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Tourney Tips

   by Al McMordie - 03/06/2008

Many times during the season, and even in some conference tournament games, you can find teams that are less likely interested in wanting to play hard. That is, they know they’re going to get hammered, or they’ve slumped so badly down the stretch that they realize they have no shot at going anywhere in tourney play. In short, they’ve given up on the season or on a particular game where they are a big underdog and know their season is over.

This is a bit less likely in March, however, with tournament play rolling this week and many teams battling the bubble. This is a good time to examine some late season college basketball tourney tips.

Road Play: Some teams have a noticeable weakness on the road, such as poor road defense, or they consistently fail to cover when away from home. Toledo has been the poster child of that this season, at 8-3 at home with a winning (7-4) spread mark, but 1-15 SU, 5-11 ATS on the road! Why? Poor ball-handling ability and a defense that allows 48.6% shooting on the road and an offense that is inept at 55 ppg away from home. Some college tournament games are neutral courts, but it can be helpful to check both teams’ road play when analyzing individual matchups to get a sense of how they play away from home.

Non-conference competition: Some helpful sports wagering web sites have this broken down in easy-to-read columns. North Carolina, for instance, is 15-0 SU, 11-1 ATS against non-conference foes this season. This shows that they do well outside their conference. On the other hand, you must take this a step further, too: Examine next who those non-conference games were against. If they were against all small-school teams with poor records, then it’s not as helpful as if they played against top-notch non-conference opponents. The Tar Heels, for instance, won and covered against BYU, Ohio State and at Kentucky, and whipped two by double digits. They are also 23-2 SU, 18-7 ATS as chalk, so they don’t go easy on teams they are supposed to beat. Florida State, on the other hand, is 3-7 ATS as chalk.

Location: Sometimes teams luck out by getting placed in a tourney game that is very close to home. The Sun Belt conference opens play this week with the team having the better record hosting the game. The Missouri Valley opens play Thursday in the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, a neutral court for all the participants. A close location can mean more fans in the stands cheering for a particular team, giving it a slight edge.

Their Role as a Dog: Check how some teams fared as an underdog during the season. Western Kentucky, for instance, is the No. 3 seed (but the best team) in the Sun Belt, but it is 0-4 SU as a dog. However, a closer look finds it lost to Gonzaga as a dog, 74-71, and to Tennessee, a 88-82. The Hilltoppers covered both games. They may not have won all season as a dog, but those losses are very impressive. A bigger name school like Kentucky is just 2-7 SU, 3-6 ATS as a dog. You get the sense that they just aren’t talented enough to step it up when the competition is better.

History: Has this team been here before? Some teams are new to tournament play and beyond. Check their recent history. Is this a surprise team that came out of nowhere to get this far? Does their starting five have any experience at all in March tournament play? Digging into various details can help turn a profit during March madness. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie. And don't miss my March Madness Winners, as I was documented #1 in March Madness last season by http://www.thesportsmonitor.com with an 84% win rate.

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