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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Wednesday, February 24, 2016 at 7:00 AM

Late February is always a very tricky time for Las Vegas sports bettors. There’s a tendency to assume a huge MOTIVATION FACTOR for college basketball teams on the “bubble” in NCAA Tournament discussions. History has set up a challenging dichotomy.

*Some teams DO respond well to this pressure, and play some of their best games of the season.

*Most don’t respond, either because they’re not good enough, or because they’re looking ahead to making a splash in the conference tournament. Compounding this factor is the tendency for oddsmakers to allot a point or two for being in a “must-win” game. A bubble team that should be -4 is now -5 or -6, and they aren’t playing that great anyway.

So, casual “public” bettors remember the handful of blowout wins, but don’t notice that they’re going about 4-5 every nine bets (or worse) on these “must-win” bubble teams.

How should students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping handle “bubble” teams? The Dean of Sports Handicapping suggests the following:

*Only use that “must-win” motivation as a “kicker” with other factors. Being on the bubble by itself isn’t enough to justify a bet on that team. But, if the bubble team is home and fresh, and is facing a tired visitor, then you have more blowout potential. If that tired visitor is already a losing team that’s thrown in the towel, your big win possibilities are even greater. Throw in revenge from a loss earlier in the season, and now we’re talking! It’s these combination of influences that create blowouts where “the spread doesn’t matter.” You need kerosene and a match to start a fire. Kerosene by itself won’t do.

*Be very aware of “letdown” and “look-ahead” situations with the bubble teams. Remember, they’re technically on the bubble every time they take the floor from now on. But, there’s no way teams of that caliber (not good enough to be a Dance lock already) are good enough to just keep winning on command. Don’t ask a team to play great if they just played great the last time out. Don’t ask a team to play great if their most hated rival is on deck. You want to find spots on the schedule where THIS GAME gets 100% attention and priority from the players and coaching staff.

*Don’t bet bubble teams on the road if they’ve established that they’re not very good on the road. Frankly, this is usually the case! If a team can’t shoot well from long range at strange sites, or gets easily intimidated by an opposing crowd (something that shows up in the turnover category), then you’re just throwing money away by asking them to play well as a bubble team playing in a hostile environment. Having more motivation than normal doesn’t turn poor shooters into good shooters. It doesn’t turn shorter slower kids into taller faster kids. The fundamentals still matter.

*Realize that there aren’t nearly as many “bubble” teams as the TV networks are saying. They all want to hype their telecasts. Any team not currently a lock for the Dance is going to be marketed as somebody who still has a chance…or who has the tools to make a run in a conference tournament. I’ve said this a lot in our coursework over the years. Smart bettors don’t buy what TV announcers are selling. Smart bettors let the public do that while we take the other side.

I will very likely have at least one or two major releases between now and the final Sunday on a bubble team that’s sitting in an IDEAL investment spot. Otherwise, I’ll be fading them for value. In fact, I’ll probably have more 50-unit, 100-unit, and possibly 200-unit plays on tournament locks who are in a great scheduling situation against an opponent that’s thrown in the towel. So many different things go into THE MOTIVATION FACTOR when handicapping late in the season. Don’t let being on the “bubble” overshadow all the others.

If you’d like some help finding the BEST BETS on the nightly basketball schedule, KELSO STURGEON’S top selections can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters’ office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. Lock in now for great rates that take you through all the college tournaments and the NBA Playoffs.

Our next coursework will come up Friday. Then, next week we’ll talk about how to handicap some of the mid-major tournaments that will already be getting started. Hey…we’re a week away from March! Are you ready for the challenges ahead? Prepared handicappers are winning handicappers.


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Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

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