could be at least a little bit acceptable. If the team was one that only barely deserved to be in the field, though – like if they were the winner of a weak conference tournament after an underwhelming regular season – then it could be a real concern for bettors if a good team struggled to beat them.
Why did they play so badly? – You can’t always put bad play down to a single prevailing factor, but sometimes you can. Did they shoot well below their normal rate? Did they take far more fouls than they normally do, or turn the ball over much more than normal? Were they less aggressive on the boards than normal? If you can identify the clear reason for a bad performance then you can look at whether it is likely to happen again, or if it was likely just a bad day that the team will build on. Use your conclusions when making your picks.
Was the opponent a problem? Will this one be as well and affect your betting? – Sometimes a team plays poorly because they just weren’t able to adapt to what the opponent offers. Perhaps the opponent is small and fast and the team is bigger and less athletic. Or maybe the opponent plays a unique offensive or defensive scheme that can be confusing if it has never been seen. If a particular player or system was clearly the problem in the first game then you need to determine if the second round opponent will be able to exploit the same weaknesses that were exposed by the first round opponent, or if this is a better matchup for the team in question.
How were they playing coming into the tournament? – It could be that a team that played poorly in the opening round was just continuing their play down the stretch. If the team was slumping and struggling in February or early March then they could have earned a seed that is higher than they deserve based on recent play, and might not have actually been expected to perform any better than they did.
Are they healthy? – March comes at the end of a long, grueling NCAA basketball season, and it exacts a physical toll on all teams. Teams might not have key players who are out of action, but they could still be dealing with walking wounded – players who are playing but aren’t near 100 percent. These injuries could explain the poor performance, and they are very hard for teams to bounce back from.
How experienced are they? – The older and more experienced a college team is the more likely they have been through situations like this before, and the more likely they will be able to focus and not panic. That doesn’t necessarily mean that all starters need to be juniors or seniors, though. It just means that a team needs some experienced leadership who can draw on their past to calm the team and get them back on task. It could even be seniors on the bench as long as those players are well respected and are strong leaders. Here are some questions college basketball handicappers can ask regarding a team’s poor performance.
How resilient were they during the season? – College basketball teams that have had experience bouncing back from hardship during the season are going to be better prepared to bounce back now when the pressure is higher than it has ever been. On the other hand, teams that have not shown the ability during the season to shake off setbacks and come back strong aren’t likely to suddenly learn how to do it now. Consider these ideas and use them in you college basketball handicapping.