The NCAA Tournament is only a week or so away, which means it’s time to look at the top favorite and long shot picks in this week’s March Madness conference tournaments. This is the week when the major conferences go at it to see who will come out on top. And that means excellent betting opportunities for fans, especially in terms of proposition bets to see which teams will still be standing at the end of the weeklong tourneys.
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It has been a typically wild and crazy ride in the regular season of NCAA men’s college basketball. And that has been especially true in the conference races. In the major conferences, just about every one of them came down to the final games to decide the season-long race.
But the great thing about college basketball is that even the teams that were lousy during their regular season conference play have one last shot to make it all right. And that, of course, comes during the conference tournaments. After all, each conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament is gained by the winner of the conference tournament.
Of course, many of the teams in the conference tournaments have already assured themselves of an at-large bid based on the strength of their play during the regular season. Yet that doesn’t mean that the conference tournaments are meaningless to them. A good conference tournament will improve the team’s seeding in the NCAA Tournament, which conceivably means a smoother ride to the Final Four and potential NCAA championship.
Many of the smaller, so-called “mid-major” conferences have already starting awarding their bids. This week is when the major conferences take center stage.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll be looking at four of those conferences: the ACC, the Big 10, the Big 12, and the SEC. Sorry, Pac-12. You look too much like a mid-major to get too much attention this week.
In terms of betting, you could go game to game and try to pick winners or bet against the spread. But one way you an maximize your earnings potential without having to put a ton of money on the line is to make futures prop bets on who is going to win each tournament before they begin. You can get some excellent odds in this manor, even on the favorites and especially on the long shots.
With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at the top favorite and long shot picks in this week’s March Madness conference tournaments. We’ll go through each conference and show the odds on each team (courtesy of BetOnline.ag) to win their conference tourney. Then we’ll talk about who we think will win and who is an excellent value play to spring an upset.
Virginia, Duke and North Carolina stood head and shoulders above everybody else in the league this year, so it’s no surprise that they should be the ones with the low odds. The big news for the tournament is the return of Zion Williamson to the fray for Duke after the likely national Player of the Year missed the last chunk of the regular season with a sneaker-induced knee injury. That’s why they moved up to the second choice here, even though they ended conference play two games below North Carolina and Virginia.
It’s interesting how the three teams interacted this year. Carolina beat Duke twice (both times without Williamson). Duke handed Virginia their only two conference losses. And Virginia beat the Tar Heels the only time that they met.
In terms of the bracket, Virginia gets the big edge. Duke and Carolina would have to play in the semis, while the Cavaliers would avoid all that. That’s why it’s understandable that they’re the fave and that Carolina, despite their tying for the title, is the third choice, as they’d have to go through Duke with Zion and then Virginia.
There are a trio of teams here with potential to do some damage at nice prices. Florida State is a tough, deep, athletic squad that no one would like to face. And they have the double-bye, which makes it a bit of a head-scratcher why Virginia Tech has lower odds.
You can certainly make a case for Louisville at 33-1. After all, they took the Duke on at full strength and were beating them handily before a colossal late-game collapse. With Jordan Nwora as a high-scoring threat and tough inside play, the Cards could be tricky.
Finally, there is Syracuse at 40-1. It has been a wildly erratic season for the Orange, but their high points, including a win at Duke, were very high. And Jim Boeheim and the 2-3 have a way with wreaking havoc in March.
If you absolutely must go with a long shot here, Notre Dame should be your choice. The Irish have had an uncharacteristically poor season, perhaps because they’re so young. But they have played better as the season has wore on, while Mike Brey’s March track record as coach deserves a look.
It’s not a good looking pick, but Virginia will want to go into the Big Dance on a high note after their shocking loss as a #1 seed last year. They beat Duke in the final. Value players should go with Louisville.
Michigan State’s run to a share of the Big 10 title with their personnel and the injures they faced might just be Tom Izzo’s best coaching job. He has a team led by a gritty point guard in Cassius Winston who takes games over late. They play rugged defense and rebound aggressively like all of Izzo’s best squads.
Michigan is the co-favorite in the tourney, and they have to be smarting from analysts questioning their toughness in the wake of their season-ending loss to arch-rival MSU. In terms of pure talent, however, it is hard to argue against the Wolverines. And Coach John Beilein knows how to get a team revved up in time.
Purdue is the third choice, and again, a great coaching job here, this time by Matt Painter. This team appeared to be headed in the wrong direction early in the conference year, but they pulled it together to grab a share of the conference title with Michigan State. And they have a great player in Carson Edwards to lead the way.
Wisconsin is a great play at 6 to 1 odds. First of all, they have the double-bye, but they also have talent, with senior leader and do-everything type Ethan Hap and a red-hot Kolton Iverson leading the way. Getting by Maryland in their potential opening matchup is the key.
Indiana represents a nice bargain at 40-1. If the Hoosiers can get by a reeling Ohio State in Game 1, they will be matched up with Michigan State in their next round. And they have owned the Spartans this year.
It’s not surprising here that all the longest shots come from the group of four teams that would have to win five games in five days to win the while tourney. If you must go long-shot hunting here, Rutgers is playing the best of these teams. But you’re really throwing your money away.
Wisconsin seems to have stumbled into what could be a great draw. At nice odds, you’ll get a value with the likely winner.
It has been a brilliant year for Texas Tech. Many thought they would come back to the pack after the Great Eight run a year ago. Instead they stepped up their play even more behind great defense, balanced scoring, and budding superstar Jarrett Culver.
Kansas State, meanwhile, features a team that also made it to the last eight teams a year ago. This is a veteran-led squad that plays smothering defense. And defense doesn’t slump like shooting can in a small sample size like a four-day tournament.
Kansas might be the most motivated team here, in that they want to prove something after their long string of conference championships came to an end. The question is whether or not they have the firepower to do anything about it. At least they finished the year strong with a nice home win in their season finale over Baylor, so maybe that’s a springboard to better things.
Baylor, at 12 to 1, is the one that stands out here. They are kind of like the Syracuse of the Big 12, capable of confounding losses but also capable of going on an unlikely run. That’s why you shouldn’t completely throw them out of the picture here.
Based on a pure numbers game, Texas should get a look as well. They get a star-crossed Kansas team in the first round, meaning that their path to the semifinals might be the easiest of the teams with middling odds.
It’s a bit easier to conceive of one of the long shots winning this tourney, if only because they would only need four wins to do it instead of five. Why not take a stab at coach Bob Huggins and his disappointing West Virginia team pulling it together for an unlikely run at 100 to 1.
This is Texas Tech’s year to shine. It doesn’t appear that anybody else here has the talent level to stop them, and they have the motivation of going for a better seed. Baylor is the only value play to consider here.
The oddsmakers have really priced if the off-court turmoil facing LSU, with head coach Will Wade suspended for his allegedly illegal dealings with recruits. Right now, the league champs have been dropped to fourth choice, behind an Auburn team that has to play one extra game. That seems a bit harsh.
If you believe in that narrative, of course, you would immediately turn to the twin powers of Kentucky and Tennessee. Just remember that they would actually meet in the semifinals instead of the finals. There’s always a possibility that the winner of that game will be softened up for the final.
In any case, Tennessee’s veteran squad feels like it has something to prove here. Many people have doubted them for as high as they’ve been ranked throughout the year. The SEC tourney would be a great chance to prove them wrong.
Auburn would have been ideal in this scenario had their odds not fallen so much. As it is, it seems like the value has been removed with them sitting currently at 5 to 1. You should really only pick Bruce Pearl’s squad if you really believe they’ll win the thing.
Instead, take a look at Florida at 14 to 1. They’ve played LSU and Kentucky to the hilt in the past few weeks. The Gators could easily beat the Bayou Bengals this time around and be sitting pretty in the brackets after that.
Alabama has a scrappy team that knocked off Kentucky early in conference play. At 66 to 1, you can take a flier with a team that has proven itself capable of big upsets.
Go with Tennessee this time around. This feels like their chance to triumph, as they might not have the talent to do it in the Big Dance. Florida, meanwhile, is one of the best value plays in all of the conference tournaments.
The stage is set for the unforgettable stretch of college basketball known as Championship Week. It is truly one of the highlights of March Madness as a whole. Take a look at the top favorite and long shot picks in this week’s March Madness conference tournaments if you want to profit from all this insanity.
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