INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 13: John 'Big Nut' Peters, fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes holds up a sign which reads "March Madness" after they won 71-60 against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the championship game of the 2011 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 13, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
Plus a look at which first-round match-ups might be worth paying close attention to.
In the spirit of March Madness, I've been persuaded to share some of my betting philosophies in relation to the NCAA tournament.
Some General Rules:
1. Don't look at the lines before forming a first impression.
This is especially true when dealing with teams you've seen play and have a good feel for. Seeing numbers before you look at the teams skews your perception.
2. Make your largest bets on teams you've actually seen play.
Ideally, you will bet only on the teams you've seen play. However, it's hard enough to keep up with the power conferences, let alone the smaller schools. And since it's still fun to bet, you will take that flier on Montana because you heard Doug Gotleib say that on ESPN's bracket show.
3. Don't pick an upset just to pick it.
This is the hardest thing to avoid when either filling out a bracket or wagering on individual games. The allure of picking the upset often overwhelms reason. Do not do this ... unless you're on your 5th free bracket on espn's bracket challenge which you will not win.
What to Look at When You Make Your Picks:
1. Look at the match-ups!
I cannot stress this enough, and this goes for the team's style of play as well as its personnel. Teams like Baylor have the personnel to play with anyone. However, it is essential to remember they run a terrible 1-3-1 zone despite having an athletic advantage on every team in the tournament outside of Kentucky and North Carolina. This is how they lost to a Duke team they were clearly better than 2 years ago in the Elite 8. And also look at the roster. See who plays. See how they match up in terms of size with their opponent. A supplement/replacement for having seen a team play.
2. Look at a team's turnover difference
Teams won't pull an upset on teams that are more talented than them if they give the ball up more often than their opponent. Opportunistic teams that don't turn the ball over are the kind of well coached teams that can beat a more talented team that is coached by the Ron Zooks of college basketball (Billy Donovan, Scott Drew). This is also why a strong backcourt is so important to a deep tournament run -- if you don't have steady guard play, you'll be gone early -- look for Georgetown to struggle with Belmont's pressure defense and Long Beach State to play composed basketball.
3. Look at teams' schedule
You need to know a team has played against various levels of competition, away from home, in an elimination setting, etc. This does not replace having seen a team play, but you can get an idea of how both the team and its individual players responded in match-ups against teams with different styles and personnel.
How to Bet Your Picks:
1. Make your bets on the individual games then include the games you're most certain about in a parlay. Only the ones that you would be shocked to lose on.
I am personally a HUGE fan of the parlay wager. "Professional Gamblers" disagree and believe this is a losing bet. They are wrong and clearly lack confidence in their prognostication skills. It's more fun and more potential for profit. However, throwing money at a Colorado State, Lehigh and New Mexico State moneyline parlay is not an acceptable thing to do. Put about half of what you would on a single bet on the parlay.
First Impressions Of The First-Round Games:
Detroit is a serious team. Kansas cannot be pleased the committee tagged them as a 15 seed. They have a 7 footer and a McDonald's All-American starting and a 6-10 Indiana transfer coming off the bench. If Tyshawn Taylor's fondness for giving the ball to the other team rears its head, watch out. They'll need their wings to come to play and keep Thomas Robinson out of foul trouble.
Kentucky could seriously win their opening round game by 60. They also got the shaft in having to play the winner of the best 8-9 game in recent memory. UConn is one of the few teams in college basketball in the same league as UK in terms of pure talent.
Apparently the "real gamblers" loved the Wynn Casino setting New Mexico State at +7 against indiana, and it's down to 4.5 ... whatever that's worth.
Both teams from Colorado will fail to cover.
Baylor has unparalleled potential to lose far earlier than they should
Florida is a dark horse Final Four team; in fact, I would pencil them in if Billy Donovan didn't love watching 4'8" Erving Walker play and shoot 20 times a game
Marquette and Georgetown could go deep or lose really early.