In-play, second half March Madness betting

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Editor’s note: WagerTalk’s James Bunting will bring his insights on college basketball, Major League Baseball and the NFL to Gaming Today. His college basketball column debuts this week.

As we get closer to March Madness and the NCAA Tournament later this month, one thing that I will be focusing on, and I encourage you to as well, is staking your bankroll to allow for in-play and second half wagers.

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Oddsmakers admit that their in-play offerings are vulnerable. They struggle to account for injuries that occur during the game or the foul situation. If two poor-shooting teams start the game by making five of their first six 3-pointers, look for an opportunity to play a live under as their shooting is likely to regress. If one team is in the free throw bonus by the second media timeout, look to bet on that team or a live over knowing that they will be shooting foul shots for the rest of the half.

As conference tournaments get under way this week, take a couple minutes to come up with a bankroll plan on how you can budget your traditional pregame plays, as well as in-game opportunities.

I like to look at totals in conference tournament games that are not played in traditional basketball arenas, specifically in the first half as teams get acclimated with their surroundings. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference will be playing its tournament at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City for the first time. Those players will be facing some unique sightlines and shooting challenges in that historic venue.

The Big West plays its tournament in the Honda Center in Anaheim. Teams from the Big West play in some of the smallest arenas in the country. Cal State Northridge plays in a 1,600-seat gym. They will finish their season in an NHL arena that can fit over 18,000 people.

Here are some plays to consider in the conference tournaments:

Thursday

Evansville vs. Valparaiso: KenPom has this projected at 143 points, and if this game opens in that neighborhood, I will be looking at the under. 

The Missouri Valley Conference has never been a beacon of pace and offense, but that is especially true in the conference tournament at the Enterprise Center. In 2019, the nine conference tournament games averaged 121 points. In 2018, they averaged 127.9 points. When the NCAA Tournament’s opening round was played in St. Louis in 2014, those six games averaged 123.2 points. 

Evansville and Valpo are the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the Missouri Valley Conference in 3-point attempts. Evansville attempted 33 3-pointers in their season finale on Saturday. The problem is, they don’t make many. The Purple Aces shot 29.7-percent from 3-point range in conference play, and now you place them in a wide-open 18,000-seat arena. Valpo is No. 308 in the country in free throw rate, so they don’t contribute many freebies during the course of a game. UNDER

Friday

St. Peter’s vs. Iona: Iona deserves some credit for how they have closed the season. After a disastrous start to MAAC play, the Gaels have won six of their last eight and the first of those two losses came by one point, and the other was in overtime.

But you have to question how much they have left in the tank. Four players played more than 40 minutes in that overtime contest with Niagara, and they only played six guys in the entire game. Three players played all 40 minutes in last week’s win over Rider.

Iona has a midweek game with Quinnipiac on Wednesday, while Saint Peter’s has the whole week off to prepare for this one. KenPom has Saint Peter’s projected as a five-point favorite in this contest, and I would feel comfortable laying that number. ST. PETER’S

Sunday 

Northeastern vs. Towson: These two teams just met each other last Sunday with Towson ruining Northeastern’s Senior Day in Boston. Northeastern was missing its second leading scorer Tyson Walker, who recently suffered a shoulder injury.

These two teams split their regular season series, and this game is expected to be tight. KenPom, Bart Torvik, and Haslametrics all have Northeastern projected to win a one-point game. 

In a game that is expected to be that close, I want some senior leadership. Northeastern starts three seniors and two juniors, and they won the CAA tournament last year. The Huskies know what it takes to win in March. 

Towson had three freshmen play 14+ minutes in that win last week. The Tigers are No. 2 in the conference in 3-point shooting and well below average in 2-point shooting. When the chips are down and things get tight in March, I would rather have the team that is proficient in scoring inside and not relying on threes. NORTHEASTERN

About the Author

James Bunting

James Bunting covers college basketball, baseball and the NFL for Gaming Today. He has worked as a freelance sports writer for several outlets over the last decade, focusing specifically on the sports betting industry in the last five years.

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