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March Madness Trend Betting Tips.

When it comes to an analysis of how to bet during the annual NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, commonly referred to as March Madness, beware the tendency by some to offer strategies that are the equivalent of mixing apples and oranges.

Sports bettors have two primary objectives during this three-week betfest: picking winners against the pointspread (ATS), frequently with precious little time to do thorough handicapping from the time the lines are posted to when the games tip off; and selecting straight up (S/U) winners of all the games in advance for bracket pools which award weighted points for correct selections.

They are absolutely different disciplines, with diametrically opposed tactics and strategies.

We are going to concentrate on trend-betting tips designed to help players go to war with the boys who have 11-10 working for them. The bookmakers hold the obvious advantage, but with patience, discipline and a little luck, we can squeeze out some edges that favor bettors.

One advantage for serious players this year is that for the first time, all the TV games will be available to be seen online for free. From the tip-off of the first game on March 16, through the championship game, live CBS Sports broadcasts of the Tournament will be available to be seen from outside their viewing area via www.NCAAsports.com.

There is no substitute for actually watching games and analyzing the teams for subtle variations in performance that are not reflected in the final score, or in highlight tapes. For instance, it is one thing to note the minutes played by the starters and primary subs on a team. But by witnessing the game, you can put in context the on-court time vs. the pace of the game, and more accurately determine if a team might be fatigued or relatively fresh.

A team that relies on a half-court game, forced into a track meet versus a run-and-gun fast-break team, could have tired legs playing a second game with only one day’s rest.

Before the Tournament gets underway, bettors have from Sunday afternoon when the initial pairings are announced until Thursday morning at around 11:40 Eastern Time when the first game tips off, to get organized. Use that time to review every team's record, S/U and ats, with the objective of identifying useful betting trends.

Who is on a winning streak? Who is in a cold spell? Who is injured and who is returning from injuries? Who played above their heads in conference playoffs? Who went through the motions in the playoffs because they were already guaranteed a spot in the Tournament? Who is traveling far from home? In seeding the participants, has the NCAA created mismatches beyond the obvious #1 vs. #16?

Trends from December and January are meaningless. It is a team's current status that is crucial to picking winners during this short, intense period.

Professional bettors rate individual teams according to the competition they play, and by their conference. Don't be mislead by reputations, know the current relative standing of strong and weak conferences. While the ACC and Big 10 are known for perennially producing strong teams, other conferences vary from year to year depending on recruiting success and movement of teams in and out of the conference.

For instance, some of this year's key moves by colleges include Boston College moving from the Big East to the ACC; Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette and South Florida moving from Conference USA to the Big East; TCU moved from Conference USA to Mountain West; and Rice, SMU, Texas-El Paso and Tulsa moved from Western Athletic to Conference USA.

Here are a few trends that should be factored into your wagering strategies:

· Of 55 teams that have entered the Tournament with only a single loss, just six have won the championship. NC State in 1974 was the last team to do so.

· In 2005, Illinois became the 20th consecutive team to enter the Tournament with one loss and not win the championship.

· In the past six years, 12 different schools competed in the Title game. That is the longest stretch of games in Tournament history in which every championship game had different teams.

· Last year was the first time since 1965 that the pre-Tournament #1 team and the #1 team in the AP Poll met in the Title game, and only the sixth time overall.

· The team with the most victories over #1 seeds is Duke, with eight.

· Illinois has never defeated a #1 seed.

· Last year, every team in the Final Four had a losing record in the Tournament's national semifinals, the first time that has ever happened.

· The championship game has featured two #1 seeds only three times.

· 2005 was the seventh consecutive year in which the Final Four had a conference (Big 10) with two teams. The Big 10 has done it three times; the ACC and Big 12, two times each.

It is easy to get buried in statistics, since a mountain of data for the 65 competitors is available. But do not spin your wheels studying irrelevant or tangential stats. The trick is to study smart.

If there is a single stat that should be given a high priority, it is a team's ATS record. That is much more telling of a team's abilities than its straight-up record. By doing well ATS, the team is exceeding expectations of the public and the oddsmaker.

Last year's championship game featured Illinois (29-1 S/U and 13-8-2 ATS) vs. North Carolina (26-3 S/U and 17-11 ATS). Compare that with #3 seed Kansas (22-5 S/U but 11-15 ATS) or #2 seed Wake Forest (26-4 S/U and 12-15-1 ATS). The Jayhawks were eliminated by a #14 seed in the opening round; Wake Forest lost to a #7 seed in the second round.

Another trend to take advantage of is the tendency by the public to have a bias toward betting totals on the "over". If you know the opening number on a game and see it has been bet up several points, there is frequently value in waiting until the number peaks, and then betting under. You need to be quick because wiseguys who always seek value will be doing the same thing.

Here’s one final strategy that is more subjective than trend-oriented, but effective nonetheless. From the Sweet 16 on, look to bet against teams that are bullies. These are squads that like to intimidate opponents with physical play under the boards, or specialize in trash talk. These tactics work against weaker, less confident teams but fall flat when facing an experienced, battle-hardened program that has both talent and heart.

March Madness rivals the Super Bowl in wagering handle, and in many shops exceeds the big football game. Take these tips and give the bookies three weeks of hell as you personally redistribute the profits and losses of betting on the Tournament.
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