NCAA Conference Tournaments Odds And Picks: Does Zion’s Return Make Duke The Favorite In The ACC?
College basketball conference tournaments got underway last week but now the big boys take center stage. The ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and others tip off their conference tournaments this week. All eyes will be on the ACC and Duke superstar Zion Williamson, who is expected to return for the conference tournament. Even with Duke getting Zion’s 21.6 points and 8.8 rebounds back in the starting lineup, Virginia is the betting favorite to win the ACC Tournament.
We have a breakdown of the odds, along with picks and sleepers, for 11 of the biggest conference tournaments starting this week.
All odds are courtesy of the Westgate LV SuperBook
ATLANTIC 10 TOURNAMENT
March 13-17, 2019 – Brooklyn, NY
ST BONAVENTURE 10/1
ST LOUIS 15/1
GEORGE MASON 25/1
RHODE ISLAND 40/1
ST JOSEPH’S 80/1
LA SALLE 100/1
Breakdown: VCU is the heavy favorite wo win the A-10 Tournament after finishing 16-2 in the conference during the regular season. Davidson (4/1) is the two-seed but has longer odds to win the tournament than No. 3 seed Dayton (3/1). The Flyers closed the year winning five of six, which included a one-point win at Davidson. A sleeper team is St. Bonaventure at 10/1. The Bonnies are just 16-15 overall but 12-6 in the A-10 after winning seven of their final eight games. However, St, Bonaventure did lose by 30 to VCU at home earlier in the season. It’s hard to against a VCU team riding a 12-game winning streak entering the tournament.
Pick: VCU 4/5
Sleeper: St. Bonaventure 10/1
March 12-16, 2019 – Charlotte, NC
NORTH CAROLINA 7/2
VIRGINIA TECH 12/1
FLORIDA STATE 15/1
NC STATE 80/1
Breakdown: The most intriguing tournament is the ACC. Not only does the ACC feature three of the country’s top teams in Duke, Virginia and North Carolina but the likely return of Zion Williamson makes the tournament must-see TV. The Blue Devils showed they were a completely different team without Williamson. If you include the UNC game where Zion played just 30 seconds, Duke went 3-3 without Williamson in the lineup. They had gone 23-2 in their previous 25 games with Zion. Duke opened as the favorites to win the ACC Tournament but money quickly came in on Virginia. Duke beat the Cavaliers twice this season with Williamson. UNC is 2-0 versus Duke but Williamson missed all but 30 seconds of those two games.
With three powerhouse teams it’s hard to imagine a longer shot winning the ACC Tournament, although Florida State is worth a look a at 15/1. The Seminoles play stifling defense when their shots are falling, FSU is a threat to the three favorites. In what should be an exciting tournament, the return of Zion gives Duke a slight edge over Virginia and UNC.
Pick: Duke 7/4
Sleeper: Florida State 15/1
BIG 12 TOURNAMENT
March 13-16, 2019 – Kansas City, MO
TEXAS TECH 7/5
KANSAS STATE 3/1
IOWA STATE 7/1
OKLAHOMA STATE 100/1
WEST VIRGINIA 200/1
Breakdown: Usually known as the Kansas Invitational, the Big 12 Tournament is wide-open this year. The Jayhawks failed to win at least s share of the Big 12 title for the first time in 14 years after injuries and struggles on the road caused Kansas to finish 12-6 in the conference. Texas Tech and Kansas State shared the conference title but the Wildcats could be without one of their top players. Senior forward Dean Wade (12.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG) is listed as questionable for the tournament after experiencing discomfort in his foot. Texas Tech is playing the best basketball of any team entering the tournament. The Red Raiders have won nine straight and 11 of 12 overall.
Iowa State has talent but you never know what you’ll get out of the Cyclones on a nightly basis. If Iowa State puts it all together for four days, they are the type of team that can make a run and win the tournament.
Pick: Texas Tech 7/5
Sleeper: Iowa State 7/1
BIG EAST TOURNAMENT
March 13-16, 2019 – New York, NY
SETON HALL 8/1
ST JOHN’S 12/1
Breakdown: If you like chaos and unpredictably, tune into the Big East Tournament. Six teams in the Big East finished 9-9 or better. Defending National Champions Villanova had what many considered a down year but the Wildcats still managed to grab the top seed after finishing 13-5 in the conference. While Villanova is the co-favorites with Marquette, this tournament is wide open.
Two teams to consider are Creighton (5/1) and Xavier (12/1). Creighton closed the regular season winning five straight games, while Xavier won six of seven. The two teams play each other in the second round on Thursday with the winner likely facing Villanova. Whichever team emerges victorious will be a serious threat to win the tournament. I’ll go with Creighton.
Seton Hall is also worth a look at 8/1. The Pirates are in the lower part of the bracket with an easier path to the finals and a potential matchup against Xavier, Creighton or Villanova.
Pick: Creighton 5/1
Sleeper: Seton Hall 8/1, Xavier 12/1
BIG TEN TOURNAMENT
March 13-17, 2019 – Chicago, IL
MICHIGAN STATE 3/2
PENN STATE 25/1
OHIO STATE 75/1
Breakdown: Michigan State is the top seed and favorite once again. Tom Izzo has done one of his better coaching jobs this season leading the Spartans to a 16-4 conference record, despite losing Joshua Langford for the season and Nick Ward being sidelined with a fractured hand. Speaking of good coaching jobs, Matt Painter led Purdue to a share of the regular season title after losing four starters off last year’s NCAA Tournament team. Michigan State swept Michigan and split with Purdue this year. After suffering a three-game losing streak in late-January, the Spartans won seven of eight to close the year.
Always dangerous Wisconsin improved throughout the season, winning five of its last six games. The Badgers went 1-3 versus Michigan State, Purdue and Michigan but offer some value at 8/1.
Pick: Michigan State 3/2
Sleeper: Wisconsin 8/1
IVY LEAGUE TOURNAMENT
March 16-17, 2019 – New Haven, CT
Breakdown: The Ivy League Tournament features the conference’s top four teams with Yale the favorite at 5/7. However, the best bet here is Harvard. The Crimson tied Yale for the regular season title and there isn’t much separating the two teams. Harvard played a tougher schedule and went 6-2 in its last eight games. The Crimson also beat Yale twice during the regular season. The two teams could meet for a third time in the finals in what is an even game on paper, although Yale will have the home-court advantage. Take the longer odds with Harvard over the slightly overpriced Bulldogs.
Pick: Harvard 7/2
March 11-16, 2019 – Cleveland, OH
BOWLING GREEN 10/1
KENT STATE 30/1
CENTRAL MICHIGAN 30/1
NORTHERN ILLINOIS 60/1
EASTERN MICHIGAN 60/1
BALL STATE 60/1
MIAMI OH 80/1
WESTERN MICHIGAN 500/1
Breakdown: Buffalo is clearly the top team in the MAC and the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament. The Bulls will be in the field of 68 even if they get upset this week. While Buffalo is the easy pick to win, I’m going with Toledo at 3/1. The Rockets went 10-2 over their final 12 games and have the talent to compete with the Bulls on the offensive end. However, Toledo went 0-2 versus Buffalo this year, allowing 110 and 88 points in the two games. The Rockets need to find a way to slow down Buffalo if they meet in the finals but at 3/1, I’ll roll the dice on Toledo as the second-best team in the MAC.
I’m taking Central Michigan as my sleeper at 30/1. The Chippewas went 0-3 versus Buffalo and Toledo this year but were competitive in all three games. Central Michigan is the one longer shot I can see getting on a run and stealing a tournament bid.
Pick: Toledo 3/1
Sleeper: Central Michigan 30/1
MOUNTAIN WEST TOURNAMENT
March 13-16, 2019 – Las Vegas, NV
UTAH STATE 2/1
FRESNO STATE 5/1
SAN DIEGO STATE 15/1
BOISE STATE 50/1
COLORADO STATE 100/1
AIR FORCE 100/1
NEW MEXICO 100/1
SAN JOSE STATE 1000/1
Breakdown: I follow the Mountain West Conference closely and Utah State is one of the teams I’ll look to bet on in the NCAA Tournament. The Aggies are tough-minded defensive squad that can play fast or slow on the offensive side of the ball. I like them to win the Mountain West Tournament. Nevada is the most talented team in the league but consistency is an issue. They are the type of team that can make a Final Four run or get upset in the first round. I trust Utah State more over a four-day tournament.
San Diego State isn’t a bad bet at 15/1. The Aztecs play lockdown defense but their offense is tough to watch at times. San Diego State won the tournament to grab a bid last year and the Aztecs are 3-1 in their last four games versus Nevada.
Pick: Utah State 2/1
Sleeper: San Diego State 15/1
PAC 12 TOURNAMENT
March 13-16, 2019 – Las Vegas, NV
ARIZONA STATE 4/1
OREGON STATE 5/1
WASHINGTON STATE 100/1
Breakdown: I mentioned above that if you like chaos, check out the Big East Tournament. If you like complete anarchy, the Pac-12 is right down your alley. No conference is more unpredictable than the Pac-12. Only Washington is guaranteed a berth in the field of 68. The conference is so wacky that Cal started 0-15 before winning its final three games.
Surprisingly, I do have a strong lean in the Pac-12. I really like Utah at 12/1. The Utes started off slowly this year but finished 10-5 in their final 15 games. Utah’s offense really improved late in the year, averaging 82.5 points in its last four games and topping 90 twice. In a wide-open conference tournament, I’ll take Utah at 12/1.
If you want an even bigger sleeper, look at UCLA at 20/1. It’s been a tough season for the Bruins. UCLA finished 16-15 and Steve Alford was fired in December. The Bruins are still one of the most talented overall teams in the Pac-12 and average over 78 points a game. The problem is UCLA can’t stop anyone on defense, allowing close to 78 points a game. They are dangerous enough though to rattle off four wins in four days. Washington has been the conference’s best team all year but I’d rather go with value in what could be a wild tournament.
Pick: Utah 12/1
Sleeper: UCLA 20/1
March 13-17, 2019 – Nashville, TN
MISSISSIPPI STATE 12/1
SOUTH CAROLINA 50/1
I’ve been on LSU all year. I have the Tigers at 75/1 to win the NCAA Tournament. LSU still has a shot to win the SEC Championship but with head coach Will Wade and star player Javonte Smart suspended, it’s tough to take them at 9/2. I also have Kentucky at 15/1 to win the NCAA Tournament and I’ll go with the Wildcats here as well. Kentucky is one of the most talented teams in the country and when they give maximum effort on the defensive end, the Wildcats are tough to beat.
For a sleeper, I’m going down the board with South Carolina. Frank Martin overachieved with a young South Carolina squad this year. The Gamecocks went 11-7 in the SEC and while South Carolina is still a year away from seriously challenging for a conference title, sometimes next year comes early. With Martin and low-post presence Chris Silva, the Gamecocks could cause havoc in the SEC Tournament.
Pick: Kentucky 2/1
Sleeper: South Carolina 50/1
March 14-16, 2019 – Las Vegas, NV
NEW MEXICO STATE 4/7
UTAH VALLEY STATE 7/2
GRAND CANYON 4/1
UT RIO GRAND VALLEY 15/1
CSU BAKERSFIELD 30/1
CHICAGO STATE 1000/1
Breakdown: I’m all in on New Mexico State. I think they are a Sweet 16 sleeper if the Aggies get a good draw in the NCAA Tournament. New Mexico State dominated the WAC with a 15-1 record and it would be a huge upset if they didn’t win the tournament. There isn’t much value in the WAC Tournament but CSU Bakersfield was the one team to upset New Mexico State in conference play. The Roadrunners are a better bet at 30/1 than a team like UT Rio Grand Valley at 15/1. Don’t sleep on New Mexico State though as a 12-seed when the NCAA Tournament field is announced Sunday night.
Pick: New Mexico State 4/7
Sleeper: CSU Bakersfield 30/1