The NCAA conference tournaments offer college basketball fans and sports bettors the opportunity to dip their toes into some brackets leading up to the real fun next week. And you better believe we’re using the conference tourneys as our own little tune-up before the madness hits peak levels.
Outside of the tricky Atlantic 10 and American Athletic conferences, we’ve narrowed down our list of best bets. Here’s who we think offers the best value to get it done this week:
ACC – Louisville (+3300)
could make amends for an entire season’s worth of bad luck with a run in the ACC tournament. This is the same team that lost to in overtime, coughed up a 23-point lead to , turned a 10-point halftime lead against into a 12-point loss, and has three losses of three points or fewer. The Cardinals are No. 19 in ‘s power rankings but can’t find a single stroke of good fortune. Instead of trying to throw a dart and pick the winner among the three-headed monster of Duke-Virginia- , you’d be better served to take a team at this price who can hang with the heavyweights.
Big East – Xavier (+900)
The Big East is all over the place.and sit atop the conference with 22 and 23 overall wins, respectively; then you have six teams right in the logjam with anywhere between 17 and 20 victories. We’re staying away from the two Big East leaders and plucking our conference winner from that crowded pack. After dropping six straight across January and February, rebounded well to close out the regular season with six wins over its final seven games. If the Musketeers can escape in the first round, they’ll be a threat to top-seeded Villanova, whom they held to 54 points in their February 24 rout.
Big Ten – Michigan (+225)
‘s cooled off since the start of February. After starting the season 20-1, the Wolverines have dropped four of their last 10 games. Their season closed on a low note with a loss to rival , their second to the Spartans over a two-week span. Heading into the Big Ten tournament, this is an ideal spot to buy back on the Wolverines, who have covered 10 of the previous 13 tourney contests under head coach John Beilein. They only need two wins to reach the title game, and we don’t think the Spartans take three games in as many weeks over Michigan should those two meet in the championship.
Big 12 – Texas Tech (+140)
Boo, a favorite.
Still,has earned the right to be the Big 12 tournament front-runner. Chris Beard’s Red Raiders are KenPom’s No. 1 defensive team and No. 34 offensive team, offering a well-balanced attack that could have them destined for a deep run in the NCAA tournament. The Big 12 has lost some of its luster this year, but the Red Raiders are a legitimate contender with a chance to make a statement before the real bracket is in place.
Pac-12 – Oregon (+375)
is the best No. 6 seed of all the conference tournaments this week. The Ducks get a warmup against to kick off the tournament then face No. 3-seed , which KenPom rated 54 spots behind the Ducks in the power rankings. We feel this is a good price on an Oregon team that’s playing at a high level, coming into the tournament on a four-game winning streak and allowing 51.5 points per contest over that recent surge.
SEC – Kentucky (+200)
It might be difficult to swallow the +200 pill onwith more attractive prices out there, but this is a challenging bracket to find value in. Wildcats head coach John Calipari is on a blistering 13-1-1 run against the number in the SEC tournament, and Kentucky realistically has only one challenger on that side of the bracket that could derail its run: . However, we’re not as high on the Volunteers as most. Should the Wildcats punch their bid to the title game, we like the potential matchups against teams on the other half in , , and .
Alex Kolodziej is theScore’s betting writer. He’s a graduate of Eastern Illinois who has been involved in the sports betting industry for 11 years. He can quote every line from “Rounders” and appreciates franchises that regularly wear alternate jerseys. Find him on Twitter.
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