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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, March 2, 2012 at 9:48 PM

Normally, here in my College of Advanced Handicapping, I talk about general strategies you can use when handicapping games. Today, I want to talk about a BIG game that I’m sure most of you will be watching Saturday Night on national TV.

North Carolina visits Duke in a prime time game on ESPN with a lot at stake:

*The winner will win the regular season championship of the ACC, the most storied conference in basketball history. Each team is 13-2 in league play entering the regular season finale. Saturday’s winner takes the title.

*The winner will be in the driver’s seat to get a #1 seed in the Big Dance. Both teams are currently 26-4 (yes, they have the same records in conference and full season action!). It’s assumed now that Kentucky and Syracuse are virtual locks for a #1 seed. Michigan State will probably be a lock too if they beat Ohio State on Sunday to win the Big Ten championship. That leaves these two teams and Kansas fighting it out for the fourth and final #1 seed. You know how much ESPN loves to hype the ACC. Their pundits will be lobbying hard for the NC/Duke winner to be a #1 seed.

*Hey, it’s North Carolina-Duke! History is at stake whenever these teams square off!

I’m not going to give you a pick in this game here in my home coursework. Check the website ads during the morning Saturday to see if I’m releasing this game to customers. My point here is not to outline this game. My goal is to encourage you to use this game to scout these teams for the ACC tournament and the Big Dance.

You might be surprised to learn that a few respected Power Rating systems don’t have either North Carolina or Duke as deserving of a number one seed. That means, respected Power Ratings don’t expect these teams to reach the Final Four or play for the national title. Is that a fair assessment? Or, will tonight’s winner be poised to make a championship run through the Dance because they’ve been battle tested against tough schedules?

I plan to make a lot of money in games involving these teams over the next few weeks. Getting in synch with the national powers is VITAL because that’s who you’ll be handicapping in the most important rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Maybe what you learn Saturday Night will lead you to value bets on opposing underdogs. Maybe what you learn Saturday Night will lead you to big bets on either Carolina or Duke as affordable neutral court favorites.

Keep these dynamics in mind:

*The public LOVES betting on Duke and North Carolina in tournaments.

*The computers aren’t as fond of those teams as normal this year.

That’s going to create a tug-of-war that will keep pointspreads reasonable. It may NOT be a square move this year to bet on Carolina or Duke. On the other hand, if the computers are right, both may have disappointing season conclusions that come earlier than expected.

You don’t win money in Las Vegas by hemming and hawing. You figure things out and make your move. Saturday’s North Carolina-Duke game gives you the perfect opportunity to figure things out for the postseason because you’ll have two high quality teams going at peak intensity. Nobody’s going to be flat. Nobody’s going to get caught looking ahead to anything. Nobody’s tired, as each has had a few days off.

Here are some keys I want you to pay particular attention to:

*Who attacks the basket more effectively?

*Who rotates on defense with more energy?

*Who keeps their composure under pressure and who doesn’t?

*Which team can best handle foul trouble?

*Which offense has more shot making threats?

Maybe I’ve answered these questions already to my own satisfaction, leading to a big release in tonight’s game for paying customers. If YOU are still in the process of learning the craft and gearing up for the rest of March, these are the keys you should be focused on Saturday evening.

Note that you should also apply those questions to games like Louisville/Syracuse, Texas/Kansas, Georgetown/Marquette, and Ohio State/Michigan State this weekend. And, you should be thinking about those elements when watching championship games in the Missouri Valley, Colonial, West Coast, and Metro-Atlantic tournaments Sunday and Monday.

You’ve heard the phrase, “you learn something new every day.” Well, in sports handicapping, winners learn something IMPORTANT every day! This is the College of Advanced handicapping. Studying the big games this weekend and taking notes is your homework. Remember, don’t watch as a fan…study so you can make smart bets next week in the major conference tournaments and afterward in the Big Dance.

If you’d like some day-to-day guidance through the remaining college basketball, 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 early next week, with specific advice for the early rounds of the major conference tournaments. It’s March in Las Vegas. Be sure you’re ready!

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