Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM

Tournament Time

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My head is spinning, and I’m loving it!

It’s time for six weeks of madness….

Many times, over the last four or five decades this has been a very profitable time.

Let’s break it down.  There are four post season tournaments. The CBI, CIT, NIT and of course the granddaddy of them all the NCAA Men's Tournament.

Before we get to all of that, the madness begins with the Conference Tournaments.  This is where teams that play the teams involved have played each other, for the most part for the last six to eight weeks. By having that mix, we get to analyze different aspects to handicapping than we will in the season ending tournaments mentioned above.

Those aspects of handicapping are mostly focused on history and familiarity. When teams play each over often, players get to know each other and get to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses. In turn, us handicappers get to use that information in our analysis.

The first element of handicapping I use is to make my own line, and believe me that is much easier to do, when teams that play each other have been playing in very similar power rating ranges, which is what happens when they have been playing similar opponents in their own conference. 

Revenge is a tool that is used often by cappers.  It can be a very effective tool but can be overused. Some cappers have used it effectively, but they are the cappers that use it selectively. Just because team A beat team B by 20 pts does not mean team B will be able to turn the tables in the next meeting. Sometimes one team is just too good for the other and unless the superior team doesn’t show up, the weaker team will not be able to turn the tables.

Style matters.  Pace matters. There are so many things to be aware but too much info can lead to paralysis by analysis.  Therefore putting together a strong database throughout the season gives you a solid foundation.

Here it is late February/early March and the madness, so to speak has already begun. In the last few weeks, we have seen the potential No. 1 NBA draft choice, Zion Williamson of Duke go down with injury.  We have also seen an increasing number on underdogs not only cover but also win outright, over high-ranking opponents.  Yes, the Madness has already begun and I Love It. 

What has already begun as well is the annual debate over, who’s in and who’s out. Unfortunately, the committee will never get this right, wherein they will satisfy everyone. No one can ever satisfy everyone.

Let’s begin with a look at the Conference Tournaments and move on from there. 

ACC:  This is one of the very top conferences. Clearly Duke is the team to beat. If they are absent Zion, they still have enough weapons to be very dangerous.  North Carolina and Virginia also stand out, but this is a very strong conference, so there are a few others that could catch fire. I believe the strongest outsider team is Florida State.  My Conference Pick is Duke if Zion plays and North Carolina if he does not.

American Athletic:  Don’t sleep on these teams. Both Houston, who is having a remarkable season, and Cincinnati are very capable to move on and do some damage if they get in the Big Dance. Central Florida with their 7’6” center is also very capable. I don’t see all three in the Big Dance, but it could happen. My Conference Pick is Houston

Atlantic 10: No one in this league looks to be able to go to the next level but one may. The winner of their tournament has a shot to get in. Davidson, Dayton or Virginia Commonwealth are the top dogs to consider. My Conference Pick is Virginia Commonwealth.

Big 12: This Conference is very tight. When a conference is this tight top to bottom, upsets are very likely to happen. Kansas State and Texas Tech look the best to me with just about everyone else having a shot, except for West Virginia and Oklahoma State. Multiple teams will make the Big Dance. My Conference Pick is Texas Tech

Big East: The best team in this Conference right now is Marquette. Defending National Champion Villanova is still a force but while Marquette is getting better Villanova is declining. This is a very balanced league with several dangerous clubs, with St John’s having shown signs they can beat anyone on a given day. My Conference Pick is Marquette

Big Ten: Top teams are Michigan State, Michigan and Purdue. A few others, Maryland and Wisconsin, follow closely and can upset the top group on any given day.  My Conference Pick Michigan State.

Big West: I’m sure this conference tournament will be very competitive. The talent level is very thin, but Cal-Irvine and Cal State Fullerton should come out on top. My Conference Pick is Cal-Irvine.

Colonial: Like all the Conference Tourneys, the players want to win, and this will be no exception. Hofstra has played well all season as has College of Charleston and Northeastern.  My Conference Pick is Hofstra.

Conference USA: Another small conference that will bring lots of excitement.  This should be exciting but tough to handicap before it starts. This is where watching as many games as possible during tournament play will bring dividends. You could throw a blanket over about five teams to win this one. My conference Pick Old Dominion.

Horizon: Northern Kentucky and Wright State have the advantage here, but upsets can happen here with teams like Oakland and Illinois Chicago lurking. My conference Pick Wright State.

MAC:  Buffalo is the clear choice here but could falter if they don’t come prepared. There are several speed bumps that could cause trouble from the other 11 teams in this group. Look out for Toledo and Bowling Green. My conference Pick Buffalo.

Missouri Valley: Remember last year’s Tournament darling? That was Loyola Chicago and the magic that Sister Jean brought to the event. That was exciting and really brought a lot of fans back for more. This year Loyola will need a little more help as they are not quite the same group. There are a few teams that could derail Loyola, especially Drake, who has been a bettor’s gold mine this year. Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois are close as well. Should be a battle for the title. My Conference Pick Northern Iowa.

Mountain West: As with all of these conferences, there are multiple land mines for the leaders to get past. Nevada is the clear choice here, but San Diego State, Fresno State and Utah State all have the talent to upset the Wolfpack. Nevada has the better talent by far. My conference pick is Nevada.

PAC-12:  What a disappointment this conference has been this year. Usually we get better quality out of the PAC-12. Washington stands out but a few others can surprise. There should only be one team going to the Big Dance from here. Arizona State, Colorado and Oregon are worth mentioning but my conference pick is Washington.

SEC:  Like the ACC and Big 10, this league is loaded. Kentucky, LSU and Florida stand out to me. Others could easily be in the mix. Tennessee was for a time ranked #1 but their weak non-conference slate did not toughen them up enough. It will be a tough battle for the title and several teams will make the Big Dance, but my conference pick is Kentucky.

Sun Belt: Texas State is a hard team to prepare for, but these teams do know each other well. Georgia State also plays a tough brand of ball and Georgia Southern is very good. Not many hoop fans know about these clubs but beware, if they get to the Big Show, they can knock someone off. My conference pick is Texas State.

West Coast: It’s all Gonzaga as it usually is for this conference. The lack of big game experience could derail the Zags as it has in the past. Be that as it may, the Zags are one of the very best teams in the nation. My conference pick is Gonzaga.

The following Conferences I will just mention who I pick.

Big Sky:  Montana

MAAC: Quinnipiac

Ohio Valley: Belmont

Southern:  NC Greensboro

Summit: South Dakota State

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