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March Madness

Handicapping Tips

Sophisticated prediction models and fancy power rating systems are tools used by hardcore basketball handicappers and are of course very helpful. But with a little common sense, a basketball bettor should be able to hold his own this time of year using some very simple, readily available stats. Here are a few tips you can use throughout the remaining college hoops season, right through to the final 4.

What have you done for me lately? Remember that phrase. College hoops has several mini seasons within itself. You have the early season tournaments, then the early season non conference schedule where elite teams typically batter the brains of weaker teams, then conference play, the regular season stretch run, the conference tournaments and of course the big dance, NIT and any other new tournaments they can come up with.

At no time is it more important to ask "what have you done for me lately?" than right now. In fact, you could toss out the entire season and start keeping stats right now and probably have yourself a decent run the rest of the way. Here are a few things you can do.

Handicappers that rely on power ratings will often perform a calculation to determine whether a team is playing at or below their full season power rating, over the last 5 games, or however many games they choose. You can even use the readily available online ratings such as Sagarins. Go back 5 games and see how a team performed. For example, let's say the ratings said Team 1 should have beaten team 2 by 10 points, last time out, which was a home game. Assume they won by 20 instead. Assume their season to date power rating is 80. In that last game, they performed like a team rated 90.

Perform that calculation for the last 5 games. Then average out all of the "new ratings". Your number will be the power rating for that team over the last 5 games. You may find this team that has a rating of 80 season to date, is really playing like a team rated 87. They may be playing another team with a season rating of 80, but that is playing like a team rated 75. Suddenly, a game rated even using season to date numbers, now favors one side by 12 points!

There is another method you can use to arrive at basically the same results, that may be even easier, and quicker to calculate. Simply take a look at how a team has performed against the spread over the last 5 games, or however many games you choose. For example, if a team is favored by 5 points, and wins by 10, they get a +5 for that game. If they are favored by 10 and only win by 5, they get a minus 5. If they are favored by 2 and win by 15, it's +13, and so on. Simply keep a running tally.

You can then use the results to determine if a team is playing above, below or at, it's season to date strength. If a team has covered the last 5 games and has beaten the spread by 5 points or more every time, this is obviously a hot team playing above their regular season level or rating. It's a great way to spot hot or cold teams to bet on or against and essentially accomplishes the same as the power rating method listed above.

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