Handicapping the NCAA Tournament is, in a lot of ways, at least theoretically the ultimate dream for bettors. You know teams will be playing at full intensity, and the neutral site eliminates at least some of the home court issues, so it’s a more pure form of handicapping than a lot of games – you just have to pick the best team. In reality, of course, it’s not that simple, but it’s still one of the most exciting things for bettors to handicap each year. When people handicap the NCAA Tournament there are a lot of factors that get a lot of attention – seed, conference, schedule, player skill, and so on. On the other hand, there are some factors that probably don’t get as much attention form the average bettor as they should. Here are five commonly overlooked factors in NCAA Tournament handicapping that you should use as a college basketball handicapper:
Consistency – There are a lot of good college teams out there – teams capable of playing at a high enough level to win a game against any other team in the tournament. That doesn’t matter, though. In order to win the National Championship you need to be able to do much more than just that – you have to play to the top of your ability for six games in a row. You can’t afford to have an off game or you aren’t going to get a chance to redeem yourself next time – there won’t be a next time. There are a lot of basketball teams that can show flashes of brilliance in one game, but you just can’t be sure what effort they will play with next time around. Teams like that find it very hard to win it all. Consistency is crucial.
Drop off to the bench – Teams have to play a tough schedule against increasingly tough opponents. They are doing it at the end of a long, brutal season so they are inevitably banged up. Those realities all mean that depth is crucial for teams. A team can not win with just four or five good players. They need to have players who can come off the bench and not just eat minutes but actually provide real contributions to their team. If a basketball team doesn’t have a bench that measures up reasonably well compared to the starters then they are going to be afraid to use that bench, and tat will limit them as the season progresses. The stronger a bench is, the easier a colle team is to trust in the NCAA Tournament.
Fouls – It’s amazing how many games in the tournament are ultimately decided at the foul line. Fouls, then, are a crucial factor in handicapping. There are a couple of angles to consider here. First, teams need to be disciplined enough to stay out of foul trouble as much as possible. Emotions will never be higher for teams than they are during the tournament. Teams that get too emotional and lose focus and discipline during regular season games have a good chance of really losing it in the tournament, and that means they would essentially be throwing the game away. The other factor is obviously foul shooting. College basketball teams need to be able to trust their foul shooting throughout the game, and especially when the pressure rises late in the game. If one team has a dramatic edge over the other in foul shooting then that can overcome a lot of other deficiencies. A weakness in foul shooting, on the other hand, is something that teams can definitely exploit and sports bettors need to be aware of.
Shooting – There is one unavoidable truth in basketball – the team that score the most points is going to win. One of the best ways to get a quick sense of whether a team is outclassed in that pursuit s just by looking at the effective field goal percentage. If one team converts a significantly larger portion of their opportunities than the other team – has a significantly higher eFG, in other words – then there is a good chance that given that they will have about the same number of opportunities in the game that team will come out on top.
Tempo – It’s very common for two college basketball teams in the tournament to play wildly different styles of games. If that’s the case then it is virtually impossible for both teams to play their style when they are playing each other. Handicappers need to understand the tempos that both teams prefer to play with, and their ability to assert that tempo in a game and dominate the tone of a game. A team that won’t be able to play their own style of game will often struggle to win. As a smart college basketball handicapper, you need to utilize such observations.