Here in the Midwest, we’ve just unthawed from what feels like three months’ worth of winter in two weeks, and we are enjoying sunny days filled with balmy above-freezing temperatures. You can literally smell March around the corner. When I was a kid, that smell meant I could finally stop wearing all the heavy winter gear to play basketball outside and also that I could enjoy the spring glory of getting off that first jumper without a heavy coat or sweatshirt - priceless. These days, the buildup and excitement for March remains as impactful as in my youth, but are detailed much differently. The common denominator is the love for basketball.
This is the first March Madness where there is legalized sports gambling in multiple states across the US and I want to offer a warm welcome to all of you who are new to the experience. While the past year has provided ample opportunity to sit on the couch and enjoy some college basketball, I understand that for the majority, it’s implausible to absorb what's happening in college basketball as frequently as one would like. To assist those with busy schedules, I’ve shared some information regarding upcoming conference tournaments that I encourage you to watch, as well as some useful tools and potential trends to assist in decision making as we fill out brackets and promo code our way to profits!
One of my favorite things about March is conference tournaments. They are the finest appetizer course a sports gambler could enjoy prior to the Big Dance. Conference tournaments set the stage and usher in the 31 automatic bid teams into the NCAA tournament (winners of each conference tournament, typically 32, but the Ivy League cancelled its 2021 season). There are some teams already in the Big Dance based on their resumes, although it’s currently unclear whether they are opting out of conference tournaments, or should be counted out because they’re “already in”. What gives?
Meanwhile, a plethora of other teams cannot make the Big Dance unless they win their conference tournaments, which are all or nothing spots. Whether you perceive the value to be on outright conference tournament winners or moneyline upsets game by game, there is an opportunity to find value (mentally & monetarily) during these tournaments that can improve your bankroll for the main course, namely the Big Dance. Once the 31 automatic bid tournament winners are set, it’s on to the committee, which will analyze and determine the final 37 teams (typically 36) that will be invited to the NCAA tournament based on a collection of assessments (strength of schedule, numberof games played, etc.).
Let's take a quick walkthrough of when and where conference tournaments will be held in the first two weeks of March. At this point, it’s clear the schedules and teams are TBD based on the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Horizon League (Horizon League)- February 25th and March 2nd at campus
sites, March 8th and 9th in Indianapolis, Indiana
- American East (AEC)- February 27th/28th & March 6th/13 at campus sites
- Big South (BSC)- February 27th- March 7th at campus sites
- Ohio Valley Conference (OVC)- March 3rd-6th in Evansville, Indiana
- Atlantic Sun Conference (ASC)- March 3rd-7th in Jacksonville, Florida
- Atlantic 10 Conference (A10)- March 3rd-14th, in Richmond, Virginia (1st
round-semifinals) and Dayton, Ohio (championship)
- West Coast Conference (WCC)- March 4th-9th in Las Vegas, Nevada
- Missouri Valley Conference (MVC)- March 4th-7th in St. Louis, Missouri
- Southern Conference (SoCon)- March 5th-8th in Asheville, North Carolina
- Sunbelt Conference (SBC)- March 5th-8th in Pensacola, Florida
- Northeast Conference (NEC)- March 6th-9th at campus sites
- Colonial Athletic Association (CAA)- March 6th-9th in Harrisonburg, Virginia
- Patriot League (Patriot League)- March 6th-14th at campus sites
- The Summit League (Summit League)- Match 6th-9th) in Sioux Falls, South
- Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC)- March 7th-13th in Norfolk, Virginia (1st
round at campus sites)
- Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC)- March 8th-13th in Atlantic City, New
- Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)- March 9th-13th in Greensboro, North Carolina
- Big West Conference (BWC)- March 9th-13th in Las Vegas, Nevada
- Big East Conference (BEC)- March 10th-13th in New York City, New York
- Big Sky Conference (BSC)- March 10th-13th in Boise, Idaho
- Big Ten Conference (B1G)- March 10th-14th in Indianapolis, Indiana
- Big 12 Conference (XII)- March 10th-13th in Kansas City, Missouri
- Pac 12 Conference (Pac-12)- March 10th-13th in Las Vegas, Nevada
- Southeastern Conference (SEC) March 10th-14th in Nashville, Tennessee
- Conference USA (CUSA)- March 10th-13th in Frisco, Texas
- Southland Conference (SLC)- March 10th-13th in Katy, Texas
- Southwest Athletic Conference (SWAC)- March 10th-13th in Birmingham,
- Mountain West Conference (MWC)- March 10th-13th in Las Vegas, Nevada
- Western Athletic Conference (WAC)- March 11th-13th in Las Vegas, Nevada
- Mid American Conference (MAC)- March 11th-13th in Cleveland, Ohio
- American Athletic Conference (AAC)- March 11th-14th in Fort Worth, Texas
- Ivy League- Cancelled
Selection Sunday March 14th, 2021
There are numerous tools for a sports bettor to utilize to gain a better perspective surrounding a certain number or side related to a bet. A lot of times, these tools are used to justify preconceived feelings about a certain bet, where a bettor goes into their research with an idea of what they want to bet on and find a certain number of stats, data points and narratives to justify their original thoughts about the bet. In my opinion, these tools should be used to assist in decision making, but shouldn’t be the sole decision makers for a play. I currently use about five different tools/resources of information when it comes to researching, and have found the NBC Sports EDGE+ tool for college basketball to be extremely helpful regarding three major focuses:
Historical results + filtering options
Calculating probability associated with odds
For example, this past week there were a few over/unders posted at 160 points or higher. Totals 160 or above always garner my attention and it’s something that can take time to research on your own. The Sports EDGE+ betting tool allows me to search a desired criteria of games and analyze how teams have fared against totals 160 or higher. I wanted to have a better idea of recent team performances, so I filtered to show all games with these totals since 1/1/21. The access and ability of today’s tools can really streamline decision making and make it easier to find specific data-driven information.
Before Selection Sunday, I encourage you all to find different tools and resources to help guide your March Madness gambling experience. Along with what I’ve mentioned about NBC Sports EDGE+, I’ll always enjoy the thorough college basketball analytics analysis via KenPom and Barttorvik.
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When it comes to trends, the information associated with them serves a valuable purpose. The way someone uses a trend for sports gambling is completely up to them. I could not in good conscience tell you that tailing trends will net you profit short or long term, but I can tell you that identifying the start or end of said trends will help. I say that because if you want to tell me that since 2014, on Tuesdays, when facing a coach who is wearing a suit AND playing against a team whose mascot is associated with weather, the Colorado Buffs are 8-2, I’m probably going laugh because that’s wildly specific and not correlated to anything I find a whole lot of value in, but it is definitely a trend. Your money, your models, your moves - and I truly appreciate your sharing.
One thing about trends is that they almost always require you to peel back layers to better identify how each trend developed. I’ve provided an example for you here:
Trend: Kansas is 30-19-1 against the spread (61.2%) in their last 50 games.
Peeled layer: Kansas is 12-11-1 (52.2%) against the spread THIS SEASON.
While I have all the love in the world for data and information, a lot of times there’s notably unnecessary or irrelevant data, noise, that gets added into everything being analyzed, and it can negatively impact decision-making. Understanding some of the why’s behind trend numbers can lead you to more informed and concrete decisions. Along those lines, you can also uncover information completely unrelated to an original bet that may drive a decision elsewhere. As we head into conference tournament play, here are a few interesting trends to note:
- A team from Michigan has been in the B1G championship game for seven
- Iowa State (4) and Kansas (3) are the only two winners of the Big 12 tournament over the past seven tournaments.
- South Dakota State (5) and North Dakota State (4) are the only champions of the Summit League tournament over the past nine seasons, but have only played one another twice in the championship over that same period.
A friendly reminder for those who may have forgotten, this year’s “First round” of March Madness doesn’t start until Friday, as opposed to Thursday. And now, we March!