College Conference Tourneys have been around for over forty years. By the year 2000, with the help of multiple cable networks, they had grown into the most exciting and unique time of the year, and they provide value for our March Madness picks.
There are 32 leagues that comprise the Division I group of NCAA teams. All but the Ivy League, which basically conducts its own six weekend tourney for six weeks in late January to early March, conducts a CCT. Depending on the number of teams in the league, this can be anywhere between a 3-5 game tournament within each Conference. An automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament is given to the winner. The good news for the CBKB handicapper is that it creates an ideal format for situational handicapping. As supported by database results, there are meaningful patterns that are repeated year after year. For that reason, it becomes not only an exciting and unique time of year, but also the most profitable time of the year.
I’ve often written about the handicapper’s conundrum. This occurs on a daily basis when a handicapper is making a situational choice. He must decide based on the team’s previous game, or previous group of games, if a team will follow their negative momentum or bounce back from a loss, or group of losses. On the other side of the coin, the handicapper must choose whether a team will follow their positive momentum, or suffer a letdown. In the unique setting that is the CCT, most often the teams will have played each other either once or twice before. Combined with results from the previous season, it can set up a “revenge vs dominance” scenario.
The following paragraphs are some broad concepts for the handicapper to consider when dealing with the situational handicapping of these CCT’s so they can beat the NCAA Tournament odds.
- The Conferences should be divided into two groups. The first group is the multi bid leagues. These are the major Conferences in which multiple bids-as many as 8 or 9-will be awarded to the top teams. In these major Conferences, a loose rule is that any team who is .500 or better in league play has a good chance at an NCAA at large bid. Once these teams are deemed to be “in” the NCAA Tourney, these teams are playing with less urgency, with the only bonus being a better seed.
- Contrast these leagues to the multitude of Conferences who have only a single bid (the tourney winner) for NCAA admission. These teams play each game with far more urgency, and are among the most emotional games of the CBKB season. In these leagues, unlike the major Conferences with multiple bids, the top seeds have no choice but to bring their A game each and every night. A loss this time of year means a season’s worth of work has resulted in a lost NCAA bid (a very big deal for many of these schools). The dichotomy presented in the approach these teams take presents, as you can imagine, powerful situations.
- Thinking contrary. Unlike the games in the regular season, the last game of the regular season presents a finality for every team. Often times it is an emotional LHG (last home game), or it is often an opportunity to improve a team’s seeding for the upcoming CCT. For this reason, with more emotion involved, it is a time when teams reverse their momentum. To have greatest success in the CCT’s, consider this dichotomous set of circumstances. Look to play against any team in their first game of the CCT if they pulled a meaningful upset in their final regular season game. In other words, think “letdown” for this team rather than positive momentum. In an opposite way, look to Play on any team who lost their last regular season game as a favorite. In this case, we’re looking to play the “bounce back” with our NCAA Tournament picks rather than for the team to continue their negative momentum.
- The revenge vs dominance scenario. The concept of CBKB “revenge” is tossed around idly in relating to every second or third meet a team has in the season. The most common assumption is if you lost to a team in a previous meeting, you will have the emotional edge in the “revenge game” (the truth is that this emotional edge comes more from the letdown by the winner of the previous game, rather than a bounce back by the team with revenge). Be very careful of using this edge in CCT handicapping, particularly when a superior team has defeated their opponent in the previous two meetings. It is more a case of dominance rather than revenge. It makes the most sense in the one bid leagues where seldom does a team suffer a letdown.
Those are just a few of the broad concepts which a handicapper can use when approaching the CCT’s. Considerable fine tuning through the use of database research can result in outstanding situational plays, which repeat on an annual basis. I wish you the best of luck in finding the edges that will make CCT handicapping for you as profitable as it has been for me.