The focus of the betting nation is heightened on the NCAA Tournament, one of the top spectacles in sports, which begins Tuesday, March 19.
But for more and more bettors, conference tournaments are becoming the popular choice and, as some handicappers will tell you, they have the potential to provide a bigger windfall than the Big Dance that follows.
Much bigger, actually.
Here are four reasons why cappers cash in during the conference tournaments.
Professional handicapper David Malinsky believes the conference tournaments provide the unique opportunity to jump on the oddsmakers, who are working against a clock to produce quick spreads.
“The oddsmakers face some of their biggest challenges in these games,” he says. “They are forced to deal fresh lines based on matchups that are being determined on the fly. In the NCAA Tournament, the oddsmakers do not have to deal with those time pressures.”
“Particularly on the West Coast,” adds Sevransky. “A game might end at midnight and you have to have a spread up at 7 a.m. the next morning.”
Covers Expert Marc Lawrence sees conference tournaments as one last chance for teams to gain the upper hand on a rival or an opponent that had their number in the regular season.
“Revenge can be a powerful tool in handicapping conference tourney games,” says Lawrence, “and when applied properly can be the difference in winning and losing the handicapping battle with the oddsmakers.”
In this year’s Big Ten Tournament, squads on the NCAA bubble like Minnesota and Illinois have much more on the line than shoo-ins like Indiana and Michigan.
“You have legitimate motivation issues,” says pro handicapper Teddy Covers. “There are many coaches with teams that have to be favored, but they don’t give a hoot because their eyes are on the bigger prize the following week.
“It’s a classic case of disinterested favorites, which you always like to see.”
“The ability of coaches to generate gameplans without practice time brings unique edges,” adds Malinsky. “And knowing which teams will literally quit when they fall behind big in a game and which will play hard for the full 40 minutes no matter what the score is can lead to some outstanding situations.”
Not that simple
The experts will provide some caveats, too.
Conference tournaments are for the well-informed, says Malinsky. After all, the teams facing each other are often doing so for a third time.
Because of that, Covers Expert Steve Merril believes oddsmakers could potentially wield more power for conference tournaments. The NCAA Tournament, he argues, takes more in-depth analysis to prepare for because many of the matchups are unique. There are oftentimes no common opponents and strength of schedule and statistics vary greatly.
“The (conference tournament) lines are much sharper and accurate because the oddsmakers have past examples to base their numbers on."
Editor's note: This story was originally published in March 2011. Stats and figures have been updated.