Betting on Big Name Teams in the NCAA Tournament

By Loot, NCAA Basketball Handicapper,

College Basketball Betting: Betting on Big-Name Teams in the NCAA Tournament

A lot of money is left on the table during tournament time by bettors betting on teams with big-name value. It might take a while before bettors realize that games are decided by game and not name. In the tournament, we see a lot these kind of match-ups, games between teams where one squad has a glorious history facing a team you barely knew existed.

There are some good things that come with a team having a big name. It comes from having great accomplishments and that carries importance–make no mistake. Those teams are usually from the toughest conferences. They draw some of the better recruits and have some of the top coaches at the helm. But some of these teams have down periods and if we choose those times to bet on them simply by virtue of their name-power, we might be left in the dust.

If you see a match-up between a national power in college hoops against a more obscure opponent, our eyes will look at the bigger-name team. It’s just hard to see a match-up like Gonzaga-Wichita State and not have something unconscious in your head assume Gonzaga is going to win. The name Gonzaga just carries a little more heat and draws our eyes to it.

There are a few problems with looking at it this way. First of all, you have to actually handicap the game. After that, you form an opinion. When we assume, even on a subconscious level, that the bigger-name team has the edge, we might just handicap the game to fulfill that belief. It makes it so the chariot is leading the horse.

We can’t be lazy when handicapping or analyze games to fulfill an opinion we already formed before we even poured over the information. These games need to be looked at with a clear slate. Games aren’t won in tournament play because of the team’s names. It’s their games that will either get it done or not.

In addition, we will usually be betting against the point-spread. That really has a way of rendering our half-baked observations of who is the bigger-name team moot. When we blindly take the side of the bigger-name team, we are probably getting the short end of the stick as it pertains to betting value. So if we see a team with a lot of name-power against an anonymous squad, rest assured that a lot more people will be betting on the bigger-name team.

The bookie doesn’t have to go above and beyond to induce betting on teams like Duke, North Carolina, and other typical national powerhouse squads. Therefore, the value will usually be with their opponents. Not that those teams never cover the spread, but betting on the more popular team is a sure way to go broke betting on NCAA tournament play. It just doesn’t work.

Take a team like UCLA. They have a mammoth legacy associated with them. Any college basketball enthusiast is aware of their exploits in NCAA tournament history. But in the past decade, how well would you really have done betting them ATS in the tourney. Not so great. You see a team like that and figure winning is in their DNA. As if it’s going to be easier for them because of what happened in the past. But that was way before any of these kids on the squad joined the team. Sure, there is a certain pride that comes with playing for UCLA. They want to keep the tradition going. But that alone doesn’t cover point-spreads.


A lot of teams like UCLA exist in NCAA tournament play–former giants in the sport who are no longer at the forefront. But they still carry such name-power, that a lot of people continue to climb aboard, seeing if they can milk more glory from a dried-up team. So you might see UCLA facing a team where the match-up seems rather even and it could go either way. But we take UCLA because all the hype over the years has resonated in our psychology.

So, just be careful when wagering on the tourney. We will be faced with games where one team’s legacy outweighs their opponents’ by such a great extent, that the tendency is to bet on those teams. We need to remember that this is now. What happened years ago isn’t really something you can expect to make much of a difference on the court right now.

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College Basketball Betting

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