College Basketball Conference Tournament Futures To Bet: Virginia Tech In ACC, Providence In Big East, More
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: Providence center Nate Watson
What a glorious week we have in front of us with the second wave of college basketball conference tournaments getting ready to kick off, including all of the big boys.
If you’re looking to lock in last-minute conference tournament futures, below are my recommendations for 14 of the tournaments that start this week. (Note that I did not include the SWAC or MEAC since I didn’t see enough of those leagues this year. I also didn’t include the four-team Ivy playoff.)
As always, make sure you shop around as futures odds can vary significantly depending on the book.
Now let’s strap in and enjoy the madness.
Stuckey’s Favorite College Basketball Conference Tournament Bets
Before I highlight my recommended targets for each conference, here are my favorite futures:
- ACC: Virginia Tech
- A-10: St. Bonaventure
- Big East: Providence
- MAAC: Iona
- MAC: Kent State
And my favorite dart throws:
- C-USA: UTEP
- Mountain West: Nevada
Potential Targets: St. Bonaventure, Richmond
St. Bonaventure had a very disappointing season. Prior to the year, I didn’t think there was a chance the Bonnies wouldn’t be an at-large team.
Well, this tournament in Atlantic City presents an opportunity for a fresh start for one of the most veteran teams in the country. The Bonnies do rank dead-last nationally in bench minutes, so depth is a major concern. However, they at least secured one of the top-four seeds to clinch a double-bye. That means they have to win only three games in three days instead of four.
That’s a massive difference for their roster.
I also like their path. The Bonnies will presumably start with a St. Louis team they swept in the regular season. I also don’t hate how St. Bonaventure matches up with its likely semifinal opponent, Davidson.
Richmond is in a similar boat as St. Bonaventure, but I prefer what I saw from the Bonnies down the stretch. They finally started to look like the team I had expected prior to the season. Plus, big man Osun Osunniyi looked great in the regular-season finale after dealing with an injury that cost him the previous game.
Potential Targets: Pass
A few weeks ago, I had Memphis circled as my target here. However, the Tigers surged to end the season and have essentially locked in an NCAA Tournament bid after a dominant win over Houston to close out the regular season.
Not only did that suck some of the value out of their odds, it could set the Tigers up for a letdown in the AAC Tournament.
Houston is the deserved favorite, but the Cougars might be running on fumes. Injuries are finally catching up for a team that does not own a single win over a team projected to make the NCAA Tournament. That lack of depth is also alarming when you have to win three games in three days.
I don’t have much here.
If you want to throw couch change on an absolute dart for fun, look for a Cincinnati +3000 or better. The Bearcats under-achieved this season, but do have some talent. And if they can somehow knock off the Cougars as likely +500 underdogs, the entire bracket would become wide open.
Potential Targets: Virginia Tech, Virginia
You can throw out all of the teams playing on the first day — it’s been a down year overall for the ACC, but I don’t see any of the double-digit seeds winning five games in five days.
I also have no interest in targeting the top-half of the bracket (where Duke resides) from a futures perspective, but do think there’s opportunities to take a shot in the bottom-half, where Notre Dame and North Carolina sit as the top-two seeds.
North Carolina could potentially be flat after that massive Duke win and has been very inconsistent all season (see: home loss to Boston College), which makes the Heels a vulnerable higher seed.
In my eyes, the two Virginia schools have a decent shot at making a run to the final, where anything can happen. The desperation should be there from a Virginia Tech team that is most likely on the wrong side of the bubble and a Virginia team that needs to cut down the nets to make it back to the dance.
I prefer Virginia Tech, but don’t hate Virginia if you choose to go that route. Both profile fairly similarly in many ways. Each are well-coached, which matters more in a tournament setting. They also play at a very slow-pace, which limits possessions and increases variance — exactly what you want from a longer shot in this situation.
Plus, that makes it easier to win four games in four days.
Virginia Tech also shoots (and makes) a high frequency of 3-pointers. That’s another trait I really like when it comes to selecting a conference tournament longshot since it increases the variance.
Lastly, the Hokies do struggle with turnovers at times, but the top seeds in their half of the bracket simply do not force turnovers. North Carolina and Notre Dame rank 346th and 334th in that category, respectively.
Potential Targets: Michigan
Wisconsin was a vulnerable No. 2 seed even before the potential loss of Johnny Davis. However, I don’t want part of any other team in that half of the bracket. While Purdue has worrying flaws, it looks like an easy path to the final for the Boilermakers — but I’m not in a rush to back them at their current price (+185).
In the top-half of the bracket, Michigan looks like the best team to take a flier on. The Wolverines can absolutely make a run. And while they have a tricky matchup against Indiana top first, it’s a decent one as illustrated by their blowout win in Bloomington.
Elsewhere, Iowa is arguably playing the best basketball in the conference, but there’s no value on the Hawkeyes after winning four games in four days without the double-bye. You’re better off going with a moneyline rollover with Iowa.
I do show value on Rutgers, which does have a double-bye before likely playing an Iowa team it already beat this season. The Scarlet Knights also have wins over Purdue, Wisconsin and Illinois, so they are certainly capable — but I don’t trust them to win three straight games against great competition away from the RAC.
Potential Targets: TCU
Despite dealing with injury issues, Baylor is my pick to win the Big 12 Tournament. However, I don’t see any betting value on the Bears.
Kansas is a bit vulnerable in the top-half of the bracket. The Jayhawks have to play the winner of TCU-Texas, both of which almost swept the Jayhawks, with the Horned Frogs coming up just short in Lawrence last week.
TCU’s prowess on the offensive glass and physicality really gave Bill Self’s bunch issues. The Horned Frogs are also well-coached and have a tremendous point guard in Mike Miles. The problem is I’m not sure TCU can get past Texas. Texas swept TCU rather easily in the regular season, so it just might not be a great matchup.
If you can get +2500 or better on TCU, the Horned Frogs are worth a flier. If not, you could go with a moneyline rollover.
Potential Targets: Providence, St. John’s
It’s well-documented how fortunate Providence has been this season in close games, but that has actually created some value in the betting market. The Friars have a fairly easy path in the top-half of the bracket with a bunch of teams either fading away or dealing with key injuries.
They also can’t face either Villanova or UConn until the final.
Head coach Ed Cooley has had plenty of success in this tournament before, and has a very veteran team that comes in well-rested after not playing last weekend. Winning close games works just fine in a tournament for a future.
If you’re looking for a longshot, I’d potentially target St. John’s — the Red Storm are a nightmare to play on any night, but especially in a tournament setting. They are always going to muck up the game and have had success against Villanova in recent years. They also played UConn very close in both meetings this season.
The problem is St. John’s has to first beat a surging DePaul squad that is now fully healthy and playing its best basketball of the year. That should be a shootout I could see either team winning. And while you can get much better futures odds on the Blue Demons, I just don’t see them having a shot to beat Villanova in the next round since they are pace takers and that game would turn into a half-court grind, which does not favor DePaul.
Potential Targets: Pass
The market looks pretty fair for this tourney.
If I had to pick one, I’d go with Northern Colorado, which can outscore any team in this league on any given night. The problem is the Bears can’t stop a nose bleed, but they did sweep No. 2 seed Southern Utah in two regular-season shootouts.
Potential Targets: UTEP, Louisiana Tech
UAB should win this tourney, but I don’t see any value in the Blazers.
Meanwhile, North Texas looks like a vulnerable top-overall seed. The Mean Green got very fortunate in close games this year and should be in a few more given their extremely slow pace and style. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see negative 3-point shooting regression on both ends.
Louisiana Tech under-achieved this year, but can compete with anybody in this league with Kenneth Lofton Jr. leading the way underneath. I show slight value on the Bulldogs.
An interesting long shot is UTEP, which ended the regular season with a win over North Texas. This team has a lot of talent, led by Souley Boum and Jamal Bieniemy. And the recent return of Keonte Kennedy after a two-month absence makes the Miners that much more dangerous.
Potential Targets: Kent State, Akron
If you haven’t watched Toledo this season, the Rockets have a fantastic offense that can easily put 90 up against any team in the league. However, I don’t see any value on the top overall seed, which could have a very tricky second-round matchup against either Buffalo or Akron.
Buffalo severely under-achieved this season, but the Bulls have a senior-laden roster with plenty of talent and experience. Is this the fresh start they needed? Meanwhile, Akron is a tricky opponent and fits the longshot profile of a team that plays super slow and shoots a high frequency of 3-pointers.
My favorite favorite in the MAC is actually in the bottom-half with Kent State. You’re getting a ton of value with a Golden Flashes team that won 12 straight to close the season. They are the best defensive team in the league and have flamethrower Sincere Carry running the show.
Not only did the Kent State sweep top-seeded Toledo in the regular season, but it should have a much easier path to the final.
Potential Targets: Iona
Saint Peter’s has an elite defense, but I don’t trust the offense. Monmouth started out the season on fire but hasn’t been the same team since a COVID-induced pause in December. And no other team has enough to entice me to back them in this very inconsistent conference.
That leads me down the same path as usual in the MAAC Conference Tournament: Iona. The Gaels have owned this tourney in recent years, having won five straight overall. I don’t see that changing this season and love them at +100 or better.
Potential Targets: Nevada, UNLV
I cannot wait for the Mountain West Conference Tournament.
This is a loaded field with four at-large teams and a number of others capable of taking this tournament, including Fresno State, Nevada, Utah State, UNLV and even Nevada.
Utah State had to deal with injuries, but remains a dangerous out while Fresno State will grind games to a halt and has a future pro in Orlando Robinson. The Bulldogs just took San Diego State to double overtime on the road.
Meanwhile, UNLV is surging at the right time and has a player in Bryce Hamilton who can win games on his own. The home-town Rebels will also start off with a Wyoming team they just beat in Vegas. As a result of their late-season surge, the Rebels have gone from +2800 odds only a month ago down to about +900. I still believe that’s worth a flier.
The other team from the host state is also intriguing. Nevada has dealt with a ton of injuries, but come into this tourney at full strength with 7-footer Warren Washington back from injury. The Wolf Pack have a very dangerous backcourt that can lead them on a deep run here. Remember, this is a team many thought would win the league in the preseason.
This is a great field to take a shot on one of the non-at larges, excluding Air Force and San Jose State. I personally went with the two clubs from The Silver State.
Potential Targets: Washington State
I originally wanted to target Oregon, but the Ducks faded hard down the stretch after a mini surge. And now we don’t know the status of Will Richardson.
Oregon’s ceiling remains high as we saw with a sweep on its Los Angeles road trip against UCLA and USC in mid-January, and Dana Altman is a menace in a tournament setting. That said, I would need much better odds to back the current state of a Ducks team that will have to win four games in four days.
If you’re looking for a flier, take a peek at Washington State. The Cougars are probably a year away, but do have plenty of talent. They also don’t play fairly slow and shoot a high frequency of 3s, which are positive traits of a longshot.
Potential Targets: Pass
This looks like a very chalky tournament. I personally hope we get the potential popcorn semifinal matchups of Arkansas vs. Auburn and Kentucky vs. Tennessee.
Alabama is an intriguing longer shot since the Tide shoot such a high percentage of 3-pointers. However, I’m not sure they will even get by a Vanderbilt team that played very good basketball over the past month. And that’s before getting to a potential path of Kentucky and Tennessee, then Auburn.
Kentucky is my pick to win, but there’s no value on +200. Unless there are upsets galore elsewhere (which I don’t see happening), you would be better off going with a moneyline rollover if you like the Cats.
Potential Targets: Pass
Nichols is clearly the best and most-balanced team. However, it really struggles at the free throw line at 62.1% — the second-worst mark in the country. The Colonels also lost all three meetings with Southeastern Louisiana, which is worrisome.
Nicholls should get it done as the odds-on favorite, but I don’t see any value.