While the conference tournaments of the major conferences may not begin until next week, the more interesting and pressure-filled league tournaments of the one-bid leagues are underway. To me, these are more intriguing to follow as a fan and to analyze as a handicapper.
The bottom line is that there is more at stake. Does it really matter if a team that is a lock to make the NCAA tournament is a 3-seed or a 4-seed? And even for the teams from major conferences that might need to secure a win or two in their conference tournament to make it to the Big Dance, the drama isn't there. These are teams that have had up-and-down years and are facing an opponent that almost always isn't in a similar pressure situation.
South Dakota State has been atop our college basketball Sweat Barometer standings for the past two months, and the Jackrabbits have rewarded their backers consistently with a 16-6-1 ATS record. But now their season comes down to putting together a three-game winning streak in the Summit Conference tournament. Ohio is another one of our highly-ranked SB teams that is in a similar situation in the MAC.
In last week's post, handicapper MadduxSports.com's Sal Selvaggio (who provides the data for the Sweat Barometer) said he liked Colorado State (a team outside the SB top 25) to cover against New Mexico, a team that was sixth in our standings at that point. His reasoning boiled down to the different levels of motivation for each team. New Mexico was coming off two big wins, and Colorado State would be looking for revenge after getting crushed by New Mexico earlier in the season.
In one-bid leagues, all teams have the identical motivation. They have all entered the one-and-done phase of their season (with respect to the NCAA tourney). Blowing out an opponent doesn't increase a team's chance of making it. There aren't style points to be gained (hello, college football) with big wins, neutral site games make lopsided scores more unlikely and most fans will root for the underdog if their team isn't involved. Some conferences, like the MAAC, force their teams to play on consecutive nights for the duration of the tournament, so fatigue can be a factor. There can be good value in some underdogs in these tournaments.
Here's this week's chart:
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