Many factors to breakdown for conference tournament basketball
March 07, 2017 3:08 AM
by Ian Cameron
College Basketball conference tournaments heat up this week with the power conferences getting underway. It’s the perfect time to look at some of the key handicapping factors that can assist in bettors profiting during the postseason.
While everyone is obviously motivated during the postseason, there are situations where teams may be looking toward bigger and better things. Earning one of the four No. 1 seeds is something most teams seek but it isn’t always worth the emotional and physical drain of winning three games in three days.
Then there are those teams who aren’t in the hunt for a top seed but are also comfortable in the Big Dance. Their performance in the conference tournament has the ability to impact their seed but this profile is very vulnerable to upsets against lesser teams desperate for wins.
Depth and injuries are other key factors when handicapping March. Teams that make a run in the conference tournaments can play as many as four games in four days. There are going to be a handful of first round upsets in these conference tournaments and the first thing I’m looking at with the winner is how many minutes the starters and bench played.
Teams with short benches, especially those that rely on jump shooting, can be prime for a letdown in their second game. Teams that rely more on pounding the glass and getting easy buckets are generally more consistent.
Syracuse is a good example. The Orange have one of the shortest benches in the nation and rely heavily on the three-point shot. If they get past Miami in the first round of the ACC Tournament, they’ll likely have a difficult time handling a rested-and-ready North Carolina squad. On the flip side, middle-tier teams like Michigan State, Iowa, and Marquette can go nine or 10 deep and are better equipped to compete on short rest.
Another factor for me is regular season meetings. I like to go through the box scores of each game to get a better indication of who had edges in key categories such as rebounding and turnovers. You’ll see plenty of matchups where Team A beat Team B in both regular season meetings.
The concept that it’s tough to beat a team three times in a season is very archaic thinking and not even worth considering with your handicap. Far more important are the actual in-game matchups. Team A won both meetings because they dominated glass or got far more high percentage looks.
That said, you can find holes in results. For example, Team A won both meetings but shot an outlier 55% from three in one win and had a +15 free throw advantage at home in the other. A neutral floor has the ability to neutralize those types of performances.
Lastly, while I don’t pay much attention to season-long ATS results, the postseason is one time of year where isolating teams that showed the ability to win and cover on the road during the regular season can go a long way. And in a lot of instances, teams that get the job done on the road are often led by upperclassmen.
A quick example would be Iowa State, who is one of the most experienced power conference teams in the country. The Cyclones went a very respectable 5-4 SU and 6-3 on the highway in the ultra-tough Big 12. Kentucky, as we know, is one of the least experienced squads and managed only a 3-6 ATS mark in the highway in a watered down SEC.
Lots of things to consider but narrowing down your handicap by using the aforementioned angles should put you in position to have a profitable March. Good luck!