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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 11:59 AM

As promised, I’m back with another edition of my College of Advanced Handicapping to get you ready for the major conference tournaments that begin Tuesday afternoon with the Big East and run all through the week.

It’s important to remember that the classic fundamentals still apply. Some pundits will say that tournament basketball is completely different than regular season basketball. There are some differences to be sure, and you need to make some adjustments. But it’s still about putting the ball in the basket when you have it, and preventing the other guys from doing so when they have it.

These are the most important keys in my view for picking winners in this week’s major conference tournaments.

*PLAYMAKERS

I always start with this in my study course presentations because that’s what I personally start with in my own handicapping process. You longtime readers know the spiel. If you’re new to this website or my study course, suffice to say that you want to invest your money on teams with playmakers. Somebody has to score for you! Remember that EVERYONE is playing in the major tournaments, even the worst of the worst teams. I’m not one to invest in a big ugly dog because I think they should be +11 instead of +12. I’m looking for the most talented teams at affordable favorite prices, or live underdogs with playmakers who should have been favored in the first place.

*DEFENSE

The teams best suited to play well through the course of a tournament are those with the best defenses. Even though the majority of my biggest releases (50-units, 100-units, and 200-units) are on affordable favorites…that’s not because I’m in love with offense. It’s because I’m backing the COMBINATION of playmakers on offense and great team defense that creates large victory margins. If you ignore defense, you’re going to be hurt badly by overpriced favorites and dud underdogs. Tournament success comes from winning on BOTH sides of the ball.

*ROAD WIMPS

I talked about this not too long ago. If a team struggles to win on the road in the regular season, they’re probably going to struggle at a neutral site against a quality opponent. Some teams get rich at home thanks to friendly officiating, familiarity with the backdrops on three-pointers, and the tendency for road teams to fall apart under pressure. Those all disappear at neutral sites. Be sure you know what every tournament team this week has done straight up and ATS on the road in conference play and in their neutral site preseason tournaments. It’s my view that oddsmakers don’t pay nearly enough attention to this in the postseason. They rely on their general overall Power Ratings to make lines. I have things broken down by home and road results. Big difference because overall Power Ratings give too much credit to teams who did all their damage at home.

*THE INCENTIVE FACTOR

Now that you’ve got the basics out of the way in terms of X’s and O’s, as well as knowing who can play well when away from home, you HAVE to factor in incentive. There are many big name teams who just don’t have much to play for this week. They’ve already locked in a great seed in the Big Dance. The players themselves are looking forward to the NCAA Tournament much more so than a trip to Kansas City or Atlanta. Teams I would normally back at these prices in the regular season I’ll have to pass on because they lack incentive. Note that I have reviewed past histories under all the big time head coaches to see who has a history of keeping their players focused in the conference tourneys. That may trigger a big play or two in the later rounds when I have playmakers and a great defense on my side. But, I won’t release a major play to my clients, or make a big personal bet unless the incentive factor is also in play.

The teams with the most incentive this week are those on the bubble. I think oddsmakers do a pretty good job of factoring that into the line because of all the media coverage. In fact, they probably overreact in some cases. I’ll only bet on a bubble team if they’re also presenting me with at least one star playmaker and they have an above average defense. Bubble teams with soft defenses should be avoided at all costs.

THE FATIGUE FACTOR

All college players in tournaments this week have just come off two months where they didn’t play any back-to-backs. Now, they’ll typically have to win three games in three days to cut down the nets. Some teams have to win four games in four days. That means DEPTH comes into play much more dramatically now than at any other time. Once you get to the later rounds, you want to focus your money on teams whose rotations go at least 8 deep. Be sure you’re watching as many games as possible so you can see which teams are being worn down by emotional efforts. Bet against teams who are likely to run out of gas in the second half of that day’s game. Bet on teams who are using their minutes wisely.

You’ll find that my suggestions will really narrow down the card for you during the tournaments. This is a good thing! Too many gamblers bet way too many games because they get caught up in the excitement and the staggered schedules. Suddenly, they’re staring at the TV watching a bad offense, or a bad defense, or a tired team that lacks clear motivation struggling to compete. Don’t waste your time and money!

How many teams this week will present us with playmakers, good defenses, a strong road pedigree, incentive, and freshness? Not many…but those that do will be worthy of 100-unit or 200-unit plays. Those who get close will be worthy of 50-unit plays. And, in some cases, incentive or freshness all by themselves will be worth a serious play because the other factors cancel out.

If you’d like some day-to-day guidance through this week’s conference tournaments and the rest of the college postseason, you can purchase my game day releases right here at this very website a few hours before the first tip off. Be sure you take care of business EARLY when there are afternoon starts.

I’ll be back again for another installment from my College of Advanced Handicapping late this week, to talk more about the semifinals and finals, and possibly to review highlights from the midweek brackets. We’ve all been waiting for March Madness to arrive. Now that it’s here, be sure you make the most of it!

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