Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Bracketeering Tips From a Veteran Bookie

Filling out brackets for the NCAA men's basketball tournament is always tough. But this year it's even more of a crap-shoot.. Here are some bracketeering tips from a veteran bookie who goes by the name CarloAA:

First of all, why is this year so different?
"There's no great teams, none that you can count on to win most of the time. There's no really great players either. The best players of this year don't measure up to the best of recent years. So you can't use that as a measuring stick when you're making picks. It's really wide open. In any given year there are about five teams that could be number one. This year there's about twelve. If any of twelve teams finish on top I wouldn't be surprised. I can't recall a year like this one."

Possible winners?
" Louisville or Indiana are the two teams that my clients are backing. Louisville looks good because they finished strong, they come from a good conference and they beat some good teams. Indiana has a good shot at winning it all for the same reasons. They're a top Big Ten team and the Big Ten is a killer conference. Any of those top Big Ten teams could win it--Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin. I watched that conference closely. Those are tough teams that beat up on each other. In the tournament it's the battle-tested teams that do well."

How important is a team's conference?
"It's crucial. It's crucial how a conference is ranked. If you pick winners based on the quality of the conference in a given year, chances are you'll do OK. This year it's the Big Ten--the best by a mile--and the ACC."

The best overall strategy?
"Try to pick the Final Four. Do that by focusing on the top two or three seeds in each region and research them. Chances are the Final Four and the top team will come from that pool. What makes this year so tough is that these top teams are pretty even. Don't worry about the rest of the teams in the early rounds, the eight seeds, the twelve seeds--Podunk U from some conference you've never heard of. They don't matter. They're just happy to be there. The minor teams may win a game or two but that's all. The big points in the pools come when you pick teams that make the Final Four. This year there's about ten or twelve teams with a shot at making the Final Four. If  you pick two or three of the Final Four you're pretty good."

How about picking winners by who's the coach?
"You've got to pay attention to that to some degree when you're picking the Final Four and beyond. Like you give the big-name guys who've been there before an edge, guys like Coach K and Roy Williams. Chances are one of those guys will win it. But certain coaches you know will never win a title. Take that into consideration when you're picking in the upper rounds. Like Ben Howland, for instance. I picked UCLA to go to the Final Four twice about seven or eight years ago because he had some big-time players. But I knew he'd never win a title. He hasn't got the smarts to win it all. So I didn't pick UCLA to win it all, and I was right."

What's the silliest strategy?
"Trying to pick Cinderella teams.There will be upsets in the first round or two, before the teams that don't have a chance of winning it all get eliminated. But you pick an upset--so what? You get bragging rights for a minute. You win a battle but you don't win the war."

The most overrated team in the tournament?
"That's easy. Gonzaga. They"re no number one team. They shouldn't even be a Number One seed. They win all those games because they're in a weak conference. They play a few tough games but it's mostly cupcakes. Put them  in the Big Ten or the ACC and they'll finish in about the middle. I don't even think they'd win the Pac12 and that's a lousy conference."