Making Sense of March Madness
March Madness is finally here. Championship week is the week that gives almost every NCAA Division I basketball team a chance to make it to the national championship via conference tournaments.
And those tournaments offer unique handicapping opportunities because of the unusual number of games a team must play in a short period. Teams that are already guaranteed a spot in the final NCAA tournament by virtue of their won-loss records have less incentive in these conference tournaments than opponents in desperate need of a victory to assure an invitation.
Depth is a critical factor in handicapping these games. Teams that have a bye in the first round hold a huge advantage. To handicap successfully, check out the box scores. Look for how many minutes the five key players on each team have played. Teams that have enough good substitutes to permit the starters to play fewer than 30 minutes a game have a big advantage in the conference tournaments.
Here are my special tournament-edition power ratings for each of the teams playing in conference tournaments:
|How Do They Match Up?
Power ratings of all teams playing in NCAA conference tournaments.
|St. John's||85 + 2 (home court)|
|St. Joseph's||89 +1|
|Memphis||85 + 3|
|Long Beach State||79|
|Cal Poly SLO||72|
|San Diego State||78|
|WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE|
|San Jose State||78|
|ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE|
|North Carolina St.||84|
The Big DanceEveryone enjoys watching the Sunday tournament selection show to see who gets invited to the Big Dance. My list of power ratings for the top teams in the country follows. Most of these teams will make it into the NCAA tournament. The teams at the bottom of the list with power ratings of 86 or 87 can improve their status by playing well in the conference tournament. Georgia is a most unique team this year with a 16-13 regular-season record but a good power rating. If the Bulldogs can make it to the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament they will probably get an invitation to the Big Dance. This chart can also be used to determine my theoretical point spreads when teams match up in the tournament. Power ratings should be compared, and the team with the higher power rating should be a favorite by the difference between those ratings. Click here for the power ratings.
Now, let's look at how teams that are underdogs have done in conference tournaments over the last five years.
| Conference Tournaments --Underdogs
vs. Favorites Against the Spread
|Conference Tournaments -- Home vs. Visitors Against the Spread|
Does revenge play any part in conference tournaments? Yes and no. A favorite that has lost straight up to its opponent during the regular season has covered the spread at a rate of 59 % in the last four years. However, favorites who have lost twice to their opponent during the regular season only cover the spread 41% of the time. Underdogs who try to avenge a single regular-season defeat only cover at a 46% rate, while underdogs who try to avenge two regular-season losses cover the spread 45% of the time.
|Playing the Revenge Motive
Favorites who lost twice in the regular season to their opponent covered the spread in the conference tournament only 41% of the time.
|Year||Single Revenge Favorite||Double Revenge Favorite||Single Revenge Underdog||Double Revenged Underdog|
We will be back next Wednesday with a special NCAA tournament edition of Vegas Vice, where I will discuss the teams I believe have a chance to make it to the Sweet Sixteen. See you then.
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