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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 1:00 PM

I know all of you regular students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping are very excited about the start of the NCAA Tournament. I know you’ve been doing all the homework, and you’re prepared for the smorgasbord of action that begins today.

Believe it or not, there’s still a little more work you can be doing. I’ve given you quite a bit of guidance for making smart picks day-by-day and round-by-round. But, as you watch all the games on TV, I want you to focus on the following. Study how teams handle PRESSURE.

In the later rounds, there are going to be a lot of close games that are right on the number with about five minutes to go. Some teams are going to fall apart because they don’t know how to perform when a game or a season is on the line. And, that’s going to be true even if they happened to survive a close game in their opener. If a team misses most of their late shots, but holds on for a 59-58 nailbiter in their opener vs. an inferior team, they could be in real trouble in the next round against a better opponent who won’t let them hold on!

I was thinking about this down the stretch of the Boise State/Dayton telecast Wednesday night. Boise State completely lost its offensive discipline in the closing minutes. If they had managed to hold on, I would have had little faith that they could have played with more poise and maturity late in their projected matchup with Providence. We’re going to see this Thursday and Friday…survivors who show you why they’ll be in trouble the next time they play a close game.

Here are some things to look for:

*Offensive execution late in nailbiters, pretty much from the five-minute mark to the end of the game. Who still runs their offense with confidence? Who gets good shots? Who commits turnovers or forces up bad shots? This is very easy to see if you make yourself focus on it. Pay particular attention to PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS, as we’ve discussed often in the past. Make not of which teams are imploding because they don’t have them!

*Offensive execution whenever the opponent turns up their defensive pressure. This can happen at any point in a game, even in the first half. If a defense starts a full-court press, does the offense fall apart? If a defense starts halfcourt trapping aggressively, does the offense find back-door cuts for easy buckets? Or, do they make dangerous crosscourt passes that better opponents will intercept? Often, NCAA tournament games are decided in the middle of festivities when one team makes a dramatic run that can’t be overcome. Those dramatic runs in the Round of 32, Sweet 16, and later are foreshadowed in tournament openers where overrated teams expose their blemishes. If a #6 seed loses its poise vs. a #11 seed, what happens vs. a #3 could get ugly.

*Over-coaching. Far too many college head coaches call timeouts in front of every big possession…only to see their team plod through the shot clock to force up a bad shot. Smarter coaches trust their players to execute and find openings in the flow of action. Announcers are often praising the tactics of head coaches who are actually screwing up their team’s chances of winning! Coaches “choke” by calling too many timeouts and limiting the options of their best players. Some will survive their opener only to fall apart and not cover a game this weekend.

*Free Throw Shooting! There’s no greater “ace up your sleeve” with a tournament bet than the ability to protect and/or build a lead with late game free throws. And, there’s no bigger monkey wrench than investing in a team that isn’t very good from the line. Sometimes the only points scored in the final minutes are from the free throw line by the team with a scoreboard advantage. Make note of any ballhandlers who WANT to get fouled because they KNOW they’re going to make their free throws.

Las Vegas sportsbooks are jammed to capacity right now…full of sports fans who are rooting for their bets rather than handicapping future games. Don’t you make that mistake! What you learn today will help you pick more winners this weekend…and then again next week in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8. Let the bets take care of themselves. Focus on what it takes to make more and better bets this weekend.

If you’d like some help picking NCAA Tournament winners, 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 if you haven’t already because the early action has already started!

Our next class get-together will be early next week. I will probably devote a session to the NIT to cover the quiet time before the NCAA resumes. Then, next Thursday, I’ll find some key points of discussion for handicapping the Sweet 16 and Elite 8.

The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your attendance and hard work. Enjoy these very exciting opening hours of the 2015 Big Dance. Just make sure you have an eye on handicapping, rather than acting like a square and rooting for your bets! Winners don’t yell at the TV all day while drinking their favorite beer. Winners do what it takes to pick more winners!


Be sure to follow:

Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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