Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Thursday, February 23, 2012 at 11:00 PM
As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m putting a lot of weight right now on the quality of ROAD play in college basketball. Teams who have played well on the road this year are likely to perform well in these last few days of the regular season…in the conference tournaments held at neutral sites or in opposing gyms…and in the NCAA or NIT tournaments.
I’m consistently surprised by how little attention many do-it-yourself handicappers place on this factor. If they see a team play great on TV…they want to bet on that team the next time they take the floor. It doesn’t matter if the great game was at home, and the next game is on the road. They figure “great” follows a team wherever they go.
Wrong! And, a lot of bettors here in Las Vegas have learned that the hard way with UNLV this season. The Rebels have looked like a serious March Madness threat whenever they play locally (they beat North Carolina here in town!). On the road, they barely look like an NIT team if that.
Here are a few of the reasons why Advanced Handicappers should look to invest in strong road teams over the next few weeks:
*Strong road teams AREN’T INTIMIDATED. Probably the biggest thing that derails college teams on the road to March Madness is the inability to handle pressure. Well, strong road teams have already shown that they CAN handle pressure! They’re battle tested…and they won more than their share of those battles. It’s not always the case…but I’ve often found that good road teams have a lot of veterans. That means you’re getting maturity and experience when it matters the most. Cool heads prevail in late February and all of March. Strong road teams have proven to you already that they have cool heads.
*Strong road teams have shown they CAN DEAL WITH ANYTHING. Any team that’s won most of their games on the road must have overcome various styles to do so. They beat inside teams. They beat perimeter teams. They beat up tempo teams. They beat patient low tempo teams who run clock while trying to find a good shot. The tournaments often throw a variety of opposing styles at a contender in short order. Strong road teams can deal with that much better than hot home teams who floundered away from friendly environments.
*Strong road teams DON’T RELY TOO MUCH ON THREE-POINTERS. This is a hidden factor I noticed years ago. You’ve heard the phrase “live by the three, die by the three?” What usually happens with “live by the three” teams is that they post great results at home because they hit a lot of long range shots against a backdrop they’re familiar with. On the road or at spacious neutral sites, those shots don’t fall. Any team that’s winning consistently on the road is doing it with an all-around game. Strong road teams are invariably balanced teams with a lot of weapons or a very smart coach who best knows how to use the weapons he has.
*Strong road teams PLAY DEFENSE! If you start with the assumption that most teams shoot best at home…then it naturally follows that any good road team must be doing something right on defense. They’re disrupting opponents in conditions that favor those opponents! There are very few exceptions to this rule. You just can’t play bad defense and win on the road. It’s very hard to play average defense and win on the road. Road warriors are good defensive teams.
As you can see…isolating good road teams is actually a shortcut to finding the right kind of talent and mindset for tournament success. You don’t have to look up the ages on every roster. Good road teams will have maturity and experience. You don’t have to look up stats for three-point shooting. Good road teams are going to be balanced. You don’t have to look up defensive stats for everyone. Good road teams play defense.
You’ve probably been a college basketball fan your whole life. Aren’t those the elements that matter most in this sport when championships are on the line? Defense. Balance. Maturity. Experience. CHAMPIONS!
I hope you’ll keep all of this in mind when you’re watching the big TV games this weekend. Look at how many contenders have big road games. Missouri is at Kansas. Syracuse is at Connecticut. North Carolina is at Virginia. Wisconsin has to try and win at Ohio State. Indiana could be tested at Minnesota. Early next week, Michigan State will play at Indiana, Florida visits Vanderbilt, Ohio State may have a tester at Northwestern, and UNLV tries to figure out how to win on the road at Colorado State.
Today’s theme is going to matter imminently, and all the way down The Road to Glory through March Madness.
I’ll be back again for another installment from my College of Advanced Handicapping early next week. Be sure you check this website for video updates through the weekend. Look for those on the home page. This is DEFINITELY going to be a weekend where you want to check in regularly with KELSO STURGEON!