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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, March 30, 2015 at 1:00 PM

In many years, the NIT provides a special bonus for college basketball fans who can’t get enough of their favorite sport as March turns to April. Sometimes, it even “steals the show” because fired up teams who don’t want their seasons to end play great pressure-free basketball while the Big Dance grinds to a halt because nervous, over-coached kids freeze up.

This year…I’m not finding too many people who are even interested in the NIT’s Final Four. When you see Tuesday’s matchups, that’s understandable.

Miami vs Temple

Stanford vs. Old Dominion

That’s a Miami team that continued to lay eggs on the bubble down the stretch…a Stanford team that wasn’t as good as the UCLA group that lucked into an easy Dance draw before getting demolished by Gonzaga. Temple and Old Dominion. I’m disturbed by how many Las Vegas bettors don’t even know which conference those teams played in.

If you need a quick review…

*Temple finished tied for third place in the American Athletic Conference. That’s the league won by disappointing SMU. Tulsa finished second, and failed to get out of a different quarter in the NIT.

*Old Dominion is in Conference USA (they used to be in the Colonial). They finished second behind Louisiana Tech. That’s the conference where UAB won the league tournament on its home floor before pulling off a Dance shocker over Iowa State.

*Miami finished tied for sixth in the ACC in a season where that conference won a lot of Dance contests even if they failed to cover a lot of early spreads. You sure can’t argue with what the ACC has done in the postseason this year. Miami was tied with NC State, who made it to the Sweet 16. Maybe they deserved a Dance bid after all!

*Stanford finished tied for fifth in the Pac 12. They are the last team standing from the conference even though Arizona reached the Elite 8 of the Dance, and both Utah and UCLA made it to the Sweet 16.

How should students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping evaluate these three games (semifinals plus the final) set for Madison Square Garden in New York Tuesday and Thursday? Obviously, you start with PLAYMAKERS AND GAMEBREAKERS, which I’ve always made a top priority since this project began. Your immediate homework is to determine who those players are if you haven’t already! Next up is always THE MOTIVATION FACTOR, which is probably a wash here because everybody cares once they reach New York. Perhaps there’s one team who has more of an “us against the world” mentality than the others. Bonus points (and money) if you can figure out who that is and bet accordingly.

Beyond that, I believe the most important thing you can do is to evaluate how teams played:

*On the ROAD during the regular season and in this event (if applicable)

*On NEUTRAL courts early on and then in their conference tournaments

It’s one thing to win home games in early NIT rounds against visitors who may not even be excited about the event. Now…there’s no home cooking. You have to get the job done in a true playoff environment against an opponent that’s also excited about making a trip to the Mecca of basketball in New York. Be sure you know who can at least hold their own. And, know whose track record suggests trouble is on the way.

Next, look at team defense. Not only do you want to bet on good defenses. At this stage of the season, mediocre defenses can kill you…particularly if one sneaks into the Final because their own offense shots over its head in the semifinals. I don’t want to suggest that defense always beats offense. Notre Dame had a much worse defense than Kentucky but covered easily and almost won outright Saturday. Same is true for Wisconsin (on a per-possession basis) compared to Arizona this season. But, if you hit all of your treys, you can overcome that in a quick 40-minute battle. Over the long haul though, the percentages don’t favor teams who have to shoot lights out to cover. Make sure you at least know what you’re dealing with on the defensive side of the ball!

I need to protect some information for my paying customers…so I’m not going to talk any more specifically about these matchups. I’ve given you do-it-yourselfers some homework. Maybe you’ll end up on the same teams I do. If you want to make SURE you’re on the same teams, sign up for my personal service! You can always 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.

I’ll be back with you later this week to talk about the NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis. Once again, I’ll provide some homework for you do-it-yourselfers while protecting the investment of my clients. Next week, we’ll start with some baseball since Opening Day will have arrived. The NBA Playoffs will be here before you know it, as well the Triple Crown horse races.

I know it was very cold this past weekend for some of you. Spring sprung a long time ago in Las Vegas! It’s a great time of year to be a sports bettor. The Dean of Sports Handicapping looks forward to leading you through this very exciting period. Now…get to work!

Be sure to follow:

Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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