2019 Big West Tournament Betting Odds, Preview: Anteaters Could Make Noise in Dance

Mar 14, 2019 3:09 AM EDT

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: UC Irvine forward Elston Jones

  • The 2019 Big West Conference Tournament tips off on Thursday in Anaheim when all eight qualified teams will be in action.
  • Winners of 13 straight, top seed UC Irvine (-180) enters the tourney as the clear favorite behind the strength of the nation's best 2P defense.

UC Irvine breezed through the regular season with a 15-1 conference record and the top overall seed in theBig West tournament. However, this eight-team tournament, which awards no byes, has not been kind to No. 1 seeds in recent history. The top seed in the Big West has won the tournament once in the past six years.

Can the Anteaters (-180) buck that trend and secure a ticket to the dance or will we see more upsets in Anaheim?

Let’s take a closer look at futures odds, starting with the clear favorite and then a few potential contenders.

2019 Big West Tournament Odds, Format

  • Who: Top 8 Big West teams (Cal Poly DNQ)
  • Format: Standard eight-team bracket (no byes)
  • When: March 14-16
  • Where: Anaheim, CA
  • How to Watch: ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPN2
  • Defending Champion: Cal State Fullerton

Who Should Win?

UC Irvine -180

The Anteaters won the regular season by five games, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone they are -180 to win the Big West tournament as well. They brought everyone back from a team that lost in last year’s final to Cal State Fullerton.

It all starts on the defensive end. Irvine’s half-court man-to-man defense ranks in the 97th percentile nationally in terms of points per possession allowed, per Synergy.

The Anteaters also have the nation’s best 2-point defense as they dominate on that end in the interior. And that’s no fluke for a Russell Turner squad that finished in the top-six in 2-point defense in four of the past five seasons (16th in the other).

Irvine also finished first in efficiency during league play on offense and defense. This is a deep and experienced team with plenty of size that plays uber-efficient on both ends of the floor.

If it has a weakness, it’s from the line, where the Anteaters shoot a not-so-nice 69%. You can also have success against the ‘Eaters if you speed them up and get out in transition. That’s what Long Beach State (a potential quarterfinal opponent) did during Irvine’s only conference loss of the season.

Irvine is the best team (and I emphasize the word team) in the Big West and has a fair price tag of -180 to ship this tournament.

Potential Futures Value