The Value Of Tournament Depth

by Lenny Del Genio - Date: 2007-03-09 - Word Count: 628 Share This!

There's a fever sweeping across the country called March Madness that is inflicting millions. The cure: Just wait it out a few weeks and it will pass. In the meantime, there will be a frenzy of activity and interest over the next few weeks during conference tournament play, followed by the Big Dance and the NIT.

One factor that is unique in college basketball is depth. Pro and college football teams play once a week and sometimes once every two weeks during a bye week. College basketball is different. Teams can play with a week or 10 days of rest, or during tournament play, they can play 3 or 4 games in 3 of 4 days! We see tournament play early in the season when teams have to play three games in three days, for instance. But then that kind of demanding schedule takes a hiatus - until now.

One handicapping factor to bring back into your examination of each game is depth. Most teams have one or two talented players, surrounded by several role players. However, some teams have an exceptional surplus of depth. Smart coaches who have this extra depth will use that to their advantage. One way to recognize this is by the style of play. Coaches with three or four quality starters and reliable scoring options or ball-handlers off the bench will often take advantage of this by playing an uptempo style. This not only maximizes their use of depth, but also can tire out the opponent: a double-edged sword.

North Carolina is a great example of a team stocked with depth, and coach Roy Williams is no dummy: It's no accident that the Tar Heels average 87 points per game. North Carolina has four starters who average over 20 minutes per game in Tyler Hansbrough (29.5 minutes pg), freshman Brandan Wright (26.9 minutes), freshman Wayne Ellington (23.7 minutes), freshman Ty Lawson (24.4 minutes) and senior Reyshawn Terry (21.3 minutes). They run right at opponents with these talented young legs.

But while the opponent struggles to keep pace with these greyhounds, Williams can call on five more guys who average double-digits in minutes in Danny Green, Deon Thompson, Marcus Ginyard, Bobby Frasor and Wes Miller. By contrast, even a team like Duke has 4 starters who average over 30 minutes a game, and only 3 who average over 10 minutes off the pine.

Notice what happened when they met last week: North Carolina took a quick 12-2 lead running right at the Blue Devils. The Tar Heels exploded later with the game-clinching 18-4 run on the way to an 86-72 win. They swept the regular-season series with the Blue Devils for the first time in 11 years!

Now that was just one meeting and both teams had rest before the game and after. Think about how that might play out during tournament play, with teams playing Thursday, Friday, Saturday and maybe even Sunday. Teams with depth are far better suited to survive a grueling run like that than ones that rely on one or two guys to carry the team.

I have a "totals system" in both the NBA and college that is based on a number of factors, one of which is rest or no rest. Depth plays a key role in that, as well, with respect to the percentage of points scored by starters versus bench players in the teams' previous game(s). Make sure you examine rosters when analyzing tournament play and how a coach uses his depth - if the team has any! And examine whether they played last night, or if this is their third game in three nights. You will find that depth is a great asset this time of the year, and a lack of it can be a killer, both straight up and against the number!

Related Tags: betting, procappers, professional handicappers league, college basketball, march madness, lenny del genio

Lenny Del Genio is a documented member of the Professional Handicappers League. Read all of his articles at

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