Conference Tournament Betting Blurbs: Big South, Sun Belt, WCC, Missouri Valley

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

March 1, 2022 10:10 AM
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March has arrived and it definitely comes “in like a lion” for college basketball fans. Conference tournaments may have started on the last day of February, but 31 of the 32 start in March and the NCAA Tournament is not that far away.

After writing up some tournament blurbs for the NEC, Patriot, Horizon, and A-Sun, I figured I would do the same for the Big South (Wednesday), Sun Belt, WCC and Missouri Valley (Thursday) to give some insights into the teams and the tournaments, especially as bettors look to familiarize themselves with March Madness hopefuls.

Let’s look for some betting angles in these conference tournaments:

Big South (Wednesday) - This is one of the few small conference tournaments that plays in a neutral setting at the Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte. It is the first time in a neutral setting since 2016, so we have a venue that seats almost 9,000 people and a bunch of teams that play in very small arenas. My best guess is that unders do pretty well overall in this venue.

No. 3 Gardner-Webb is the highest-rated team by Ken Pom and Bart Torvik, but Longwood is the No. 1 seed. Opponents are only shooting 28.5% from 3 against the Gardner-Webb defense, but several teams in this conference defend the perimeter well. Winthrop and Longwood are the best offensive teams in the league, but Winthrop is the No. 2 seed, so a potential matchup with Gardner-Webb awaits in the semifinals.

Longwood has a much easier draw, as the winner of USC Upstate/UNC Asheville shouldn’t pose nearly as much of a threat in getting to the title game. As a result, the Lancers are a decent futures bet, just because they’re so likely to get to the finals. I also like Winthrop in the bottom of the bracket, as the Eagles are a very efficient offensive team that ranks sixth nationally in 2P% and 22nd in 3P%.

At FanDuel, Longwood is + 145 and Winthrop + 220. That’s the most likely title matchup in my opinion, but I’d actually prefer the price on Winthrop, despite the tougher draw.

Sun Belt (Thursday) - The Sun Belt Tournament format has changed. After playing games at two different arenas last season, all games are now played at the Pensacola Bay Center. There were some very high-scoring games there, whereas Hartsell Arena played to some lower scores. That could be a factor with betting totals in this tournament.

The top five teams in the conference per Torvik are separated by a total of 35 spots, so this one looks pretty wide open. Texas State’s 3-point prowess stands out as the best asset of any team, as the Bobcats are 13th in the nation in 3P%. Their slow pace will be interesting as the No. 1 seed for the DraftKings favorite at + 250.

There aren’t a lot of good offenses here, but there are quite a few good defenses. No. 7 Coastal Carolina and No. 5 South Alabama are two very good defensive teams. Coastal Carolina is actually top 25 in eFG% defense, while South Alabama is in the top 50.

South Alabama would be my favorite team to try a future on here, as the Jaguars draw a terrible Little Rock team in the 5/12 game and a weak No. 4 seed in Troy in the quarterfinals. They’d run into top-seeded Texas State in the semis, but the lone regular season meeting ended 55-52 for Texas State in a game where South Alabama had 14 turnovers in just 57 possessions. The Jaguars would be live in that scenario.

DraftKings has South Alabama at + 400 and I think that’s pretty close to what a moneyline rollover might look like, so the futures price is just fine.

West Coast Conference (Thursday) - The WCC greatly incentivizes being a top-two seed. The No. 1 (Gonzaga) and No. 2 (Saint Mary’s) get triple byes to the semifinals. There is no futures equity in going up against Gonzaga, even though San Francisco is in the top half of the bracket as the No. 4 seed. When you have a dominant No. 1 seed, you have to default to the bottom of the bracket to find any futures value. Gonzaga is -390 at FanDuel, with Saint Mary’s at + 500 and Santa Clara at + 1400.

That’s the problem with this tourney. San Francisco is clearly the third-best team in the conference and they’ll likely run into Gonzaga in the semifinals, hence the + 3000 price to win this. Furthermore, BYU is the No. 5 seed, so the Cougars and Dons will meet for the right to lose to Gonzaga. That left Santa Clara and Portland down in the bottom with Saint Mary’s. No. 3 Santa Clara is a strong offensive team that split with Saint Mary’s during the regular season.

Ultimately, even with some options on the bottom of the bracket, Gonzaga will be such a big favorite in the title game that there isn’t any hedging margin. This is more of a “game-by-game” conference tournament that is played in Vegas at Orleans Arena and has been since 2009.

Missouri Valley (Thursday) - The biggest thing to know about the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament is that unders are very strong. This is a conference that features a lot of slow-paced teams and very few good offensive rebounding teams, so we don’t get a lot of scoring anyway. The sightlines and the shooting backdrop in St. Louis at Enterprise Center doesn’t help.

Loyola Chicago is the top team here, but still lost five conference games during the regular season, dropping all the way to a No. 4 seed. Northern Iowa won the regular season finale against the Ramblers to be the No. 1 seed. Tiebreakers pushed Loyola down to No. 4, but we’re likely to see a rematch in the semifinals. Loyola Chicago is + 130 and Northern Iowa is the second favorite at + 490 at FanDuel.

At + 490, I actually like Missouri State. The Bears are a strong offensive team and get an easy draw in the first game with the winner of Valparaiso and Evansville. Drake and Bradley are solid teams in the 3/6 matchup, but Missouri State’s offensive prowess and ability to take excellent care of the basketball stands out. Plus, they’re in the much easier part of the bracket.

The price always matters the most with futures, but there are some strategies to consider and employ.

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