Key Factors In Handicapping Conference Tourney Semifinals & Finals

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March Madness: What you should know . . .

  • Tune into VSiN for Selection Sunday coverage all weekend. Broadcast schedule here.
  • Win $10,000 in VSiN’s Beat The Spread Challenge. Find out how.
  • Pre-order our College Basketball Tournament Betting Guide, more than 90 pages of team profiles, tournament trends and staff predictions. It’s $14.99 and will be published Tuesday. Buy here.
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  • Getting in an NCAA bracket contest? The number crunchers at TeamRankings will maximize your edge — and VSiN readers get 10% off their customized bracket picks and tools. Details here.

Dave Tuley’s ATS report . . .

No. 5 Duke beat No. 3 North Carolina 74-73 with Zion Williamson after 2 losses to its rival without him. Blue Devils did NOT cover as 4.5-point favorites (stayed under 164.5)

Other highlights:

  • No. 12 Florida St. beat No. 2 Virginia 69-59: Seminoles closed as 8.5-point underdogs & +240 on ML.
  • Minnesota beat No. 13 Purdue as 10-point dog & +425 on ML
  • San Diego St. beat No. 14 Nevada 65-56 as 10-point underdog & +450 on ML.
  • Iowa St. beat No. 15 Kansas St. but it wasn’t an upset as ISU was 2.5-point favorite.
  • Seton Hall beat No. 23 Marquette 81-79. Pirates did it as 4.5-point underdogs & +170 on money line

NHL: favorites went 4-2 Friday with upsets by Ducks (+170) over Avalanche and Devils (+150); Unders 3-2-1; 1st Period Overs 5-1 with #FollowtheMoney6 Over teams 1-1 as CLB went Over but NJ stayed Under; even DAL, the top 1P Under team by far, went Over 1.5.

NBA: favorites were 7-1 SU Friday but faves/dogs split 4-4 ATS as only outright upset by Hornets (+2.5, +130 on ML) over Wizards; Kings (+10.5) vs. 76ers, Suns (+12.5) vs. Rockets & Bulls (+9) vs. Clippers were the 3 dogs covering in losses; Unders 6-2.

Jeff Fogle on college hoops . . .

How do professional bettors handicap all the fast action of college basketball conference tournaments on the fly? This weekend’s analytical challenges are very different from the regular season. Teams playing in semifinals and finals will be trying to survive multi-games-in-multi-days gauntlets.

Sharps pay a lot of attention to box scores from earlier rounds because it’s impossible to closely watch EVERY game in EVERY tournament from the first round through the quarterfinals. Before you make your final decisions in today’s Big East Championship game at Madison Square Garden (FOX, 6:30 p.m. ET), Saturday’s Atlantic 10 semifinals at the Barclays Center (CBS Sports Network, 1 and 3:30 p.m. ET), or high-profile TV attractions from the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, and ACC, consider these points of focus . . .

  • Minutes Played by Key Contributors: Fatigue can be a huge factor for teams with short rotations during these unique conference tournament formats. Any surging underdog or favorite with limited bench strength is likely to hit a wall over the weekend. Deep teams are much better able to string together success. Sharps also factor in game pace (up-tempo teams wear out sooner, slower teams can endure).
  • Shooting Extremes: It’s not uncommon to see a team post a great one-game result by shooting way over its head (particularly from long range). Doing that two or three games in a row is much more difficult. The laws of math get angry. And, opposing defenses make adjustments. Sharps don’t ask “lucky” teams to stay lucky.
  • Turnover Avoidance: You’ve surely heard sports analysts through the years talk about the importance of “guard play” in tournament basketball. Good “quarterbacks” distribute the ball while avoiding turnovers. Efficient offenses run by quality guards are capable of stringing together wins because they waste so few possessions. Any team that won a game despite a high turnover count will have trouble overcoming that hurdle the next time out. Well-tuned engines will continue to hum.
  • Defense and Rebounding Win Championships: This is another analyst favorite that’s proven the test of time. Obviously offense is needed too. But, in a field of talented athletes, defense and rebounding can be a critical tie-breaker (particularly in games priced near pick-em). Sharps respect “rebound rate” (percentage of available rebounds grabbed) and rim protection (two-point shooting percentage allowed).

One local tournament straggler to highlight. The Ivy League tips off its four-team free-for-all Saturday. Yale hosts at Payne Whitney Gym in New Haven. Top seed Harvard plays Pennsylvania (ESPNU, 12:30 p.m. ET), followed by Yale vs. Princeton (ESPNU, 3 p.m. ET). Winners meet Sunday (ESPN2, noon ET).

Here are the final margin averages in conference play for the four survivors…Yale +6.9, Harvard +2.1, Penn +1.1, Princeton +0.5. Note that the Ivy League plays a full home-and-home regular season round robin, providing a nice sample size vs. very similar schedules.

Yale is the market favorite to earn an NCAA bid because of superior math and home court advantage. The winner is currently projected to get a #13 or #14 seed, pending other developments amongst small conferences.

Seen & Heard on VSiN . . .

On Follow The Money with Mitch & Pauly, professional sports bettor Alan Boston shares his thoughts on CBB conference tournaments, March Madness, and much more.

On A Numbers Game with Gill, Jeff Cogliandro gave out some head-to-head plays & a good value play to win at Fontana.

Gill’s appointed soccer expert Paul Carr likes a home team in the Premier League this weekend.

ICYMI: Ron Flatter on horse racing . . .

With not one but two runnings of the Rebel Stakes on Saturday, Oaklawn Park in Arkansas is the focal point of the Ron Flatter Racing Pod. Oaklawn paddock analyst Nancy Ury-Holthus helps to handicap these latest Kentucky Derby points preps. Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds talks about his Rebel contenders Galilean and Gunmetal Gray and their chances of upsetting Improbable and Game Winner. Trainer John Shirreffs reacts to the decision to expand drug restrictions at Santa Anita after the 22nd death of a horse there this winter.

Ron’s column: Yes, there is preview of the two divisions of the Rebel Stakes. But Santa Anita’s response to another racehorse death takes priority.

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