Handicapping NCAA Tournament Cinderella Teams

Here’s all you need to know about handicapping NCAA tournament Cinderella teams.

Key Points

– Handicapping NCAA tournament Cinderella teams requires a long look at schedules.

– Often, Cinderella teams in the NCAA tournament are much better than they appear.

Handicapping NCAA Tournament Cinderella Teams

Who doesn’t love the NCAA tournament Cinderella teams? Cinderellas, or teams that appear to defy all odds to pull off a few upsets against higher-ranked college teams, are what the NCAA Tournament is all about. 

These Cinderella teams can cause handicappers a lot of trouble for bettors. After they pull an upset, bettors must determine whether they can do the almost unthinkable and win again. Since these Cinderella teams get more media coverage than they otherwise would, it’s hard to determine if there really is value in betting on them again. 

Bettors can find value by analyzing college basketball betting markets. When longshot teams win in March Madness, they become media darlings. As a result, the betting public often skews a team’s odds. It’s hard to figure out when a team like this will run out of steam. 

When handicapping NCAA tournament Cinderella teams, it’s important to keep these six things in mind. 


Who Are They?

Sometimes, bettors will find out that a Cinderella isn’t actually wearing the slipper. An early round upset or two really isn’t all that shocking once bettors come to learn more about this underdog team.

Since many NCAA conferences receive little to no attention during the regular season, it can be easy for teams to get lost in the shuffle. A few years ago, it was Loyola-Chicago that not only pulled a first-round upset, but made it all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

If you had taken the time to get to know the 2017-18 Ramblers, you would have known that they were the Missouri Valley Conference champions. Not only did they win the regular season title, they won the conference tournament as well. They had a veteran backcourt and were one of the top defensive teams in the country.

Oftentimes, teams like this produce talented players and powerful teams. Cinderella teams occasionally succeed because they are exceptional. Playing in a mid-major conference has just left them out of the public eye until tournament time.

When handicapping these teams, bettors should consider whether or not a team can win doing what it has done all season. Consider how the team performed within its conference and the teams they faced. Check their non-conference schedule as well and see how they compare statistically with other well-known teams.

Handicapping NCAA Cinderella Teams – Big Wins

As mentioned above, it’s worth taking a look at a team’s schedule before handicapping a March Madness game. There’s more to a seed and public perception.

There are mid-major teams that will crank out 27 or 28 regular season wins, but will end up on the bubble of making the NCAA tournament. That’s because their non-conference schedule was full of cupcakes. 

On the other end, you might see a Power conference team with 18 or 19 wins and double-digit losses. The difference is that the Power conference team has eight or nine games against ranked opponents. With a number of “big” wins, this team’s strength of schedule was much more difficult than the mid-major team. 

Before handicapping Cinderella teams in March Madness, you should consider the number of big wins they have. That could help you determine whether or not they have what it takes to win a tournament game.

How Did Cinderella Win?

In looking at a Cinderella before a tournament game, it’s worth looking into how this underdog team won. Was it because they controlled the tempo or played better defense? Or was it the result of something that the opponent didn’t do? (i.e. free throw shooting).

If a team is able to control tempo and lock down the defensive end, it is likely that they can continue doing so in the postseason. Sometimes, there are matchup issues too. A Cinderella team has a veteran backcourt – like Loyola in 2018 – that opponents find difficult to defend. 

Matchups like that play a big role in the outcome of a college basketball game. It’s important to determine whether these matchup advantages are likely to occur again. If you need more help, maybe you should buy college basketball picks.

Luck of the Draw

Sometimes, success in the NCAA tournament comes down to nothing more than where you are seeded, what region you are playing in, and who you play. If you are a No. 13 or 14 seed and draw one of the top 10 teams in the nation, you lose because your opponent is better. 

Sometimes, you get lucky. You pull off an upset and then on the other side of your bracket there’s a second upset. In the 2019 NCAA tournament, Oregon won its first-round game as a No. 12 seed. UC-Irvine won as the No. 13 seed. The Ducks would eventually make it to the Sweet Sixteen by avoiding No. Kansas State and No. 5 Wisconsin.

When handicapping NCAA Cinderella teams, check out the bracket. Identify potential upset opportunities based on teams that will survive. Keep in mind that in later rounds, it’s hard to catch teams off guard or identify flaws to exploit. 

Handling Pressure

The farther a team goes in the NCAA tournament, the more the pressure increases. With time off between the first weekend and the Sweet Sixteen, the pressure can really mount. Pressure often mounts on bettors too. It could be the reason why you are a losing sports bettor.

Most Cinderella teams have never experienced that kind of widespread public attention. Oddsmakers will consider how teams will handle that pressure. If a school has played in this kind of atmosphere before, that’s a plus. It’s also a plus if they have older players, such as Loyola did during its 2018 run. Older teams have an easier time dealing with all of the hoopla leading up to games in the NCAA tournament.