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Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Thursday, March 2, 2017 at 7:00 PM

March has arrived! I’ve decided to devote my first article of the month to a review of my current college basketball Power Ratings. I’ve talked in the recent past about ways that you can develop your own ratings. Through the month, you can compare your ratings to mine as we study all the tournaments.

I’ll also use these for additional context as we cover the Big Dance brackets, and look at how the sharps are betting round by round. You regulars know that college basketball is my favorite sport to watch and handicap. I’m really looking forward to this month!

Let’s get to the ratings. I’m not going to bury you under a chart of 300+ teams. I want to focus today on the most important teams in terms of the month ahead. What you see below are roughly the best 25 or so squads…meaning clear Sweet 16 threats and some potential darkhorses for the Final Four.

On my scale, 72 and above is “championship caliber,” meaning the teams best positioned to earn #1 seeds and go the distance. Those at 68 and above our “Sweet 16 caliber,” though we know that all sorts of surprises can launch some Cinderella’s into the second weekend of the tourney. I’m not going all the way down to “bubble” teams today. That class would register at around 63 or 64 on my scale.

Here we go…

74: North Carolina, Gonzaga

73: Villanova

72: Kansas

71.5: Louisville

71: UCLA, Kentucky, Duke

70.5: West Virginia, Florida, Virginia, Wichita State

69.5: Oregon, Baylor

69: Purdue, Florida State

68.5: Wisconsin, SMU

67.5: Cincinnati

67: Arizona, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Notre Dame, Butler, St. Mary’s

These are structured so you can project a neutral court pointspread in any matchup. My numbers would have North Carolina and Gonzaga at pick-em. Both would be favored by a point over Villanova and two points over Kansas. Kansas would be favored by 1.5 points over West Virginia or Florida. And, so on. Pick any two teams…see how far apart they on the scale…and that’s your projected neutral court pointspread.

Are these exactly in synch with the betting market? I hope not…I’m trying to be better! But, you’ll find that they’re very close to the market. I’m looking to bet on any projections that are meaningfully different from the market. I tend to be a bit “tighter” than the overall marketplace because real-world sportsbooks have to defend against public action. Squares love betting favorites! I’m just trying to peg the teams properly, so I don’t have to worry about that kind of inflation.

Note that I emphasized these would project “neutral court” meetings. When dealing with regular season games, you have to add in 3-4 points for home court advantage as a general rule (occasionally less, very occasionally more). Then season to taste if you want to factor in revenge, bounce backs, look-aheads, fatigue, and so on.

More advanced handicappers also factor in specific talent matchups in a given game. Maybe you have to dock an undersized team facing an opponent that has great inside scoring. Maybe you reward a “full court press” team that’s facing turnover-prone guards.

Bottom line…Power Ratings serve as the basic starting point for your handicapping. Then you do whatever it takes to determine what the “right” number should be in a given matchup. Compare that to the market and make your investments. (Or, pass because the market agrees with your take).

Here’s the main difference between how sharps and squares handicap basketball…

SHARPS either make their own ratings, or use the guidance of the best computer programs to rate teams. Then, they used advanced matchup analysis to “play the game” in advance so they can account for the full range of possibilities.

SQUARES usually go with their gut, which typically means backing a hyped favorite they hope will win easily.

I want you to think like a sharp and bet like a sharp. So, we’ll be checking in on my Power Ratings often through the coming month.

If you’d like even more direct access to Richie B. through all of March Madness, you can purchase my BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about longterm packages, call the VSM office at 1-888-777-4155. Remember that my college hoops program will also cover the NIT, the CBI, and the College Insider Tournament. I told you I loved college basketball!

Thanks for reading. See you again next week as we gear up for the major conference tournaments. The schedule is really going to come at us fast once the tourneys begin, so do your prep work NOW!

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