Florida Atlantic favored to win 2023 Conference USA Conference Tournament
It seemed like a ridiculous concept when it started back in 2018, but maybe the joke’s on all of us. The Conference USA Tournament is at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas, which is the practice facility for the Dallas Cowboys. Two temporary courts with stands are set up and a net is drawn between the two courts as games go on simultaneously like an AAU Tournament.
For example, there is an 8 p.m. tip-off in the first round on Wednesday, followed by an 8:30 p.m. tip-off on the other court. This shooting backdrop is remarkably unique and I would have expected it to depress scoring more than it has, but we’ve had some track meets and high-scoring affairs. Of course, we also had a 42-36 game last year.
This year’s conference tournament looks a lot different because of an exodus to the Sun Belt, where Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss now reside. Teams used to be seeded in East and West divisions and play the corresponding opponent in the other division, but now we just have all 11 teams traditionally seeded 1 through 11.
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Conference USA Tournament Bracket
How to Watch the Conference USA Conference Tournament
When: March 8-11
Where: Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas
Format: Top five seeds get bye into quarterfinals
Watch: ESPN+, CBS Sports Network; Championship Game on CBSSN on Mar. 11 at 9:30 p.m. ET
Conference USA Conference Tournament Seeds, Teams and Odds
1. Florida Atlantic (+145)
2. North Texas (+250)
3. UAB (+240)
4. Middle Tennessee (+1800)
5. Charlotte (+1400)
6. Rice (+10000)
7. FIU (+15000)
8. Western Kentucky (+9000)
9. UTEP (+10000)
10. Louisiana Tech (+10000)
11. UTSA (+30000)
Favorite To Win Conference USA Conference Tournament
Florida Atlantic was ranked in the top 25 for the first time in program history this season and is the favorite to win the conference tournament. Bracket Matrix, which is an aggregation of brackets from all corners of the college basketball world, has the Owls as a consensus No. 9 seed, which means that they should get an at-large berth if they are unable to win the conference tournament. This is one of the few true mid-majors that may not be a one-bid league. They may need to at least get to the title game to secure that fate.
The Owls are favored over UAB and North Texas, who are on a crash course to meet in the semifinals, as FAU has a much friendlier draw avoiding those two until the championship game.
Conference USA Conference Tournament Darkhorse
The first team that came to mind here is Charlotte. Statistically, the 49ers should have been better than they were. They shoot a lot of 3s and shoot them well. They’re a good 2-point offense as well, but they struggled on defense and in late-game situations. They played 16 games decided by six or fewer points during the regular season, going 7-9. They can absolutely beat a Middle Tennessee team that had issues defending the 3.
The 49ers only lost by four in Boca Raton in the first meeting against FAU. In a low-possession game, though, the Owls are just too efficient on both ends of the floor. I don’t think there is a legitimate darkhorse here. The top three teams are too superior compared to everybody else.
Players to Watch in Conference USA Conference Tournament
This conversation begins with UAB’s Jordan “Jelly” Walker. Only Antoine Davis at Detroit and Jordan Dingle at Penn bested Walker’s 23.2 PPG in the regular season. For good measure, Walker was also fourth in assists per game with 4.1. FIU and Rice should win their first-round matchups with help from Denver Jones (20 PPG) and Quincy Olivari (19.3 PPG), respectively, but they are unlikely to go further than that.
FAU is led by Johnell Davis (13.2 PPG) and Alijah Martin (12.6 PPG), but the Owls rotate in a lot of bodies and depth is one of their biggest attributes. That should help with winning three games in three days. You won’t find many North Texas guys among the conference leaders in scoring because a snail’s pace is an understatement to the tempo with which the Mean Green play. That said, Tylor Perry did have 17 PPG to lead the way and is a 43% 3-point shooter.
Betting Pick to Win The Conference USA Conference Tournament
UAB interests me, but I wouldn’t bet a future because of the North Texas game. I would, however, be interested in possibly betting UAB against Florida Atlantic in the final if those two teams meet. UAB lost twice to North Texas, once without Walker and once in double overtime with Walker. I’m thinking a UAB/FAU line is somewhere around FAU -3 or -3.5 on a neutral if they meet, so I’d just look at UAB then.
Even though I personally like UAB, it's fair to say that Florida Atlantic +145 would make sense because of the draw. The Owls did lose to MTSU during the regular season, but the Blue Raiders were the most inconsistent team in this league. I can’t argue with that, but I don’t see any great opportunities pre-tournament.
One last note: There is a massive scheduling quirk here. The quarterfinals are on March 9 at 5:30, 6, 8 and 8:30. The semifinals are the next day at 11:30 and 2, so there is a very quick turnaround and depth will be a huge factor in the semifinals, which is one reason why I think FAU does take care of business against MTSU/Charlotte to get to the finals.
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