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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, March 16, 2015 at 1:00 PM

One of the biggest sports betting events of the calendar year is about to begin. So, it’s time to review my most important fundamentals for picking winners in Las Vegas. These two elements loom very large in the NCAA Tournament because pointspreads are fairly tight in terms of accurately reflecting overall team quality. That makes them defenseless against the elements that cause results to skew in one direction or the other.

Only two categories to talk about today. You longtime readers will recognize them, but will find it helpful to review specifically why they matter so much in the Big Dance.



In the NCAA Tournament, star players carry their teams on their backs on the way to victory. Yes, there are occasionally role players who hit a big shot, or make a big defensive play. But, success through the month depends on:

*Star guards who score, distribute the ball, and don’t turn it over

*Star posts who get easy buckets inside and draw fouls

The game in general has started trending toward more and more three-point shooting. But, we’re not to the point yet where this trumps everything else in the tournament. In fact, it’s more the opposite. Three-point heavy teams have trouble advancing because they’re in so much trouble in the games where the bombs aren’t falling for them. PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS are almost never guys who hang around the arc and launch. Teams who have too many of those find it hard to perform in high pressure games vs. quality defenses.

Homework: Be sure you know the potential PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS on all tournament teams. Be ready to fade lesser teams who don’t have any…or mix in too many turnovers with erratic performances. Plan on backing smart veteran teams led by guys who are ready to carry their teams. So many pointspreads are decided in the final five minutes in this event. You want to invest in players who are going to win those final five minutes.



You might be thinking that everyone is motivated for the NCAA Tournament…so what is the point of even considering this element? Well, let me tell you…THE MOTIVATION FACTOR is actually the driving force behind early major upsets and sustained surprises through the event.

*Too many quality teams come out flat as a pancake because they assume the first weekend is going to be easy. They lack motivation to play their best right now because overconfidence has convinced them they can coast early. Do you think Duke was motivated to play Mercer, or Lehigh? It was those other teams who were motivated!

*Good, or second-level teams who just won their conference tournament are also prone to come out flat because they just climbed a mountain and spent some time celebrating. Notre Dame may be in danger of coming out flat vs. Northeastern this week, after cutting down the nets in the ACC tournament last Saturday night. If they survive that, they better not take the winner of Butler/Texas lightly.

*On the other side of the coin, you can usually count on a few unheralded teams to develop an “us against the world” mentality because of a disappointment in their conference tournament, or a general lack of respect from the media. This can be a respected seed that feels snubbed by a seeding. This might be a team that barely got into the brackets (like VCU a few years ago during their Final Four run) who catches fire at just the right time.

Homework: Evaluate the probable motivation levels for all teams this week, penalizing highly regarded teams who are talking too much about what may happen in the later rounds, as well as most or all teams who just won their conference tournaments (a possible exception here is Arizona, who won its conference tournament but should feel snubbed about getting a #2 seed). See if you can find some SENIOR-HEAVY teams in the middle of the brackets who are ready to bring everything for their last tournament experience.  

Whenever you handicap a game, ask yourselves these questions…

*Is the favorite going to be fired up for THIS game?

*Does the favorite have a player who can earn the cover on his own?

*Does the underdog have a GAMEBREAKER who can engineer an upset?

*Is the underdog so bereft of true playmakers that they have little chance?

The games will pick themselves if you answer these questions accurately. And, truly BIG BET opportunities will jump off the page. I’m already very excited about this first week because I’ve done the work!

If you’d like some help picking college basketball winners through MARCH MADNESS, you can purchase my BEST BETS right here at this very website with your major credit card. Questions about extended service can be answered personally by one of my representatives in the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155. Please take care of business immediately because the “First Four” starts Tuesday in Dayton…and I’ll likely also have some strong plays in the NIT and other tournaments Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

I’ll be back with you later this week to talk about more handicapping tips for the Round of 64 and Round of 32. You regulars know that I can’t post official selections here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping. Those are for paying customers. But, I’m committed to making each and every one of you a winner. The Big Dance is here…and all the hard work you’ve been doing under the guidance of the Dean of Sports Handicapping is going to pay off!


Be sure to follow:

Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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