Picking Your Spots in the NCAA Tournament

By Loot, College Basketball Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

One of the biggest issues facing bettors during NCAA tournament time is the issue of selectivity. With all the games and the fact that they all mean something, the urge may be to bet on simply too many games. But just because the tournament is important doesn’t mean that all games will be worthy of betting. It can be hard to not get swept away in the frenzy and hysteria. But to make this a profitable part of the season, we must resist the temptation.

What happens to a lot of people is that they do the right things–during the regular season. They look for games that offer good betting value and pick their spots with intelligence and care. Then the tournament begins and that calculating approach disintegrates into a free-for-all. After months of doing things right, all it takes is a few days of carelessness to undo all that good work. It makes no sense.

When the NCAA tournament begins, it is crucial for us to spend some time reviewing our approach. Instead of spending all our time handicapping the games, we need to handicap ourselves a bit at the same time. And who knows you better than you? You know how you can get and if it’s anything like what most people experience, it’s hard to contain yourself during the NCAA tournament.


Look at it like this–the sportsbook has to put a point-spread on every game. That doesn’t mean we have to bet every game. The key to any bettors’ success is isolating the war to the battles where we have the best chance to win. Just because the sportsbook offers a battle along the lines of every game doesn’t mean we have to engage them in every single game or most of the games.

Easier said than done. We sit down for the first few big days of the tournaments, when 64 teams gets narrowed down to 32 teams. Then the field of 32 teams is narrowed down to the Sweet Sixteen. It’s four days of full-throttled frenzy. And during this time, a lot of bettors do irreparable damage to their bottom lines. They stray from their strengths and any progress they made during the regular season is gone. For some, they never recover from the free-for-all of the NCAA tourney.

When betting on any sport, regardless of the magnitude of the event, the key is to bet when we have an advantage and not because a game is important. When games are important like the NCAA tournament, there can be an edge that comes with the idea that teams will theoretically be at their best. But even with that element in place, that doesn’t mean that all games will offer an advantage to us when betting it.

As bettors, we need to remind ourselves sometimes that we’re not reporters, coaches, or players who need to step up our game. We’re betting. Our presence isn’t needed. So why every year when the tournament rolls around, do we act like we need to kick it into a higher gear during tournament time. Sure, there may be some work to do. But a game is simply a game to the savvy betting man. A game is either a chance to make money or it isn’t. And the standards we use to make that distinction have nothing to do with how big a game is. It comes down to value. That’s the only criteria. It could be the NCAA Tournament Finals or a midseason Ivy League game. Value is the key.

Again, a lot of bettors know that and still do the same thing every single year as they plunder down the slippery slope of over-betting the NCAA. It’s not easy to resist. It’s hard to think of anything better in sports than those first 4 days of the tournament. And make no mistake, there will some great opportunities, but not if you’re betting an over-abundance of games.

Remind yourself that selectivity is something that is super-important come this time of the year. We need to resist the temptation. We may want to bet every game. But that’s only because we usually lower our standards. Sure, we’re trying to make money, but never should our wagering be guided by our entertainment sensibilities. Usually, those who are most successful betting on the tournament are those who best exercise selectivity.

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