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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at 12:00 PM

Who can get a basket late in a close game? Answer that question, and the world is your oyster. Fail to even study the issue, and you’re very unlikely to make money as a sports bettor during the NCAA Tournament.

I’m off to a 2-0 start on my personal plays in the 2018 Big Dance, releasing 25-unit winners Tuesday night on Radford (-) over LIU-Brooklyn and St. Bonaventure (+) over UCLA. If you watched those games on TV, you know that the secret to success was that my “go-against” teams had no idea how to get the ball in the hoop in the final minutes when the game was on the line.

*LIU-Brooklyn didn’t make a field goal in the last six-and-a-half minutes of its loss to Radford. The outclassed underdog had 59 points with 4:37 left in the game, and ended with just 61 thanks to two free throws. That turned a nailbiter into a 10-point loss. And, it cashed Radford tickets easily even though Radford itself didn’t play up to normal standards for the full game.

*UCLA had 51 points with just under eight-and-a-half minutes to go in the game, and was still sitting on 51 with three-and-a-half minutes left. A three-pointer with 2:32 to go pushed them from 53 to 56 points. They would end the night with 58. Two baskets in more than eight minutes with their season on the line. AS FAVORITES!

Now, I’m not going to tell you I predicted those exact developments. But, I’ve seen enough of UCLA this year to know that the offense has no idea what it’s doing late in close games. There’s no game plan. There’s nothing beyond whoever’s dribbling the ball hoping they can come up with something out of thin air. Good luck making that work in tournament basketball!

St. Bonaventure’s strength is its guard play. That’s why it won the last eight minutes 19-7.

One of the main lessons I’ve tried to drive home to you through the years here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting, is that knowing what teams CAN’T do is just as important as knowing what they can do. Your strongest bets will come against teams with glaring weaknesses that can be exploited. Maybe they can’t play defense, or they can’t rebound, or they can’t run an intelligent offense late in close games. Yes, it’s important to back teams who CAN do things. But that’s only half the equation. What “isn’t” there is just as important as what is.

With that in mind, your homework this week to get you ready for the Round of 64 and Round of 32 Thursday through Sunday is to study how tournament teams have performed this year late in close games. At the very least, tabulate won-lost records in games decided by 5 points or less. Also, tabulate straight up and ATS records in games where the point spread was five points or less. LIU-Brooklyn and UCLA performed so badly “late in close games” Tuesday that the final scores didn’t even suggest they were supposed to be close games! They lost by 10 and 7 respectively.

If you have additional time, dig deeper into the play-by-play logs to see which tournament teams were likely to have long dry spells in crunch time. If that characteristic presents itself in the regular season, it’s going to be even more dramatic in the Dance because defenses are more intense, late-game pressure is more intense, and you get fewer opportunities against opponents who are running down the clock when they have the ball.

I would also look back at last year’s tournament. Any team that was eliminated a year ago by late failures will likely have similar problems this year. This skill set is connected to poor coaching. Bad coaches never learn what to do. They just stick the ball in their best players’ hands and hope he bails the team out. Tough to make that work against intense defenders playing their hearts out.

Now, these efforts will also help you find teams who thrive in late-game pressure situations. I trust you’ll know what to do with that information.

The NCAA Tournament is often perceived as an event full of coin flips. Tight point spreads. Close games in the final minutes. Anything can happen! Sharp observers will note that the coins land favorably more often than not for certain coaches, while landing badly for those who lack creativity when a game is on the line.

I’m not suggesting you should bet big on coin flips that might sway 55/45 one way or the other. This late-game dynamic provides a meaningful edge by itself, but is also works as a great kicker with other factors. Let’s say you thought the Pac 12 was overrated this year to begin with. You want to bet against UCLA thinking they’ll be overpriced. Even if you’re wrong about the Pac 12, you can still cash your ticket because UCLA’s poor poise provides an insurance policy. As I said earlier, Radford disappointed me much of the way, but Brooklyn’s offensive woes mattered eventually.

Best of luck with your own picks. Additional assistance in the form of my daily BEST BETS 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 by calling office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours.

The Dean of Sports Handicapping knows how much you love betting the NCAA Tournament. You wouldn’t have made it through today’s coursework if you didn’t! Have a great opening week, and I’ll see you again at this same time next week to discuss handicapping the Sweet 16.

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