The college basketball season is now into the month of January. In two and a half months, the brackets will be revealed for the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Here is a primer on what to keep in mind when March rolls around:
Free Throws Make A Huge Difference – Recognize That
The reality of fouling at the ends of games in order to try to make a comeback bid means that you can often see eight or 10 free throws in the final minute of a game. That means the makes or misses will both have a lot of impact on who wins and loses against the spread. Over-under totals can also dramatically shift in the final few minutes of a game. You want to be able to identify good free throw shooting teams and terrible foul shooting teams as well. Be aware.
Every Half-Point Matters
This is less about college basketball in particular and more about being able to find a line which is half a point or a full point better than at other sports books or outlets. That half-point means everything late in a game when the final minutes of a game involve a lot of scoring, or when a missed foul shot changes how two teams play the last 30 or 40 seconds of a game. No piece of leverage or margin is too small.
Seeding Is For Brackets, Not Bettors
The betting lines you see on NCAA Tournament games are not profoundly affected by seedings. There are times when a No. 4 seed will be favored over a No. 1 seed, or is at least expected to beat the No. 1 seed. A good example came in 2005 when No. 4 Louisville was expected to beat No. 1 Washington, and did exactly that in a comfortable 93-79 win.
Seedings didn’t mean much in the South Region last year. The South Regional semifinals had a No. 5 seed, a No. 7 seed, a No. 9 seed, and a No. 11 seed. The winners of the two regional semifinals were the No. 9 seed, Kansas State, and the No. 11 seed, Loyola-Chicago. Never before had those two seeds met in the Elite Eight. Loyola-Chicago became the second double-digit seed in three years (2016 Syracuse) to make the Final Four.
It’s Not Just A Matter Of Guard Play In March
The performances of Villanova’s Eric Paschall and Michigan’s Mo Wagner in last season’s NCAA Tournament neatly underscored the point that guard play is not the be-all and end-all in NCAA Tournament play. Guards certainly matter, but don’t overvalue them to the point of neglecting big men or agile power forwards who can stretch the court and give so much more confidence to other players. Teams have to be good at different positions. Bet accordingly.
You Need Some Luck – Take Some Chances
Roughly 70 percent of No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament make the Elite Eight, so if you are intent on winning your bracket pool, it has to be said that your Elite Eight, Final Four, and national championship picks probably won’t differ that much from thousands if not millions of other people. Therefore, you have to nail the upset picks in the first two rounds to get the kind of bracket which will win the pool as opposed to being in the top five percent. Obviously, not every game will be an upset, but some upsets will emerge, and you have to be able to identify that small group of upsets if you want to win a poll outright.