2021 Conference USA Tournament Betting Preview, Odds & Bracket: Marshall’s Style Can Give Herd an Edge
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The 2021 Conference USA conference tournament will tip off in Frisco, Texas on Tuesday, March 9 with two first-round games and finish up on Saturday, March 13 with the conference championship game.
In all likelihood, this is a one-bid league, which makes this tourney that much more intriguing with all 14 teams qualifying.
2021 Conference USA Tournament Bracket
Conference USA Tournament Odds
Odds via William Hill.
From a futures perspective, I’m throwing out the bottom two seeds in action on Tuesday that would have to win five games in five days in order to cut down the nets.
- Rice (300-1): A high-variance team full of shooters that attempts three-pointers at a top-5 rate in the country
- Southern Miss (500-1): Deep and athletic team with some decent size, but doesn’t do anything really well.
For what it’s worth, Rice swept the season series with Southern Miss. Also, Florida International had to pull out of the tournament, so Middle Tennessee (250-1) automatically advanced to Wednesday’s second round for a date with North Texas. I have no interest in a Blue Raiders team that has only beat Charlotte over the past two months.
A few teams in the middle of the pack have some endearing qualities, but none enticing enough for me to get involved from a futures perspective:
- Florida Atlantic (60-1): A healthy Jaylin Ingram makes the Owls a tougher out, but turnover issues and free throw woes will be their downfall, no matter how much they dominate on the glass. FAU also somehow avoided playing each of the top six seeds in the regular season.
- Charlotte (250-1): Head coach Ron Sanchez is a Tony Bennett disciple, so no surprise Charlotte plays at a snail’s pace and features a pack-line defense. Guard Jahmir Young can fill it up, but how excited can you get about a team that lost eight straight to end the regular season?
- UTSA (30-1): The Roadrunners are a super fun team to watch, primarily due to a pair of seniors in Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace, who are capable of combining for 50+ on any given night. The problems for UTSA are on defense, where they just can’t get stops.
- UTEP (22-1): We all saw the Miners give Kansas a scare to end the regular season. This team might have some potential next year if senior Bryson Williams decides to return and UTEP can add a guard in the transfer market to pair with sophomore Souley Boom. UTEP won’t beat itself with turnovers or poor free throw shooting, but depth is an issue and the Miners are simply a notch below the next group of first-tier teams in the league.
That leaves six teams that I think have a realistic shot at winning the C-USA tournament:
- Louisiana Tech (+250): Best defense in the league, ranking in the top 25 nationally in Effective FG%, 3P% and Defensive Rebounding %. Experienced team plus crafty CUSA freshman of the year on the low block Kenneth Lofton Jr. I think they get to final, but number is priced right.
- UAB (+450): Extremely stingy defense that will force teams into a high frequency of turnovers. The Blazers also don’t turn it over themselves, but go through too many offensive droughts and lack shooting.
- Western Kentucky (+300): Most talented and balanced team in conference, but turnover issues on offense and issues defending the perimeter on defense.
- Old Dominion (+1500): Aren’t spectacular in any one facet, but it’s a very experienced team that has gotten healthier late in the season. The Monarchs will battle until the very end as cliche as that sounds. Split with Marshall, UAB and Western Kentucky. I ultimately just don’t trust their offense enough.
- Marshall (+500): Pro-style offense that prefers to run at warp speed. Most-efficient offense in C-USA.
- North Texas (+250): Well-coached team with plenty of experience that plays at a snail’s pace. Makes its living on the defensive end.
The first four teams on that list actually have a double-bye into the quarterfinals, but I wagered on one of the two teams above that does not in No. 5 seed Marshall. Not only did I pick the Thundering Herd to win in the preseason, I still have them rated as the best team in the conference per my most recent power ratings.
I actually think the 5-1 price is pretty fair even though I’m higher than the market on Marshall. However, I also like its draw and style in a tournament format. Head coach Dan D’Antoni’s team plays with extreme pace, ranking 17th nationally in Adjusted Tempo. They are not easy to face when you have played the night before or previous two nights.
I don’t think Marshall will have any issue with the winner of Rice-Southern Miss and can simply gain gym familiarity in the process before facing off against a UAB team I think it matches up well with. The UAB defense is outstanding, but Marshall won’t cough the ball up and I’m not sure UAB’s offense can keep up without getting free points. That would likely set up a third meeting with Western Kentucky, which swept the Herd during the regular season in two close contests.
You could argue that WKU has the most raw talent in the league with big man Charles Bassey and senior guard Taveion Hollingsworth. And you’d probably be right. However, something still seems a bit off with the Hilltoppers to me, but they could easily put it all together and win this tournament. In fact, I think the winner of a potential Marshall-WKU semifinal would indeed end up taking this tournament down.
I’ll put my trust in Marshall guards in Taevion Kinsey and Jarrod West to make a run in the top-half where they avoid North Texas and Louisiana Tech (which both can give them potential issues) until the final.
Nothing big here as I don’t see a major edge and am really going with my gut and sticking to my guns.
The Bet: Marshall +500