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Friday, March 24, 2006

The Inside Wagering Line: The Pinnacle Pulse


With "Cinderella" stories and buzzer beaters capturing the imagination of basketball fans everywhere, the NCAA tournament has become one of the biggest sporting events of the year. With Selection Sunday taking place this weekend to announce the 65 participants in the 2006 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship, it's safe to say that the popularity of "March Madness" isn't solely due to those cheering for their alma maters. Many more have a betting interest in the tournament with office pools featuring tournament brackets being the most popular.

Much of the excitement of the tourney is the danger that any given team could be upset. While no #1 seed has ever lost to a #16 seed in tournament history, everyone else is vulnerable. In fact, a team seeded #13 or lower has pulled off a first-round shocker 36 times in the last 20 years. Last year, Bucknell and Vermont ruined brackets everywhere with first round upsets over trendy Final Four picks Kansas and Syracuse, respectively.

With all of these upsets, it is very difficult to even get the Final Four right, let alone win a bracket. If you've spent a lot of time analyzing teams, you have another option: a straight bet on the game. While a wager can make any game more exciting, it's always better to make a bet with your head instead of your heart by doing the research first.

Before the tournament starts, there's time to study all the teams and games. With so much public money flowing on March Madness, there are bound to be spreads on games that are off – public money always gives rise to opportunities. By doing a little homework, the NCAA tournament can provide a great opportunity to win money by avoiding the mistakes of bettors whose heart-driven betting will always ensure that you'll find value at Pinnacle Sportsbetting.

When analyzing teams for tournament play, here is a list of a few things to consider before pulling the trigger on your plays:

1 - How has a team done in its last 10 games? This is often a better way to predict a team's current level of performance than using all the games this season – rotations are hopefully set and young players have matured. Consider the #17 LSU Tigers – they started slowly at 8-5, but have since gone 14-2. By contrast the #16 Florida Gators have lost 4 out of their last 8 games. While ranked similarly, the two teams are headed in opposite directions.

2 - Does the team have depth? A team that relies heavily on just 5-6 players for most of the game will be at a disadvantage against a deeper team, especially in the later rounds of the tournament. If a team plays two tough games in three days, having a deep bench can make all the difference. By way of example, consider the 2005 Tournament when Wisconsin-Milwaukee and West Virginia pulled off big upsets with the help of their deep benches.

This year, Connecticut has been the role-model for depth with five players averaging 10+ points per game and eight players seeing a lot of time. On the other hand, Duke is a "two-trick pony" with only two Blue-Devils averaging over 10 points per game. If J.J. Reddick or Sheldon Williams become injured or face foul trouble, Duke could stumble.

3 - How has the team played against similar caliber opponents? Games where a team is outclassed or is a large favorite are not too useful, because a coach may rest starters or a team could score garbage points when being blown out. This will affect that game's statistics as much as the actual players' performance.

If you are comparing two teams, do not use statistics for the whole season. Time permitting, tally the stats for only the relevant games. For example, Long Beach has the #1 offense in the country averaging 83.7 points per game. However, in games against opponents in the top half of Sagarin ratings, they average only 72 points per game. If you blindly use season-long statistics, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

4 - Power rankings are often inaccurate – they place as much weight on games played early in the season or on mismatches (which are less useful for analysis) as more recent games against equal opponents. The public often relies heavily on power ratings though, so many game spreads will move towards the spread predicted by Sagarin ratings. If such a move will hurt your price, make your bets early before the line moves.

With Selection Sunday taking place this weekend, try to use these ideas while examining this week's conference tournament games. Who do the sharps and public like?

Odds To Win 2006 NCAA Tournament

We've had high volume on most of our NCAA futures, but this is especially the case for the 2006 Tournament winner. If our bettors are right, Connecticut is the favorite to win the tournament. We opened the Huskies at +315 and have seen them highly traded driving the price down to +255. The next most popular team (from betting volume) was North Carolina, whose opener of +7429 was bet down to +912. Nobody wanted to back Duke after its poor finish to the season, causing its opener of +350 to drift up to +412.

Odds to Win Men's Big East Conference Tournament

Similar to the 2006 Tournament, Connecticut is the team to beat. A majority of bets on this conference future were on the Huskies, driving our opener of +157 down to +125. Villanova is the only other team really given a chance at +219. The real question for this conference championship is how much Huskies coach Jim Calhoun will rest his players, having already secured a top seed in the 2006 Tournament.

Odds to Win Men's Big 12 Conference Tournament

We've had heavy trading with a vast majority of the money coming in on Texas and Kansas. Texas opened at +100, but has been bet to a -138 favorite while Kansas opened at +514, but is now trading at +263.

Odds to Win Men's ACC Conference Tournament

Several of our professional prop players bet heavily on this tournament. Duke is a clear favorite (opened at +113, and bet down to +100) despite losing its last two regular season games and has now drifted back to +110. We've been surprised by the N.C. State backing, driving our opener of +1639 down to +1093

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