More Context About Morehead State’s March Madness Entrance
The Eagles won 19 of their final 20 games of the season. Those of you who watched the OVC Tournament knows there aren’t just “cupcakes” in that conference. Jacksonville State, Eastern Kentucky, and Belmont are real competition and highly athletic for mid-major programs.
During the OVC Semifinal game against Eastern Kentucky, the Eagles took absolute haymakers from the Colonels. Eastern Kentucky played a legitimate full court press throughout the entire game. The Eagles were worn down some after nursing a lead throughout, but they did not succumb the lead to Eastern Kentucky. The Eagles lead the nation in steals and the Eagles were still able to stand the pressure.
A nice thing to watch during Morehead State’s impressive win against defending champion and veteran bunch Belmont was its wire-to-wire victory. It never shied away from an open shot. The Eagles put the game on ice by knocking down clutch threes or gut-punching put backs every time Belmont responded with a run.
The headliner for Morehead State is probably Johni Broome, a freshman who has clearly put the work in and operates with a lot of skill in the post. If you like Evan Mobley’s game at USC, consider his mid-major cousin Johni Broome at Morehead State. His footwork is impressive, working the baseline and his pivot foot to perfection at times.
Four players scored double digits in the OVC Championship win.
At 22-years-old Nick Muszynski is a high level established post scorer for Belmont, and the Eagles neutralized him.
Winthrop Basketball super fan Michael Covil recently joined the podcast to discuss a team that’s playing under the radar only because the radar machine hasn’t hit the high seas yet.
Winthrop basketball is every bit of what a mid-major March Madness rock star looks like. It has a memorable point guard, wings for days, a rising star in the coaching ranks, a freshman that attacks the rim, and even a burley center who spins to the hole. The team is a whirling dervish of entertainment.
Covil chats with Matty D. about some of the Eagles best qualities, and what, if anything, its weak on. Watch below….
Nagging injuries and absences still plague the nation’s best college basketball season, despite everyone enduring the virus-plagued season. Here’s a list of the top injuries in college basketball and how replacements are filling some voids. See our top 8 list below.
Collin Gillespie Suffers MCL Knee Injury, Out for March Madness
This injury update jumped to the number one spot. Collin Gillespie is among the best five point guards in the nation, if not the best. His jump stop into the lane, pivot foot action, is unparalleled by anyone else. And Villanova will now be operating the postseason without him. Villanova was already thin in terms of body count for its normal rotation. A 5-star point guard who was in Villanova’s pipeline and next-up on its bench for one season, Jahvon Quinerly, is now on top ranked Alabama. This injury may demand that Jeremiah Robinson-Earl plays at the Player of the Year level he is capable of. He has POY talents and has had a great season, but he has not been in the discussion with the likes of Luka Garza and Jared Butler at the top of that list. Villanova went limping into the Big Dance on the heels of a Big East Tournament loss to 8 seed Georgetown, so it will definitely need Robinson-Earl to emerge if it still has ambitions for an elite 8.
2. Isaiah Livers Out for 1 Seed Michigan
The term “out indefinitely” can be a fluid situation in college basketball. And so here’s your friendly reminder to Google each specific injury hours before tip off and see where things stand. However, with this important injury, it seems the Wolverines are talking as if the season is over for Isaiah Livers. That’s so unfortunate. What basketball fans can love about Michigan is its mix of veteran program players and newcomers who have had an immediate impact. On the wing, Livers is one of the Wolverines most reliable playmakers and defenders. As the Detroit News reports, he is rehabbing a stress injury to his right foot and is in a walking boot. An obvious player who could and should step up in this absence is sophomore Franz Wagner, someone who has serious NBA aspirations.
3. Jack Nunge’s Season Cut Short for Iowa Hawkeyes
Everyone knows about Luka Garza, but Jack Nunge was quietly having a strong year as an Iowa big man. He offered a true stretch four options and could also spell Garza at the 5 spot. That versatility is sadly gone as Nunge suffered a season ending knee injury in March. Watch for how 6-8 freshman Keegan Murray can respond at the power forward position. He will not start during this roster re-shuffle, but the talented freshman ran the floor well and competed valiantly against bulldog EJ Liddell in a prime matchup against fellow top 10 team Ohio State (early into the adjustment period after Nunge’s loss).
4. De’Vion Harmon Tests Positive for COVID-19, Would Miss Oklahoma’s First Two Games
This is about as sad as it gets. Sure, breaking a bone or suffering a serious knee injury must be horrible. But to miss the first two games of a tournament you’ve fought so desperately to enter, on top of that virus stealing your postseason last year, is an inconceivable feeling to imagine. That’s what De’Vion Harmon might be feeling right now. As ESPN reports, De’Vion Harmon tested positive for COVID-19. The Sooners were top 8 or 9 seed earlier this season in the national AP Poll. Now they limp into the NCAA Tournament as an 8/9 seed and without their starting point guard. If you take into consideration Gonzaga would be Oklahoma’s next opponent if it beats Missouri without Harmon, you could make the argument that this is the most important injury of the current tournament.
5. ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright Out for Loyoyla-Chicago Game
Georgia Tech’s leading scorer Moses Wright is also out due to COVID-19 protocols for Georgia Tech in its opening round game against Loyola-Chicago. Loyola-Chicago enters the tournament as a 9 seed, but also ranked as KenPom.com’s ninth best team in the nation. Needless to say, this is a gigantic loss for the Yellow Jackets.
6. Drake Loses Point Guard Amidst Historically Great Season
This one really sucks for college basketball. The Drake Bulldogs were one of college basketball’s early undefeated teams. They and Loyola Chicago both looked like teams that could get at large bids punched for their tickets to the dance. Roman Penn, the Siena transfer and guard guard for Drake, was averaging 5.5 assists to only 2.3 turnovers per game. With just a few games left in the season Drake lost Penn for the season. Guard Joseph Yesufu saw his minutes increase, but responded with 5 assists to his first 10 turnovers in that immediate action. To steal a line from Drake himself, if you are reading this it’s too late for the Bulldogs. The unfortunate truth in college basketball is that taking a point guard away is like taking a starting quarterback away from a football team. Meanwhile, consider how Loyola Chicago might skate more easily in the NCAA Tournament without dueling its in-conference foe for a hard fought championship battle. You can decide (if that happens) whether it helps or hurts the Ramblers get prepped for a Final 4 repeat.
7. Vols Big Man John Fulkerson Catches an Elbow
The Tennessee Volunteers could be without big man John Fulkerson to start the Big Dance. He caught an elbow mid-way through the SEC Tournament and suffered a facial fracture. Like Ayo Dosunmo, maybe we will see him out there with a protective mask around his face. Follow local sites like Knoxnews.com for the latest updates.
8. Fabian White Jr. Clear for Takeoff in Houston?
The Houston Cougars potentially have landed a new addition in the rotation that could rocket them into another stratosphere. Fabian White Jr. is actually one of the most tenured Cougars. And the fact that the power forward (defacto center for this club) is back from an ACL knee injury in February is a game changer. According to The Daily Cougar, White has achieved a heroic effort to expedite his injury recovery in under 12 months. And while he was out, his front court mates really rebounded the ball and defended fantastic in his absence. Houston is a team that can play with great pace, but they have the muscle to hold down a push inside. Watch Fabian White Jr. in March because this is just the beginning of his season with lots of meaning.
Injuries 9 and 10 to Watch: Ankle Injuries Plaguing the Big 10’s Best
Both Big 10 powers Iowa and Michigan are dealing with nagging ankle injuries. Joe Wieskamp of Iowa is day-to-day with an ankle injury and Eli Brooks was nursing an ankle injury as he played in the Big 10 Tournament.
Shortly after Valentine’s Day, I have officially fallen in love with a few teams. In this article, I make the argument for why these teams would advance in a fictitious bracket designed by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi in his bracketology.
Big 10’s fifth through tenth best due to get snubbed
The headline for this February 16th simulation of a bracket is that the Big 10 teams, from the fifth best conference record to the tenth best record, will get snubbed. What I mean by that is the talent discrepancy among the Big 10 teams is not that large. Wisconsin is currently listed as a 5 seed, but it has lost to the tenth best team in the conference, Maryland. Right now Michigan and Ohio State occupy the hypothetical 1 lines. However, Ohio State lost to Minnesota, a projected 10 seed. It also lost to Purdue, a projected 6 seed. Those of us watching college basketball know that those higher seeded teams are nearly as dangerous as the Buckeyes. If the Buckeyes have a 80% chance of making the Sweet 16, you’d have to put the Purdue Boilermakers odds somewhere in the 60-70% range. That’s just my humble opinion in watching these games.
Defense can still win championships, even in College Basketball
Another trend that I am expecting by doing this mock bracket is the scarcity of elite defensive teams. When you look at the current Kenpom.com defensive analytics, there are many team in the top 30 of defensive efficiency that might not even make the tournament. For example, Memphis is the sixth best defensive team according to Kenpom’s measurement. Teams like Utah State, Mississippi, Maryland, VCU, Stanford and Kentucky are all firmly in the top 30, but half of those teams won’t make the tournament. Even Clemson, a projected 7 seed and 13th best Kenpom defensive team, is not guaranteed to make the tournament in a (historically) weaker ACC season.
I bring up the math test because it’s confirmed by my eye test. Even in just the left hand side of the bracket, I love the top defensive clubs to make the field of 32.
Just on the left hand side of that bracket, you would have four of the best 7 defensive teams win their first game. And all those teams, Gonzaga, Houston, Loyola Chicago and Alabama, can score the rock!
Heavyweight matchups could litter the first two days of the NCAA Tournament
If this mock up is any indication, there could be some serious heavyweight fights in just the first 48. Creighton versus Utah State, Purdue versus Drake, and Wisconsin versus Belmont represent some match-ups where the winner could easily become among the Elite 8.
Conclusions from a February Eye Test Bracketology
These simulations, whether the ESPN or CBS publishing, continue to show a possible Baylor Illinois rematch in the Elite 8. I think that Illinois is actually among the three or four teams nationwide that can beat Baylor, because of its size and blossoming core of young guards. It’s also very difficult to sweep any legit basketball team 2-0 in any season. Ayo Dosunmo did not play well offensively in the first half of their first matchup in late 2020. That’s a matchup I am keeping a close eye on for March.
Meantime, I am going to continue to trust my eyes and its perfect marriage (at least at the moment) with the analytics. That’s why Western Kentrucky, Loyola Chicago, Rutgers and Belmont is making my Sweet 16 as of February 17th.
Predicting a Final Four with Numbers that Mimic Recent History
This blog is all about the eye test, not necessarily the numbers. But sometimes your eye can’t avoid the usual suspect numbers. We know as college basketball fans that the Final Four is never a perfect grouping of 1 seeds. That has only happened once in history (2008 with Kansas, Memphis, UNC and UCLA).
And so the total sum of all the Final Four seeds added together is normally 10 or more. In the last five tournaments, it’s been more common to have a 7 seed than a 3 seed (two occurrences versus none). A 6 seed hasn’t made it since 1992 with the Fab 5 and Michigan.
And so with this Elite 8, I followed my instinct of taking a high ceiling low seed Big 10 team (6 seed) in Purdue. My 5 seed is Creighton. Texas had two hiccups in its schedule during the dead of winter while navigating COVID-19 related absences. And so the Longhorns slipping to the 4 seed doesn’t deter me. They join Gonzaga, Illinois and Creighton in my Final 4. The total seed count is 12.
In case you’ve been in a cave, or dedicated your winter viewing to NFL football, you may have missed some major developments in college basketball. Let’s get you caught up!
Runaway Trains Baylor and Gonzaga Basketball on Collision Course
The first thing you need to know about the first 3 months of this college basketball season is the dominance of Baylor and Gonzaga. As always, Gonzaga has tested itself out of conference. And as of right now, they’re undefeated. They lost Filip Petrušev from last season but replaced his talent with Jalen Suggs. Suggs played high level football in high school and is giving the Bulldogs an intimidation element at guard they’ve rarely had. Speaking of intimidating guards, Baylor has also been unstoppable. With the addition of junior college transfer Adam Flagler, they now have 4 guards who can go for 15-20 points any night. And, the Baylor Bears still have the muscle down low that sometimes resembles its football team. To stick with the football analogies, Baylor and Gonzaga are seemingly runaway trains set for a Super Bowl collision in early April. In fact, they were supposed to play in December, but COVID-19 canceled that. The status of the game has ironically remained “postponed,” as it’s the odds-on favorite to happen as a National Championship.
Big 10 Can Send 10 Final Four Worthy Teams to the Tournament
After the dominance of Baylor and Gonzaga, the national landscape is relatively wide open. The SEC has a few top 20 teams (Alabama, Tennessee and Missouri) and the Big East returns a veteran Villanova and Creighton team. However, the Big 10 is really crazy talented. Every team in the Big 10 has a big man who can take over a game. The NCAA recently announced its final 13 finalists for the best center in the game. That’s the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award. Three of those finalists are from the Big 10. The frontrunner for player of the year is also from the Big 10: Luka Garza. Baylor and Gonzaga might get the top two seeds, but Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan might snatch up the next 2 and 3 seeds. Michigan was undefeated for the first two months of the season. Ohio State returned a great core and is having some great talent come off the bench. Illinois might have the most dangerous 1-2 punch in Ayo Disunmo and Kofi Cockburn. Meantime, teams like Indiana, Minnesota, Rutgers, and Purdue will all only just squeeze into the tournament in the 6-10 seed range because of how difficult it is to get wins in the conference. Read other Big 10 roster rotation movements of note here.
Mid-majors and other non-Power 5 Programs to Watch in College Hoops
If you include the Big East, college basketball really has six power conferences. As usual, there are multiple teams outside of the major conferences who can disrupt March Madness. This year there’s Houston as a perennial top 10 team. They look like a lock to win the American Conference. You also have Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference. They were recently ranked in the top 25 with their undefeated record before losing to Valpairaso. Other mid-major teams putting together tournament-worthy resumes include Western Kentucky, Belmont, and Winthrop, to name a few. The Mountain West has 4 or 5 teams that could make the tournament. They’d all be dangerous. Right now San Diego State, Boise State, and Colorado State are flirting with an 8 or 9 seed. You also have a very veteran bunch in Utah State with a legit 7 footer with skill in Neemias Queta. An interesting trend to watch is how many of these smaller conferences are managing the COVID-19 risk by playing back-to-back games. Or, one team will visit an opponent’s city and even play back-to-back days. That’s the story in Conference USA where North Texas, for example, just split a Friday-Saturday pairing with LA Tech. What’s interesting about this dynamic is that it mimics the NCAA Tournament.
How College Basketball Postseason Looks During COVID-19
The NCAA has decided to host its entire March Madness event in the Indianapolis area. The thought is that these smaller bubbles of players, staff, and supporters will mitigate the risk while traveling in smaller circles. The games will be held in some of the area’s iconic basketball venues (ex. Assembly Hall and Hinkle Fieldhouse). When it comes to Conference Championships, each conference is navigating the travel and fan participation in its own unique way. Here is a weblink where we are tracking all of the Championship Week updates.
College Basketball Traditions Continue Despite COVID-19
Even though fans can’t be in attendance in most cases, college basketball is still doing a great job at continuing many of its tradition. One recent tradition that continues is the college game’s presence of second generation talent. Here’s a full list of this year’s sons of NBA players in college basketball. Thank you for reading!
Big 10 Coaches Tweak Rosters As Season Enters Home Stretch
Anyone watching college basketball this season with an unbiased view will admit that the Big 10 is the best conference in basketball. So when subtle changes happen to some of the best team’s rosters, those are developments worth watching. Here are some late season roster tinkering that could become a factor in March Madness.
Rutgers Swingman Jacob Young Coming Off The Bench
If you listen to Twitter (don’t), Rutgers fans will tell you that Jacob Young is trash. Well, that’s not true. The Euro-stepping swingman from Houston has a 20 point game in his grasp each time he steps on the floor. His defense has been questioned. And this mid-season, Rutgers coach Steve Pickel relegated Young to the bench. The Scarlet Knights responded by hitting a 4 game winning streak as January rolled into February. Young might not be a starter, but he pairs well with Ron Harper Jr. as a closer.
Michigan Coach Tom Izzo Searching for Starting Point Guard
Tom Izzo certainly doesn’t need my sympathy. He’s a championship coach and definitely not reading this blog article. However, I feel bad from any coach who loses Cassius Winston in one COVID-ravaged season and has to enter a COVID-complicated following season with few choices at point guard. Rocket Watts was auditioned at point guard early in the season, but it was determined (not surprisingly) that he is a shooting guard. Izzo then turned to freshman A.J. Hoggard as the head man. Sparty also has 6 foot junior Foster Loyer on the roster. Hoggard has slipped from the leading minutes-getter at point guard and the leading assists man at Michigan State is forward elder statesman forward Joshua Langford. As crazy as this all sounds, if Michigan State even makes the tournament, you’d have to feel shaky taking them against any team that has an established star point guard.
Does the Big 10’s Best Point Guard Come Off The Bench?
CJ Walker went out early this season with a wrist injury. The Buckeyes responded well with play from underclassmen, including the insertion of a Cleveland star who re-classified to leave high school early (Meechie Johnson Jr.). The Buckeyes jumped into the top half of the AP Top 25. Then, when Walker was recovered from his injury, coach Chris Holtmann had him come off the bench. And so can you believe that a player who averaged 3.4 assists in 2019-2020 is still coming off the bench for a top 10 team? This speaks not only to CJ Walker’s willingness to win but Ohio State’s incredible depth.
The 2021 NCAA Conference Tournament schedule is coming together for some regions. In light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, decision-makers in college athletics are wrestling with the logistics of in-person events. That includes college basketball conferences across the nation, which are deciding how to crown its champions. One year ago the college basketball season was paused and then canceled altogether, literally as conference championship games were occurring live on television. This article provides major updates from the power 5 conferences and more for 2021’s evolving game-plan.
The ACC 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Returns to Tar Heel State
The ACC Conference will go down in sports history as one of those conferences that had the unpleasant experience of literally pausing play on its basketball tournament as COVID-19 stopped the 2019-2020 NCAA season. It was also one of the major conferences to make early concessions for its 2021 tournament. The ACC announced in November that it would be coming home in a way, relocated its championship tournament to Greensboro. In recent years, the conference had played in perhaps sexier destinations such as New York City and Washington, DC. However, repositioning its conference tournament in the Carolinas obviously puts it closer to a majority of its teams (Wake Forest, Clemson, NC State, North Carolina, Duke located in the Carolinas).
Big 10 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update
In an era where the size of events is so often in question, the Big 10 Conference is making a statement on its tournament website: “all 14 teams will advance to the tournament.”
Currently, the Big 10 Conference is predicted to have 10 teams in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. And so giving the other four teams an opportunity to compete for a bid brings back the true intrigue of March Madness.
According to its conference tournament website, the “Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament will be held in Chicago for the 11th time and was last held at the United Center at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season.”
The Big 10 Men’s College Basketball Championship game will be held on Sunday, March 14th. The conference hinted at it being aired on CBS Sports.
Big 12 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update
According to the Kansas City Star, the Big 12 will hold its tournament on March 10-13 at T-Mobile Center. As of February 1st, the conference had not decided on whether to hold the event without fans or at 25% capacity. The T-Mobile Center has a website ready to sell tickets, but the landing page currently has a “TBA” designation on the ticket sessions.
The Big 12 Conference had fans in attendance for its football championship on December 19 2020, although the state health and safety guidelines in Texas may differ from Missouri’s.
Big East 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update
As of February 1st, the Big East hadn’t updated any news on whether the Big East Tournament will take place (with or without fans) at its normal home of Madison Square Garden.
On MSG’s event calendar, a concert for late March is listed as canceled. However, you Justin Bieber fans will be excited that his concert is on!
The last men’s basketball action published on The Big East’s “master schedule” is on Saturday, March 6, 2021 with a flurry of marquee match-ups. In the event there is no tournament, you would assume Providence would have to beat Villanova and Seton Hall would have to defeat St. John’s to even have a chance at an NCAA Tournament bid.
Pac-12 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update
The Pac-12 may have been the most cautious major conference in terms of letting fans attend games this season. This winter they extended the prohibition of fans in attendance across the board. A footnote in the policy states that there is some discretion based on local and state regulations.
The Pac-12 has not yet made an announcement about whether players will compete in person this March for a conference champion. If recent tradition continued, the Pac-12 would be playing its conference tournament in Las Vegas between March 10-13. The Bay Area News Group/East Bay Times is reporting that conference Athletic Director Larry Scott showed no signs of cancelling that version of the event during a recent meeting.
Meanwhile, the Pac-12 recently announced in January that Larry Scott will serve out his contract and move on June 2021. Read the full statement here.
With projections showing that the PAC-12 has five teams in great position to make the NCAA Tournament with at-large bids, there is an argument to make for canceling the tournament. This is because the sixth best team in the conference currently, Arizona, is ineligible for postseason play because of violations. This almost makes the decision of punting on a conference tournament as “easy” (relative terms here) as it may ever be for a power 5 conference.
SEC 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update
On January 20, 2021, the SEC Conference posted an article on its official site announcing the in-person conference tournament schedule for mid-March. It takes place in Nashville, Tennessee.
Much to Kentucky Head Coach John Calapari’s shagrin, the SEC championship game itself will take place on Selection Sunday (March 14th)!
Read more “Championship Week” updates from non-power 5 conferences below…
The American East 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament tweaks its format
The American East announced it will host its conference tournament over two weeks and in regional pods. The American East Men’s College Basketball Championship game will take place as it traditionally does, on the Saturday morning before Selection Sunday.
The American Athletic Conference 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update
According to the most trusted source of news on the Internet, Wikipedia, the tournament will be played at the Dickie’s Arena in Texas. Read more.
The Atlantic 10 Tournament 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update
The Atlantic 10 took a unique approach to managing its conference tournament during COVID-19. Two rival schools will co-host the event. In early January, the conference announced it is pulling out of the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn amidst pandemic concerns. Two weeks later it announced that the event will be co-hosted by two schools in the city of Richmond.
CBS college basketball insider Jon Rothstein reports that the Atlantic 10 will play to a limited crowd.
Conference USA Champions “Pod Integrity” in its plans to crown a Champion
The Conference USA plans to host its conference tournament at “The Star in Frisco,” which is a massive training facility for the Dallas Cowboys. According to the venue’s website, tickets will be on sale. A COVID-19 protocol fact sheet is included on its website. The protocol calls for pods of tickets where groups of people who know each other are admitted. It stresses “pod integrity,” meaning that tickets aren’t relayed to unknown parties.
Conference USA plans on having 12 teams participate for the men’s basketball tournament March 10-13, meaning that the last place team from the two divisions would not qualify for the playoff.
Mountain West Conference Championship set to peak with matinee matchup
The Mountain West Men’s Basketball Tournament will continue its recent tradition of battling in Las Vegas and playing its championship game on a late Saturday afternoon. This game is normally shown on Network TV, with Reggie Miller and Kevin Harlan calling the game in recent years on CBS. All 11 seeds are slated to play each other in person over four days (March 10th-March 13th). This sets the table for Utah State to have a chance to 3-peat as the Mountain West Conference Championship on Saturday.
Western Athletic Conference Championship Also Returns to Vegas
Poll Results: Which is the streakiest college basketball team in the AP Top 25?
The Minnesota Gophers were recently voted as the most streaky team in college basketball. Similar to the gopher animal itself, the team’s movements include popping up high and burrowing down low. They beat Iowa on Christmas day with a dramatic offensive sequence by Marcus Carr. They crushed Michigan State a few days later. Those are the high pops. They looked like national championship good in the first half against Purdue. However, in the second half they let a freshmen laden team come back from a big deficit for the win. The Minnesota Gophers don’t have any bad losses, but it’s confusing how they oftentimes either crush teams, or get crushed. They beat Ohio State by 17 but lost to Michigan by 25 and Illinois by 27.
After watching a weekend of dramatic action across the college basketball landscape, some team identities are starting to crystalize. Which of these teams do you think can get hot (or cold) at the game reaches crunch time?
How and When to Hedge College Basketball Futures Odds
It’s the great debate. That is, at least in sports books around late March. “Hey, I have XYZ team at 80-1 to win a title. Now that they’re in the Sweet 16, should I start hedging?” said every amateur bettor in this position, ever (even if to himself).
So, what’s the best answer?
Like everything else in 2020-2021, there is no simple answer. However, below is a great case study to help structure our debate…
Best Time to Pick College Basketball Futures Values
Let’s simulate a bettor making futures picks at the start of the season with $100 bucks. Or, in this case, $108 to be exact. In November when these picks are made, there are naturally some good values. For example, the Houston Cougars out of the American Athletic Conference were 50-1. Although they play in a non-power 5 school, Houston would ascend into the AP Top 10 throughout that season. The team’s value increased to 12-1 by February.
So when do you hedge? Should you sell a ticket that doubled in value on a secondary market, such as PropSwap? If you had two future tickets like it, and sold one on ProSwap, that would be considered hedging your bet.
When to Hedge College Basketball Futures
Let’s fast forward. Now that games have been played and you can use your eye test to analyze teams, who do you like? In our case study, the longest shot odd of North Texas (above) is having a difficult year. Meanwhile, in its conference, UAB and Western Kentucky are piecing together a quality resume. In fact, it’s within the realm of possibilities that one of those teams get an at-large bid. And so, instead of throwing out the North Texas bet that could win $10,000, we hedge it by also investing in the other in-conference rivals. This way, it becomes a statistically likelihood the bettor will have a Conference USA team in March Madness.
See Western Kentucky and UAB below.
You can see that for just $3 dollars and $4 dollars respectively, the odds are probably around 95% at this point that the better will have the Conference USA team among its roster of teams in the actual March Madness bracket. Did we mention this was betting on a budget?
And so at this point the bettor would have 13 teams in play. We are conceding that 2-4 of those teams won’t make the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (let’s say two Conference USA teams in addition to one other). So let’s say that 10 teams will be in the tournament and for $200 the bettor can himself to win at least $1,000 in those ten scenarios. And so the next question may be: When would he start hedging if he acknowledges Gonzaga and Baylor look far-and-away like the nation’s best teams (at +350 and 6-1 for their respective futures).
How to Hedge Your Bets on Selection Sunday
Back to reality, on this particular season North Texas did win its conference tournament. And so the bettor brings into the tournament a $10,000 lottery ticket. Should he hedge by immediately taking the opponent of North Texas? Continue reading to review some specific strategies to consider, each with their own nickname, for betting futures on a budget during March Madness.
Don’t Let a Crowded Region Cloud Your Final Four
Let’s say that four of the futures bets made in November land in one region during March. At face value, this could look like a horrible outcome for the budget bettor. However, it you change your mindset as the investor, it could work for you. Let’s say that Texas, Houston, Colorado and West Virginia all entered the same region. Instead of seeing the National Title game, or ever the Final 4 itself, as the climax of the tournament, that person would just have to move up its timeline for the tournament climax. The climax may actually be when all of those teams have an opportunity to cover the spread on the first two days. Or, the climax might be a money line parlay on all of those teams winning outright in the field of 32. Either way, a crowded region should immediately have the bettor move up the finish line in his mind. A textbook parlay in this scenario would be to take the 4 teams to cover a first round spread to win at 10-1. It might also be worth lookin at what factor a money line parlay pays. It can be typed in before canceling the bet on a kiosk. On the flip side, a reverse haymaker wheel could make sense as an insurance policy. For example, two team pairs of underdogs could be bet on in a rotation to hedge two real losses happening for Texas, Houston, Colorado and West Virginia.
In terms of hedging futures, there will likely be a situation where 2 or 3 of the preseason futures teams are in one eighth of a bracket. In this case it wouldn’t make sense to hedge so that more than three teams are covered. For example in this eighth of a bracket above, an ideal sweet 16 matchup would be the two futures (Colorado and Houston) against each other in the sweet 16. Chasing both UNC and Texas State on futures here might muddy the water too much with losses. Perhaps a very small amount on UNC to win a title (because their final 4 odds will likely be in the 6-1 ballpark) and short the high value Texas State single bet as a lone insurance policy.
Investing in Short, Mid-size, or Long-range College Basketball Futures
With the overview example, this person might have 6 teams in the tournament. Especially if those are high value tickets, the plays has to be hedged in some way: Let’s call it long, single, or mid-sized. In the hypothetical scenario that his North Texas ticket draws Florida State in a 14 seed matched up against a 3, he might go one of three ways. In the long example, he would simply take Florida State as a title contender at 20-1. And so this could become a line in the bracket that he just commits to and invests in, depending on the winner. Betting $100 on Florida State at 20-1 would guarantee that he would have a 1 in 32 shot of winning at least $2,000 for $105 invested ($2,000 if FSU wins title, $10,000 for North Texas). The mid-sized play in this hypothetical would be taking Florida State to win the region. That bet would be roughly one quarter of the title future. So Florida State might be 5-1 to win this region, although they’re more likely to be 4-1. And so betting $25 at 4-1 would pay $100 and, again, guarantee that some investment survives and advances into the field of 32. A short term play would be to just focus on the single game between North Texas and Florida State. It would be easy to just root for North Texas to cover a 13.5 point spread. Another tempting short term play (although one that’s rarely advisable) would be to bet heavy on the chalk. Florida State might be -750ML in this hypothetical, so the bettor would have to put up $150 to win $20 bucks (and profit $15 from his original $5 bet on North Texas).
Standing by to Wait-and-See which Seed Starts Growing in March Madness
There’s no shame is standing by to watch the first two days of the tournament to see who has truly brought their A+ game. We will learn a lot about these teams as we see them live in action. Many of the nagging injuries would be proven a hindrance or a non-factor. If you have high value future bets that have made it to March Madness, that could be an excuse to save money by not betting a single game itself. For example, this bettor might have 6 seed Colorado squaring off against 11 seed Louisville. If Louisville wins the game outright, perhaps it’s time for the bettor to take the Cardinals to win the region or the title. Besides, he bet Colorado because he thinks they’re a good team, so by default he would have to like Louisville if they won this first round matchup.
I use the Las Vegas odds as a measuring stick to test my own eye test. The College Basketball Eye Test blog went 65-53 against the spread in the 2018-2019 NCAA Basketball Season. Click here to see that season’s thread on Twitter. The 2019-2020 season was incomplete, but CBBEyeTest on Twitter was 2 games above .500 as the season got paused.
College basketball odds and picks for February, 20201
College Basketball Picks from January 2021
Below is an archive of tweets with predictions for the 2020-2021 season: