March Madness. Arguably the biggest, best, most fun to watch sporting event of the year. With the expansion to 68 college basketball teams, we will get to see even more games. And with the TV expansion we will literally get to watch all games. The NCAA added TBS, TNT, and truTV to CBS for at least the next 14 years. March Madness is also one the most wagered on events in the world. The excitement, the sheer amount of games, and the high likelihood of upsets makes the NCAA Tournament one of the most interesting and lucrative events in the betting world. Here are some words of advice for college basketball handicappers on how to do well when the Big Dance comes around, and what to look for in favorites and underdogs when you do your March Madness betting.
Public perception influences the lines
With an exceptionally high volume of wagers from casual bettors, the lines at the NCAA tour-nament are often influenced by public perception. The public likes to bet favorites, which forces the oddsmakers to shade their lines. The books will add ½ to 2 points against the team they know will attract the most action. Know who the public favorites are and you can take advantage of it if you’re a smart college basketball handicapper..
Defense is key
While the offense will get all the highlights on SportsCenter, more often than not a team’s defense will decide their success in the Tourney and your success at the betting window. Pay attention to who the nation’s most prolific defensive teams are. They will most likely go deep in the Big Dance. Look for teams with quality athletes that can adjust to the different styles of defense they have to play day in and day out. Check the season statistics for defensive field goal percentage, average points per game allowed, and turnovers forced. When looking at the stats don’t go by the numbers alone. Make sure you take into account the strength of competition your team has played.
Going hand-in-hand with a college team’s defensive effort is its rebounding. Basketball teams that can grab the ball off the boards and minimize their opponents’ second chances will go far in the tournament. On the other side of the floor, those teams will create second-chance opportunities and go to the free throw line more often than teams that struggle on the boards. Look at the rebounding margin throughout the season and put your money on strong rebounding teams.
Balance beats star power
Teams that are balanced on offense will have a better chance of advancing than teams that put all of their eggs in one basket. College hoop teams that are limited to one scoring option will most likely face problems. Defenses can adjust to their predictable gameplan and shut down their one scorer. Teams that spread the ball around and try to get everybody involved are much harder to defend. They can win even if their superstar has an off night or gets in foul trouble early.
Don’t fall for team free throw percentage
While it is important for teams to make their shots from the charity stripe, don’t overvalue the team free throw shooting percentage. Instead, look at how the star players fare from the free throw line late in the game. Most college teams will go to their best players late to decide the game, and that’s when bets are won and lost. It is hard to track a certain player’s free throw percentage in crunch time, but the research will be worth the time. Watch as many games of the big schools as possible. If you can’t watch a game, look at the play-by-play to determine which teams have go-to players that can shoot free throws. Teams with bad free throw percentages have gone to the Final Four and won the championship, but a low-percentage go-to-guy can cost a team the win and lose your bet.
Look for three-point defense
While NCAA basketball teams have ups and downs in their shooting performance from beyond the arc, their defense against the three can help you gauge their chances of making a deep March Madness run. Statistics on three-point-defense are a far more accurate measuring stick than three-point-shooting. Teams that know how to defend the outside shot, can usually do it game in and game out. When doing your college basketball handicapping be sure to look for teams that do well in this category, as a good three-point-defense takes away an important part of the opponent’s offense.