One of the strange things about March Madness is the existence of the official “first round.” The first round is actually what most people refer to as the play-in game. This is a good thing for bettors because it provides the ability to bet on games right away. It is also a good thing for teams, as more are able to get into the tournament. How do you handicap these games, though?
With the small conference play-in, you will want to make your March Madness picks by targeting those teams that have been consistently good over the course of a season. Many times, the 16-seeds can be teams that just got lucky and won a small conference tournament. Other play-in game 16-seeds are teams that looked good all year and then won their conference tournament. You should look for those teams that did not simply luck their way into a win. Rather, you want those teams that have shown the ability to compete for an extended period of time.
When looking at the at-large play-in games between bigger schools, you need to consider which team wants to be there. Just as it is with bowl games, these play-in games can sometimes pit teams that are going in different directions. Think about the team that made it into the field, but did not expect to. They might be going against a club that dropped unexpectedly and almost missed the field despite having high expectations. With your March Madness picks, you want to be on the teams that are excited about the opportunity rather than targeting those that are disappointed with their seed.