2019 Conference USA Tournament Betting Odds, Preview: As Wide Open As It Gets

2019 Conference USA Tournament Betting Odds, Preview: As Wide Open As It Gets article feature image
Credit:

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Old Dominion guard Xavier Green

  • The 2019 Conference USA Tournament will tip off in Frisco, Texas on Wednesday, March 13 with four first-round games on ESPN+.
  • The top four seeds, which each receive a bye into the quarterfinals, aren't separated by much in an extremely wide-open bracket.
  • A few of the teams playing on day one have intriguing profiles and a realistic shot at making a run, including defending champion Marshall.

This isn’t your older brother’s Conference USA, when  heavily-favored Memphis would win the conference tournament every year. Memphis has been gone for years and those that follow Conference USA basketball closely will tell you this might be the most wide-open tournament in the history of the conference.

I could realistically see any one of eight teams winning the conference tourney, which doesn’t include recent NCAA Tournament darling, No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee State.

Let’s take a closer look at this wide-open field, starting with the favorite to book a trip to the dance.

2019 Conference USA Tournament Odds, Format

  • Who: 12 of top 14 Conference USA teams
  • Format: Top four seeds get a bye
  • When: March 13-16
  • Where: Frisco, Texas
  • How to Watch: Stadium, ESPN+, CBSSN
  • Defending Champion: Marshall

Who Should Win?

Your guess is as good as mine. All of the top four seeds are separated by no more than a point or two on a neutral court.

Top seed Old Dominion (+330) plays very slow and will grind teams down while relentlessly attacking the glass on both ends. The Monarchs are led by two senior guards in B.J. Smith and Ahmad Carver, who average over 34 points combined. They also play excellent team defense. ODU has notable non-conference wins this season over VCU and at Syracuse.

No. 2 seed Western Kentucky (+410) might have the highest upside but is maddeningly inconsistent due to its youth. 6-foot-11 freshman center Charles Bassey is a double-double machine inside and he’s surrounded by four talented guards. WKU has wins this season over Wisconsin, St. Mary’s, at Arkansas and West Virginia in November on a neutral court. But the Hilltoppers do struggle to shoot at times, are just very inexperienced, which shows in the turnover department.

Despite being the No. 3 seed, Southern Miss (+3350) is the co-favorite to win the Conference USA Tournament. The Golden Eagles play extremely slow but have the league’s most efficient offense. They can absolutely light it up from the outside, as they rank in the top 15 nationally in that department — and shot an absurd 41.2% from deep during conference play.

USM has one of the most experienced rosters in the nation, led by two do-it-all senior guards in Cortez Edwards and Tyree Griffin (7.1 assists per game; fifth-most nationally)). However, the Golden Eagles are extremely small (350th in average height) which makes them very vulnerable on the glass. They can also lean on Doc Sadler, who is an excellent coach. Remember this is a Southern Miss team that upset top seed MTSU last year in this tourney as a No. 9 seed.

No. 4 seed UTSA (+500) does not want to play slow. The Roadrunners struggle to defend, but they have two sophomore gunners at guard who both can absolutely go off on any given night. Jhivvan Jackson (nobody in the country takes a higher percentage of shots for their team)  and Keaton Wallace both average over 20 points per game and can certainly carry UTSA to the NCAA Tournament.

I’ll say it again: this tournament is wide open. Each of the top four seeds have potential tough matchups in the quarterfinals.

  • Old Dominion could play a  Louisiana Tech team that it only beat by 1 at home
  • UTSA will likely face a dangerous UAB team that it split with during the regular season. The Blazers have wins over each of the top four seeds.
  • Western Kentucky may match up with North Texas, which started the year 16-1 before dealing with a number of injuries. The Mean Green finally now have their full roster again.
  • Southern Miss could get defending champion Marshall, which won five straight to close the year and I’m sure is still thinking about the 101-51 home loss to Southern Miss in their only meeting this season.

Potential Sleepers

Since this tourney looks extremely wide-open, I’d take a look at any one of the four teams priced in the mid-tier range. The only teams of the 12-team field that I don’t think have a realistic shot are Rice, FAU, MTSU and FIU. Everybody else is in play.

UAB (+1350) and Louisiana Tech (+1400) are two potentially tricky outs, but I’m not sure if I trust either to win four games in four days.

Marshall (+1150) is also very intriguing. The defending champs don’t play any defense, but they have an explosive offense, led by two excellent senior guards in Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks — who average over a combined 37 points per game. You may remember both from their win over Wichita State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season.

The Herd should get by Rice today, setting up a rematch with a Southern Miss team that beat them by 50 points this season. That should be a little extra motivation, but that result is also a little worrisome.

North Texas (+1400) faded down the stretch, losing seven straight to close the season. However, the Mean Green dealt with injuries to three contributors over that span and got down to six active players at one point. Well, Jorden Duffy and Jahmiah Simmons have since returned. Plus, Ryan Woolrdige, their best player, got some playing time in the finale. North Texas will arrive in Frisco as healthy as its been in a while.

The Mean Green are very experienced and own the league’s best defense when healthy. While very undersized, they do a great job of team rebounding (top 3 in C-USA play in rebounding percentage on both ends).

They also have one of the most underrated coaches in the nation in Grant McCasland, who will be an asset in a tournament setting as he showed last year when North Texas won the CBI.

North Texas will start off with an FIU team it lost to twice over the past month, but if Woolridge is 100%, it should get by the Panthers and then put a scare into Western Kentucky.

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