The Final Four is almost like an entirely new tournament within the NCAA Tournament. The college basketball teams that get there are immensely talented, and they have had the ideal combination of skill, form, and luck to overcome their obstacles and win four high pressure games. For college basketball handicappers, some of the things that are important to consider in the earlier rounds, and some of the angles that worked well early on, aren’t going to work nearly as well when the stakes are the highest. Here are four ways for college hoop bettor to consider in which the Final Four differs from earlier rounds. The more successful bettors will consider these differences and compensate for them.
The basketball teams in the Final Four played their last games either Saturday or Sunday, and they won’t play again until Saturday afternoon. That’s a longer break then they will have had for a couple of months. When you add in the fact that the college team is going to be more nervous, excited, and on edge than normal, and that public scrutiny and attention will be amplified by a factor of ten, you have a potentially volatile situation. Some teams are able to handle the break well. they set p their routines and stick to them, they avoid issues, and the layoff isn’t an issue for them. That’s not the case for all teams, though. Sometimes the distractions are just too much to overcome, the internal leadership isn’t strong enough, and the team isn’t at their best when the Final Four rolls around. For bettors the challenge is that you can’t know for sure how a team will respond to this break until you see it happen. When betting you can make an educated guess, though, based on their general composure, discipline, and how they have handled pressure in the past. It’s far from uncommon to see a game in which one team’s winning edge comes from their ability to deal with the time off.
Crowd and setting
The Final Four has become a major, major event. It’s played in big football stadiums, and those stadiums are jam packed, with tickets going for huge prices. Even the most rabid home fans in the country can’t come close to replicating that experience. From a betting perspective there are a couple of factors to consider here. First is the impact of the crowd. It will be loud. If it is going to be tilted heavily towards one team over the other then that can have a big impact on both teams, and how the officials are going to call the game. It’s important to try to get a sense of how the crowd will be made up. Is one school located much closer to the game than the other? Does one fanbase travel better than the other? Is one program a much more national program than the other. Does a natural rivalry make it likely that the local fans will cheer against one team? The other factor to consider is the actual impact of the building itself. A bigger building has different airflow than a smaller one. The sightlines are going to be different when players are shooting as well. The team that is better able to adapt and adjust their game to the setting will be more comfortable early on, and that could be the difference in the game. Has one basketball team played in a similar setting before? Is one team more experienced?
My favorite part of watching the Elite Eight games is to see how the winning basketball team responds to their victory. Some teams act like they have never done anything better. They cut down the nets like it’s the greatest thing they have ever done, and they party like crazy. For other teams the win is exciting and important, but it is clearly just a step along the way, and the real business hasn’t started yet. There is a strong correlation between those attitudes and Final Four performance. For some teams just making the Final Four is an impressive, almost incomprehensible feat. They feel like they have won a championship, but then they have to go out and try to win another one. It can be too much of a mental hurdle to overcome. If a team has been focused purely on winning it all from the start, though, then the Final Four really signifies nothing – no more than winning in the second round means you get to play again the next weekend. The more you can determine what kind of motivation and mindset the team has going into the Final Four, the better off you’ll be when trying to make winning basketball bets.
Through much of the NCAA Tournament you can do fairly well just handicapping the coaches – how well they are likely to have their teams prepared, and how they stack up in terms of in-game adjustments. By the time you get to the Final Four, though, those kinds of conclusions are dangerous to rely on. A coach that gets to the FInal Four is obviously a talented one. More significantly, he clearly has full control of his team, and has them fully bought into his vision and system. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be a coaching disparity, or that one coach can’t significantly outcoach another in the Final Four. Basketball bettors just need to be careful that they don’t overstate the advantage one coach has, or that they fail to give a coach enough credit.