For most of the 100 college basketball teams that are playing in the NCAA Tournament and the NIT it is a very exciting time. They have worked hard all season, have had some decent results, and have been rewarded for their work with a spot in the postseason and a chance to make a real splash. Inevitably, though, there will be teams that don’t feel good about the hand that has been dealt to them. It could be a NCAA Tournament team that doesn’t think they were seeded high enough, or that they are playing in a pod that is harder that it should be, or in a location that gives an opponent and unfair advantage. It could be a NIT team that really and truly believes that they should have been a tournament team, and that the Selection Committee was clueless and cruel, or perhaps one that felt they should be seeded high enough to be playing preliminary games at home and not on the road. Whatever the reason, there is a significantly large handful of college teams in the two tournaments every year that are going to be upset by where or who they are playing, and are going to feel slighted about what happened. Handicappers need to deal with those teams effectively because they can provide opportunities in a couple of ways – if they aren’t feeling as slighted as the sports betting public thinks they are then betting on them can provide value, and if they are really pouting then betting against them can have happy results. Here are five ways for college basketball handicappers to evaluate how these slighted teams might react:
Is it their issue or a media/public/fan issue? – Sometimes a NCAA hoop team can feel very slighted by a situation, but often times the team isn’t really that bothered at all. It’s just the people who cheer for the team, who cover them, and who bet on them who are outraged on their behalf. Before you really get too worried about how a team might react you need to see how they actually feel. There are a couple of good ways to do that. You can do a Google News search for the team name and various things – NCAA Tournament, seeding, NIT, and so on. If what comes up features a lot of quites form players and coaches then the team is probably affected by the situation. If what comes up is mostly just talking heads spewing their opinions then it’s likely not nearly the issue it is being perceived to be. For a less filtered and guarded insight you can look at the Twitter feeds of any players on a team that you ca dig up. That might be virtual stalking, but if you can get past hat you might get an insight into how emotional players are feeling. Either way (or any other creative way you can think of) you can get a very good sense of where teams are at, and what it might mean for bettors. The key here if your a college basketball bettor, though, is that you need to only base opinions on direct quotes, not what an expert says a team must be thinking or feeling – there’s a good chance that that expert knows no more about the team and their inner working than you do.
How well do they deal with adversity? – Whatever has happened to the team, and however justified they are in feeling like they do, they ultimately just have to get over it and move on. Some college teams are much better equipped to do that than others. By looking back over the past season you can see how well the basketball team has dealt with adversity and how they might do so now. Look at how they have played immediately after a surprising or disappointing loss, how they played in the first game after losing a key player, or how they played after a coach or player faced disciplinary issues.
Has the coach been in a similar situation before? – You can think of this as the Seth Greenberg issue if you want because the Virginia Tech coach always seems to land just on the wrong side of the bubble, and always is very vocal about his outrage. If a college basketball coach has dealt with this kind of frustration in the past then he’ll know how the team is likely to respond, and how he can react to get them back on track. A younger, more inexperienced coach might not be as good at getting the team back to work quickly.
How mature is the team? – A mature college team will deal with their frustration, get over it, and move on. An immature team will let it fester and become an even bigger issue. It’s important to note here that an older team isn’t always more mature than a younger on. This is a hard thing for basketball bettors to assess, but you can generally get a sense of a particularly mature team by how they handle themselves, how they deal with pressure, and how they are talked about.
How much time do they have to deal with their frustration? – Sometimes a college basektball team will get slighted in their selection, and then will only have a day or two before they play again. Other times they will have several days to stew and get worked up. As savvy college basketball handicappers know, depending on the team and the situation either case can be a good or bad thing. A short turnaround ca force a team to get into the game and past the issue, or it can allow the issue to still feel fresh and raw and be a real distraction. The longer break could allow the pain to dull and some perspective to bleed in, or it could really let a bad situation get out of hand.