Market Insights: Advice on playing conference tourney openers

March 3, 2020 12:02 AM

Happy Conference Tournament Opening Day! While the major college hoops conferences still have one or two more regular-season games, several small conferences kick off their postseason tournaments today with the winner getting an automatic bid into the Big Dance. Today's Round 1 openers include the Atlantic Sun, Big South, Horizon League and Patriot League.

One big thing to keep an eye out for during conference tournament play is whether the games will be played on a neutral court or a true home court. If the game is played at a neutral court (think the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden), there is a big edge to the under. This is due to the added pressure, unfamiliar surroundings, sight lines, backboards, rims and, of course, a heightened emphasis on defense with a lot on the line.

Since 2005, conference tournament games played on a neutral court are 53% to the under according to Bet Labs Sports. The under is just 49% if the game is played on a true home court. They key is focusing on high-total neutral court conference tournament unders. When the total is 150 or higher, the under is 57.7%. Once you get into neutral court unders with tired legs and teams on the 2nd game of back-to-backs, the unders improve even more. We will be tracking all of these system matches all conference tourney long.

Tuesday's action features 43 college basketball games, 8 NBA games and 10 NHL games. For an updated breakdown of sharp action across the marketplace, be sure to tune in to the VSiN Market Insights Podcast with Josh Appelbaum. It will be posted at 3:30 p.m. ET.

In the meantime, let's discuss several Tuesday games across the hardwood and the ice that are receiving sharp action from respected pro bettors.

College Hoops

7 p.m. ET: Michigan State (20-9, ranked 16th) at Penn State (21-8, ranked 20th)

This Big Ten showdown features two ranked teams and is set to be one of the most heavily bet games of the night. Michigan State is catching fire at the right time winning three in a row, most recently upsetting Maryland 78-66 as 2-point dogs. Meanwhile, Penn State has struggled as of late, losing three of their last four, including a 77-68 loss to Iowa as 4.5-point dogs. This game opened with Michigan State listed as a short 1-point road favorite. Nearly eight-out-of-ten bets are rushing to the window to back Sparty, pushing the line up to 1.5. However, there is good reason to buy low on Penn State at home. They will be a ton contrarian play with an inflated line in a heavily bet game. The Nittany Lions are also a conference dog and beat MSU 75-70 back on February 4. Ken Pom actually has PSU winning this game by one point (72-71).

9 p.m. ET: Purdue (15-14) at Iowa (20-9, ranked 18th)

Purdue has been incredibly inconsistent all season long. The Boilermakers were finally able to break a four-game losing skid with a 57-49 win over Indiana their last time out. Meanwhile, Iowa has won three of four and has their sights set on a deep run in the Big Dance. This line opened with the Hawkeyes listed as 5.5-point home favorites. The public sees an easy win and cover for Iowa at home and more than three-out-of-four bets are laying the points. However, this line has remained frozen at 5.5 and the juice is actually trending toward Purdue (+ 5.5 at -115), signaling liability in their favor. The Boilermakers have value as a road conference dog and unranked team vs a ranked team. Purdue also has buy-low value as a "bad" ATS team (12-16-1) against a "good" ATS team (Iowa 18-9-2). The last time these teams played Purdue crushed Iowa 104-68 back on Feb. 5. Ken Pom has Iowa winning by four points (72-68). 

NHL

7 p.m. ET: St. Louis Blues (39-17-10) at New York Rangers (35-26-4)

With just 16 games left in the regular season the Blues find themselves as the number 1 seed in the West while the Rangers are on the outside looking in, trailing the Blue Jackets by four points for the last spot in the East. St. Louis is + 29 goals for vs goals against, 16-11-5 on the road and 7-2-1 in their last ten. New York + 14, 17-14-2 at home and 7-3 in their last ten, although they're dropped their last two overall, both against the Flyers. This line opened with St. Louis listed as a -140 road favorite. Non-division road favorites are 59% this year and 57% since 2005. Late season favorites (game 60 and beyond) who made the playoffs the previous year against teams who did not are 63% this year and 64% since 2005. St. Louis also enjoys a rest advantage having last played on Saturday while the Rangers last played Sunday. 

8 p.m. ET: Nashville Predators (32-25-8) at Minnesota Wild (32-26-7)

The Predators are holding on for dear life to the final playoff spot in the West. The Wild are right on their heels, only trailing Nashville by one point. Minnesota can leapfrog the Preds with a win at home in this one. This line opened with the Wild listed as -120 favorites. Sharp action has quickly pushed the line up to -125. Minnesota enjoys a big rest vs tired advantage. Nashville is on the second night of a back-to-back (the Preds got crushed by Edmonton 8-3). The Wild last played on Saturday (lost to Washington 4-3). Favorites off a loss with 2 to 4 days rest against teams on the 2nd leg of a back-to-back are 65% this year and 63% since 2005. 

10:30 p.m. ET: Toronto Maple Leafs (35-23-8) at San Jose Sharks (28-33-4)

The final game of Tuesday's stacked slate features the playoff bound Leafs against the cellar-dwelling Sharks. Toronto holds several distinct advantages. The Leafs are + 15 in goals for vs goals against while the Sharks are -40. This line opened with Toronto listed as a -150 road favorite and sharps immediately steamed the Leafs to -155. Non-division road favorites are 59% this year jump to 64% if the team is coming off a win (Leafs have won three in a row). Late season non-division road favorites (game 60 and beyond) are 63% this year and 61% historically.

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