Conference tournaments are my favorite time to bet college basketball. I know, I know, March Madness, but there is a higher degree of predictability to conference tournaments because we have one or two recent data points and history between the teams. The games in March Madness are something of a dice roll, given that most teams haven’t played non-conference opponents since December.
I’m going to try to do what I can to get some conference tournament stuff out there, including some helpful articles in Point Spread Weekly, in the Burke’s Betting Blurbs for the subscriber newsletter and on the .com side. There are a lot of good opportunities with single-game betting, but also conference tournament futures betting as well.
Let’s look at some conference tournaments that start over the next few days.
Northeast (Feb. 28)
The Northeast Conference Tournament starts on Monday and is the first to get going. Games will be played at campus sites, with the higher seed as the home team. The 9/8 game is Monday to see who draws No. 1 seed Bryant, who beat No. 2 Wagner 78-70 on Sunday to win the conference.
The top three teams (No. 3 LIU) are clearly better than the rest, so I don’t see a surprise coming here and a rematch between Bryant and Wagner seems most likely. The two teams split in the regular season, but Bryant would be at home if the teams meet in the title game on Mar. 8. Futures upside will be limited here. I do like Wagner a little bit, as they aren’t as reliant on 3s and have a high-efficiency offense on 2s, but Bryant has been on fire and has been a covering machine of late.
Also, Wagner will likely draw LIU in a much tougher semifinal game than what Bryant will face with the big drop-off in the conference. Bryant lost to Wagner in OT and LIU in a 99-88 game on Feb. 12 that was played at a breakneck pace of 90 possessions. That’s one of the fastest games in CBB this season.
It should be Wagner at Bryant for the auto bid with a short favorite role for the home team.
Patriot (Mar. 1)
Colgate finished four games clear of any other team to grab the top spot in this league. This conference tournament starts Tuesday and is also played at campus sites, so the Raiders will have home court for their duration in the field. Navy is pretty clearly the second-best team, but the Middies are strong on defense and terrible on offense. Boston U. and Lehigh are the two teams that knocked off Colgate in the regular season.
Lehigh isn’t very good, but is an interesting potential matchup for Colgate in the semifinals. The Mountain Hawks are the No. 4 seed and do everything they can to run teams off of the 3-point line. Colgate takes and makes a lot of 3s, which was a contributing factor in Lehigh’s upset win over Colgate on Jan. 4.
I don’t see a lot of futures value coming from this field either. Colgate is third in the nation in 3P% and clearly the best offensive (and most balanced) team in the conference. If you like Boston U., look for a moneyline rollover option since they’ll be a dog at Navy and at Colgate and that should be a better return on investment.
With a pretty dominant top team, you’ll want to look for futures value in the bottom of the bracket, hence the BU rollover suggestion or maybe a stab at Navy, who should have an easy first game against the winner of Holy Cross and American.
Horizon (Mar. 1)
This conference tournament starts Tuesday, with the first round and the quarterfinals on campus, and the semifinals and championship game at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis. Cleveland State is the No. 1 seed via tiebreakers, but this conference is pretty wide open with a solid Oakland team and a really efficient Fort Wayne offense. Upsets would not totally shock me here either, as most teams have good offenses and bad defenses.
This conference also re-seeds after the quarterfinals, so the lowest seed plays the highest seed left. That could provide a big advantage to Cleveland State if upsets do take place as I anticipate. Fort Wayne is the hottest team coming into the tournament with nine straight wins, but they do rely on the 3 a lot and could be a high-variance team here.
I think No. 3 Northern Kentucky is a decent look here, likely on a moneyline rollover instead of a futures price. The Norse are the best offensive rebounding team in the conference and also force turnovers at a high rate. They take a lot of 3s and so does Fort Wayne, so that’s a very high-variance game and one NKU could win if they meet in the semis. The Mastodons are a bad offensive rebounding team and a really bad defensive team, so Fort Wayne, who lost the most recent meeting and scored just 59 points, could be vulnerable.
Atlantic Sun (Mar. 1)
The A-Sun is such a fun conference these days with some very good teams. Liberty is the class of the conference, but Jacksonville State, Jacksonville and Bellarmine are all formidable squads. Bellarmine is ineligible for the NCAA Tournament, so this is their March Madness. They were knocked out in the first round by Stetson last year, so this is a team with extreme motivation this year.
The A-Sun is played on campus sites and pairs up East Division and West Division teams in the bracket, so the winner of the East plays the worst team in the West, the second-place finisher in the East plays the second-worst finisher in the West and so on.
Jacksonville State is actually the overall No. 1 seed here with the best record in league play and a conference title game against Liberty would be a sight with two of the top 3-point teams in the nation. They only played once in the regular season and the Gamecocks beat the Flames 77-67 on the road.
Liberty has the better draw, as Jacksonville State likely meets Jacksonville in the semifinals and likely has a harder quarterfinal game against Kennesaw State. Liberty is likely to get a bad Bellarmine defense or a Florida Gulf Coast team that isn’t explosive enough to compete. I still think we get the title game everybody wants on Mar. 8, but Liberty is probably the better futures bet depending on the price.