Editor's Note: This Part 2 of 2 of Sleepy J's NCAA Betting Strategy Series - "A Six Pack of CBB Tips" - which is now live on the Betting Predators website. Be on the lookout for our official March Madness 2021 content hub launching soon, as we'll be releasing articles from now through Selection Sunday and opening weekend of the tournament, as well as the rest of the Big Dance. Subscribers will receive an email alert as soon as each new article drops. If you're not subscribed and wish to do so, simply scroll to the bottom of this article, enter your email address in the box provided, and click "subscribe." Happy handicapping!
March Madness is finally here! First off, let us all be thankful that we have college basketball this year after COVID-19 derailed the Big Dance in 2020. We all know that this a great time of the year for us sports bettors looking to make money, and in this article here we will focus on breaking down the key, simple CBB betting factors that we want to consider - and look out for - before we make our tournament wagers following Selection Sunday. Questions? Hit me up on Twitter any time @SleepyJ_Pregame:
#1 - "Records Are Overrated": One thing that hurts bettors in the Big Dance is simply looking at a team’s record. Someone will look at a record and think, "this team is good," although some teams in fact come out of conferences that they simply dominate, in addition to having a very weak non-conference schedule. The one thing you want to look at is the strength of schedule, as well as how they played down the stretch.
#2 - "Teams That Do One Thing Great": Let’s say you have a team that depends on making their three-point shots. You can almost handicap a game with just one stat and feel good that a team isn’t going to change its colors for an upcoming game. That’s what got this team in that game/the Big Dance to begin with, and we want to find these teams, the ones that do one thing great and hope that the team they are facing can’t stop it. Generally, a rule of thumb for myself is if I can get a team in the top 20 ranking in an individual area vs. a team in the 330th area in rankings, that’s something we might want to go with. Here is a great example: Team A shoots nothing but three-point shots and they are the #4 team in the nation at attempts and #7 in 3PT FG%. That’s amazing, and we can now hope for the opposing team to be in the 330’s to 340’s in 3PT defense. That lets us know that what team A wants to do will most likely occur, and that they might even exceed expectations in the process. You can do this for so many stats, so just be smart with how you match up the numbers and look for wide gaps in these stat ranking. You can almost paint a picture for these types of statistical discrepancies, and it gives us a great betting angle to attack.
#3 - "Betting Unders": Betting totals can be tough during the NCAA regular season, but for the Big Dance we want to take a closer look at playing under the total early on. Teams are not comfortable in playing in a new venue and they also play tighter in bigger games. Tempo is key here as well, so be sure to look at a team’s tempo or possessions per game. That will give you an idea if it’ll be a slow-paced type of game.
#4 - "Injuries & Depth Matter": Be careful of injury-plagued teams come tournament time regardless of seeding and matchups. Also be wary of teams with little-to-no depth and picking them to advance too far in your bracket contests. When we look at these injury-plagued and/or low depth teams going into favorable matchups, perhaps in the second round of opening weekend, we can find a great spot to fade them coming off their conference tournaments in addition to a first four and/or opening round game or two. Check the injury reports, and if a team is missing at least one or more key starters or role players, then we cannot trust KenPom ratings to properly adjust for these projected lines (we'll cover these injury-riddled teams more in our NCAA 2021 Tournament content hub as we approach tipoff of the First Four games this week) The fatigue factor plays a big role here too, as fouls come into play in these games and we want to look at backing teams with a bench that can produce stats. Teams who utilize the bench often make it further, and Sometimes relying on a team who plays only six key guys gets risky because games are packed in tight to start the tournament. Overtime is also always possible here, and we tend to see teams run out of gas, especially if said thin team made a long run in its conference tournament.
#5- Team Adjustments: This one is big for me. We can see a team entering the NCAA Tournament having somewhat of a subpar record as we mentioned above, and that record alone can throw a bettor off a good bet or a good bracket pick. But how has a team played coming down the stretch? Well, if you notice a team has won say four or five games in a row coming into its conference tournament or won its conference tournament outright (or made the finals), be sure to look for any type of adjustments these teams made late in the season. Often times teams can find a different groove with revamped lineups. Teams that may have gone big man heavy for 75% of the season who have not had success might just be in line to surprise bettors with their new three-guard approach. Also look for matchups within the current teams set to face off. How did Team A stack up vs. three-guard teams and visa versa? Adjustments and matchups are key, much more than any type of against the spread records will show us. Make your picks accordingly.
#6 - Maturity Matters: Let's say a young team starts out the year with a tough schedule. Well, both the schedule and the team being young is going to hurt them early on in the year. It might even carry over for the first half of conference play and more. But make sure to not forget that young teams mature as the year moves on. Coaches do a better job of dialing in their young players as time passes. Schedules also get easier, and that's where late-season trends can be useful here in our bets and our brackets. Something that's often hard to spot is a young team with a bad record who has stepped up and won a few games in a row down the stretch. This team just might have what it now takes to make a run. Perhaps a 13-seed had a ton of younger players and struggled early - maybe their record doesn't look so hot on paper. Or let’s say an eight or nine loss team had a bunch of younger players. That team is more than likely to mature throughout the year, so again, see if that team went on a nice run to close the regular season (i.e. maybe they only lost one or two games over the last 12 or 13) That’s a team we want to back, especially if they are getting a middle-rank seed and facing a mid-to-average size type of school. Maturity matters.