The people who work at various sportsbook reviews want to encourage you to bet on the NCAA tournament. First, though, if you’re an mma betting expert who does not follow the college basketball season very closely, you might wonder what goes into the composition of the 68-team field. A football betting guru with little working knowledge of college basketball can benefit from the following explanation about the way in which the NCAA tournament is ultimately shaped:
If you are from a small conference – one that plays a very weak schedule each season and does not accumulate high-quality wins against non-conference opponents – you must win your conference tournament in early March in order to reach the NCAAs. Conferences such as the Southland, the Big South, the Southwestern Athletic, and the Northeast are all „one-bid conferences” because they only send their conference tournament champions to the Big Dance. No teams from these leagues (and several others) get an at-large team into the tournament.
An at-large team is a team that does not win its conference tournament but has an overall resume – quality wins, road wins, strength of schedule – that is enough to put it in the field of 68 teams. There are 31 automatic bids for teams that win their conference tournaments, and 37 at-large bids for teams that don’t.
One can readily make some distinctions between at-large teams and teams that aren’t worthy of being considered. A second-place team in a power conference such as the Big Ten or the Big 12 will almost always get into the field as an at-large team if it doesn’t win its conference tournament. An exception to this general pattern comes from the Pac-12, a power conference that has been alarmingly thin the past few seasons. The league’s regular-season champion, the Washington Huskies, did not make the 2012 NCAA Tournament because their strength of schedule was so bad, and because they didn’t win any big non-conference games on their schedule. Generally, though, the top two or three teams from power conferences will get at-large spots.
The other subsection of teams to keep an eye on is from the mid-major conferences, leagues that sit between the power conferences and the small conferences. Examples of mid-major leagues are the Missouri Valley Conference, the Colonial Athletic Association, the Southern Conference, the Horizon League, and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. These leagues are not extremely deep, but they will sometimes create one or two teams that are good enough to make the NCAAs as “at-larges” even when they fail to win their conference tournaments.
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) put one such team into the field as an at-large last year: the Iona Gaels, who lost in the MAAC Tournament. The Missouri Valley has gained at-large berths in most of the past few seasons, and its at-large team in 2013, the Wichita State Shockers, went to the Final Four before losing to Louisville in the national semifinals. The Colonial has put two teams – George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth – in the Final Four since 2006, though George Mason will move to the Atlantic 10 next season. The Horizon League’s best program, Butler, made two straight NCAA national championship games in 2010 and 2011, but Butler is moving to the Big East after playing the 2012-2013 season in the Atlantic 10.