Looking for Good and Bad Signs

By Loot, College Basketball Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

NCAA Tournament Betting: Looking for Good and Bad Signs

Sometimes you look at a game in the NCAA tournament and you’re ready to pull the trigger on a bet. Before you do, it helps to know the things that decide games are more in your corner. In other words, knowing a team had a great season is good and well, but there are some elements of a team that will really come to the forefront during tourney time. Here are some of those more under-the-radar traits and liabilities you want to take note of.

Good Signs

Guts: In some tournament games, having the most guts can tip the scale to allow a team to either win outright or at least cover the spread. It comes down to mental fortitude, courage, and having a fighting spirit. It’s something that is hard to teach and when teams that are far inferior on paper manage to win games, this trait usually has something to do with it.

Heart: This has a lot to do with the character of a team. Even as us bettors were growing up as kids and playing sports, we can remember that some teams just had a heart, while other teams you were on were more forgettable. The teams and experiences you remember most are the teams that had heart. In the NCAA tournament, look for the teams that have a ton of character, where their heart can actually give them an edge.

Low Turnovers: It seems obvious enough, but we really need to give teams credit that don’t beat themselves with turnovers. Teams face tough opponents in the tournament. As bettors, the point-spreads are also tougher to beat. It’s surprising how often these razor-close games come down to turnovers.

The End Game: When the game is coming down to the wire, you will often be relying on the ability of a team to know how to play at the end, whether nursing a lead or coming off the pace. Of course, free-throw shooting ability is important. So is being clutch and making good decisions. There are a ton of games where a late mistake tips the bet to one side or the other. Look for teams that make good decisions late in the foul-fest/free-throw carnival that usually ensues. It’s a game within a game.

Playing as a Team: This sounds elementary enough. But a lot of times, we pick teams that may have great players only to see them lose or not cover the spread against teams that have lesser personnel, but plays as a cohesive unit. Sometimes you have these teams stocked with top recruits, but they lack the ideal team chemistry, the roles aren’t really spelled out, and they lack heart. They’re a clunky machine and even though they have great talent individually, they could lose to squads that better meet the definition of a true team.

Bad Signs

Poor Free-Throw Shooting: Again, the games in the NCAA tournament often come down right to the end, whether it be a straight-up win or just covering the spread. At the end, you’d be surprised how often it comes down to free throws. The teams that can sink shots from the charity stripe are just more bankable commodities during this time of the season.

Bonehead Plays: It’s good to know before the game that you’re betting on a team that won’t typically, for example, foul a guy late from beyond the 3-point line. You don’t want players heaving full court passes, not understanding the basics tenets of late-game play, or just plain unable to grasp the changing situations and the required action in rapid-moving game sequences.

Teams that Let Up: When watching a team over the course of a season, you will notice how some of them really deteriorate mentally when playing with a lead. That may work better in the regular season, where you’re more likely to catch a team that gives up. Teams don’t give up in the NCAA tournament. If the favored team slacks off after building up a lead, they will run into more trouble in the NCAA tournament.


Teams Not Maximizing Talent: A great team is one that puts all pieces of the puzzle together. A lot of teams may be good enough to put together a good regular season and make it to the tournament. But the teams that make it far are the ones that fully-utilize all their weapons. They have an identity. Everyone knows their jobs. The teams that fall by the wayside are the ones that, despite having great talent, don’t work together as a singular cohesive unit– a machine.

Playing Down to the Level of the Opponent: In all sports, we run into teams that play according to the level of their opposition. This could be a good thing with underdogs. But when betting on favorites, this trait could be the kiss of death in a tournament setting. Sure, teams usually increase their urgency during this time of the season, but if a team only gives necessary effort during games, it can cost them big in March Madness.

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