I love the NIT. For basketball betting, that is. As a tournament or a spectator event it’s pretty much a waste of time these days. For people who are willing to get past that and handicap it, though, it’s another great source for profits in March. Here are five great reasons to like the NIT if you are a sports bettor:
Location – Unlike the NCAA Tournament, early round games in the NIT are played on the home court of the higher seeded team. Between conference tournaments and the NCAA Tournament we deal with a lot of neutral court games in March, so it’s nice to have the good old home court advantage to deal with again. That supposed advantage can create opportunities as well. If a college basketball team’s fan base isn’t energized by being in the NIT then they may not show up in large numbers to the game – especially because they can be played at awkward mid-week times. That can mean that the home court advantage can be less than it normally is, and less than the home team is used to. That can have a strong negative impact on teams, and can therefore create a nice opportunity for bettors.
Teams that are pouting – There isn’t a basketball team in a major conference – or a lot of mid-major ones – that sits down at the start of the season to set goals and says that it would be really great if they could make the NIT. It’s not a place that most teams want to be. For the top seeds in the tournament it is especially rough – you are a number one seed in the NIT because you just missed out on making the NCAA Tournament field. Some teams handle that disappointment in stride and get on with playing winning basketball. Others, though, focus on the fact that they were slighted, imagine conspiracies that kept them out of the real bracket, and pout their way into – and out of – the NIT. A good team that has no interest in playing the games they have to play can create great opportunities for a cover by the underdog or even an outright win.
Teams that are happy to be there – While college basketball teams don’t set out to make the NIT before the season starts there are going to be some teams that are honestly and truly happy to be playing more games. If a major conference team came into the season with very low expectations then even making any form of postseason could be seen as a victory. A team that won their conference in the regular season but didn’t win their conference tournament could see the NIT as a reward for their hard work and as a way to celebrate what they have accomplished. For teams that haven’t played in the postseason at all in recent years the chance to play in this tournament – and maybe to earn a trip to New York – can seem like a very big deal. For whatever the reason, a team that is excited about being in the tournament can potentially make some magic happen – especially if they are matched up with an opponent that is less than fully excited to be there.
Teams peaking on the way in – Some NIT teams get hot at just the right time – in February and March. While a hot streak may not have been enough to earn them a spot in the dance, it could get them into this tournament playing significantly better than their overall record would indicate, and that could mean that they present value. The flip side is also true – a team could wind up in the NIT despite looking like they were heading to the NCAA Tournament if they slumped down the stretch when they needed to shine. That could lead to a situation where a team just isn’t as good as their overall record – or the NIT seeding – suggests.
Betting volume lower – I love betting the NCAA Tournament, but the heavy betting volume in that tournament can cause headaches – you have to be very aware of public teams, line movement, public bettors chasing an upset, and so on. Most of the public bettors that make the NCAA Tournament a challenge are only barely away that the NIT even exists. They certainly aren’t likely to be betting on the tournament unless their team is playing in it. NIT volumes are a tiny fraction of NCAA Tournament volume, so there are less tricks to look out for, and a better chance that you can get a fair line that reflects the game and not what the uninformed public will be looking for. There’s also a good chance that the oddsmakers haven’t been as careful setting the lines in the NIT than in the dance, so there is a better chance for smart college basketball handicappers to find a suspect line to take advantage of.