Stuckey: The 10 Futures I Bet for the Remaining Conference Tournaments

Stuckey: The 10 Futures I Bet for the Remaining Conference Tournaments article feature image

Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Oregon coach Dana Altman

I like to think of this Wednesday as the official start of the madness. We already have a few tickets punched and a number of other conference tournaments underway, but 10 more will start today, including the rest of the power conferences.

Below you will find my futures tickets for a good chunk of the remaining conference tournaments. There are a few lottery tickets, others that I will hold no matter what, plus a couple I may hedge based on how these tourneys play out.

(The ACC is underway where I took a flier on Syracuse at 80-1 on the open.)

Find all the links to our conference tournament betting previews here:

Atlantic 10 Tournament

Pick: VCU +100

Starts: Wednesday, March 13

I’m not one to usually take the favorite at even-money in a large conference tournament, but I just think VCU is so much more superior to the rest of the conference, which the Rams continue to prove with their against the spread success as well.

VCU’s defense is real. The Rams are only allowing 0.756 points per possession, which leads the entire country. Just take a look at these national rankings of their defense:

  • Adjusted Efficiency: 5th
  • Effective FG%: 2nd
  • Turnover %: 6th
  • 3P%: 2nd
  • 2P%: 9th

There are no gimmicks or havoc press as we saw under Shaka Smart. It’s just hard-nosed, pressure, man-to-man defense. Almost every starter has defended at an elite level this season. It also helps that the Rams have solid depth and mobile bigs that allow them to match up with many different types of offenses.

Big Ten Tournament

Picks: Michigan +250

Starts: Wednesday, March 13

Death, taxes and backing head coach John Beilein in a tournament setting.

Michigan has won this tournament the past two years, once as a No. 5 seed and once as a No. 8 seed (the lowest to ever win the Big Ten Tournament). Well, Michigan is a No. 3 seed this year and has to be salivating at the chance to get a third shot at Michigan State if they both make it to the final, which would be around a PK.

Purdue lurks in Michigan’s half of the bracket, but the Boilermakers have not done much of late away from home. Give me the best X’s and O’s coach for my money at +250.

I also took a shot on Penn State on the open for those that listen to our podcast. The Nittany Lions are playing as well as any team in the country. The path is tough, but Lamar Stevens and that active defense can spearhead a run. Penn State is one of the 35 best teams in the nation in my opinion.

Big 12 Tournament

Pick: Texas +1200

Starts: Wednesday, March. 13

This is just a mis-priced future in my eyes.

Texas will play in the quarterfinals against Kansas on Thursday in a game I see as close to a coin flip now that the Longhorns have star guard Kerwin Roach back.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Texas Longhorns guard Matt Coleman III and teammates

With Roach back, I actually make it Kansas -1, since I give Kansas a point for a slight home-court edge in Kansas City. (Although we may see a -2 since Kansas continues to be overvalued in the market.) Yet, Texas is 12-1 and Kansas is under 5-1.

The Sprint Center isn’t Allen Fieldhouse and Kansas has been just dreadful away from Lawrence this year. The Jayhawks only have two regulation road wins on the entire season (at Baylor and at Oklahoma State in a game the Pokes had a chance to tie at the end of regulation).

I think we are also seeing some value in the market because of Texas’ slide to end the year. The Horns lost four of five to close out the regular season, but they didn’t have Roach for any of those game. This is just a completely different team with Roach back.

Big East Tournament

Pick: Providence +3500

Starts: Wednesday, March 13

Another mis-priced future here. Providence-Butler should be a war and I can see it going either way, which oddsmakers agree with. Yet, I can get PC 35-1 while Butler is priced at 23-1.

I think the winner can give a vulnerable top seed Villanova problems, especially Providence and its stingy perimeter defense that led the Big East in 3P% during league play. If A.J. Reeves can do what he did against Butler this past weekend, he could be the spark the Friar offense has so desperately needed all season. We know the defense and offensive rebounding will be there.

Head coach Ed Cooley is also no stranger to winning in the Garden. Providence won this tournament back in 2014 and lost in the championship last year to Villanova in overtime.

PC could easily go down in flames on day one, but I think 35-1 is worth a shot in what is an extremely wide-open tournament.

Big Sky Tournament

Pick: Portland State +1800

Starts: Wednesday, March 13

The Big Sky odds will come off the board today at 11:30 a.m. ET but you should be able to get similar odds overnight as the teams playing in the first round won’t have much of an impact on the futures prices of the rest of the field.

The Vikings do have an extremely tough path, starting with Weber State and then likely a date with Montana. However, they won at Weber State this year in a series split — and swept Montana, handing the Grizz two of their four conference losses.

PSU can really struggle to defend at times in the half court, which could end up being its downfall, but “Boo Boo” Woods is an extremely talented point guard. He can carry the Vikings to the final by beating two teams it went a combined 3-1 against. They will also crash the offensive glass, where they led the conference in percentage, which should give them plenty of second-chance looks.

The Vikings also press more than any team in the entire nation, so fatigue could be a real concern. But I still think they’re worth a shot at 18-1.

High-risk, high-reward bet on Woods in the guard-heavy Big Sky.

CUSA Tournament

Pick: North Texas +1500

Starts: Wednesday, March 13

This one looks crazy on the surface. Backing a Mean Green team that has lost seven straight games and would need to win four in four days to win the C-USA tournament, starting with fast-paced FIU, which beat North Texas twice in the past month.

It sounds even crazier when I just read that back to myself, but I’m not putting too much stock into North Texas’ late-season slide. It had a number of key injuries and was down to six active players for one of those losses to FIU.

Well, the Mean Green already got two players back into the rotation and their best player, Ryan Woolridge, came off the bench in the season finale. It appears they are now the healthy team that started 16-1 — the program’s best start in 66 years.

If Woolrdige is healthy, UNT can get by FIU to set up a date with a very talented but young and inconsistent Western Kentucky squad. The road is tough but the talent is there in one of the most wide-open conference tournaments this week.

I’m also a huge fan of head coach Grant McCasland, who will be a huge strength in a tournament setting. He showed that last year when North Texas won the CBI championship.

It’s all about that first game. If the Mean Green can get some momentum and get by the Golden Panthers, they can make noise in Frisco.

SEC Tournament

Pick: Auburn +500

Starts: Wednesday, March 13

I’m still laughing at the difference in odds between Auburn and South Carolina. The No. 5 seed Tigers need to win a game to get to South Carolina, which has a double bye. Yet, Auburn is priced at 5-1 and South Carolina at 50-1.

But it’s easy to see why. Auburn is clearly the superior team and I don’t see it tripping up before the semis, where it could meet a very vulnerable top seed in LSU, which is dealing with all kinds of distractions. LSU could also easily get knocked off by the winner of Arkansas and Florida, each of whom already defeated the Tigers this year.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Auburn Tigers coach Bruce Pearl

Auburn is playing its best basketball of the season, capped off by an impressive win over Tennessee to close out SEC play. After dealing with injuries and suspensions all season, they have finally started to get some continuity and momentum.

Austin Wiley should also be back for the conference tournament, but the Tigers can get to the final without much from him (although he would help with depth).

Bruce Pearl’s bunch would have to win four games in four days, which does worry me some for a team that relies a great deal on perimeter shooting (top-10 3PA/FGA rate nationally) but I still think they can take advantage of an extremely favorable top half of the draw and at least get to the final.

I could then decide on what I want to do in regards to hedging based on what I see in Nashville, assuming Kentucky or Tennessee comes out of the bottom half of the bracket.

Pac 12 Tournament

Pick: Oregon +400

Starts: Wednesday, March 13

I’m fully on board with the Ducks, who finished the year very strong.

They dealt with injuries all year and lost their identity once Bol Bol went down for the year, but have since regrouped and found an identify.

It all starts on the defensive end, where Oregon has played at a high-level for most of the year. Head coach Dana Altman is a master of switching defenses to keep opponents off balance, which can be even more effective in a tournament setting.

Oregon is one of a handful of teams that will run zone over 50% of the time and it also will press over 25% of the time. And if you look at its underlying defensive metrics in man, zone and press, it ranks in the 87th percentile nationally in all three categories, per Synergy.

Washington is the best team in the conference and will be super dangerous in the NCAA Tournament (assuming it gets in) against teams who haven’t seen its vaunted 2-3 zone but it has been vulnerable down the stretch in Pac-12 play against teams seeing it for the second time.

Yes, the Ducks have to win four games in four days but the first game should be a breeze against a lifeless Washington State team. Oregon has as good of a shot as any at winning this tourney in a very down year for the Pac-12.

I also took a shot on Colorado at 7-1. The surging Buffs are the other team that I think can make a run, despite playing on day one.

SWAC Tournament

Pick: Grambling +550

Resumes Friday, March 15

You know I have to get a SWACtion future in here. This tournament already got underway on Tuesday but Grambling’s odds still sit around 5-1 since both top seeds advanced.

The Tigers will get No. 1 seed Prairie View in the semifinals. And while the Panthers did sweep Grambling in the regular season, the game on Friday could go either way. I make Prairie View a slight-favorite, but it should be tight in a matchup of the two best defenses in the conference.

If Grambling can get hot from three, which it is more than capable of doing (39.8% on the year; seventh-best in the country), it can get by Prairie View. That would likely set up a championship meeting with Texas Southern, which it split with during the regular season in two games each decided by one point.

And maybe Alabama State can pull off another upset and take out Texas Southern in the semis.

Ivy Madness

Pick: Yale -150

Starts: Saturday, March 16

I have a feeling Harvard is going to really regret that decision on Saturday night to beat Columbia. Instead of playing what looks like a completely dead Princeton team (which is without its best player Devin Cannady for the season), it will have to play the surging and extremely dangerous Penn Quakers in the first round.

Meanwhile, Yale will get to play Princeton, which it just dismantled on the road this past Saturday. The Bulldogs are also hosting this tournament. Just look at the futures market, where Penn and Harvard are both priced at +360, while Princeton sits at 12-1.

I think Yale walks to the final, where I would make it a 5- or 6-point favorite. Even if Harvard gets by the 2019 Big 5 champion, I can’t see the Crimson beating Yale for a third time this season, especially in New Haven.

I fully expect Miye Oni and Yale to book a ticket to the dance on Sunday afternoon. The Bulldogs could be a scary out, too. You may recall their upset of Baylor in their last tourney appearance in 2016.

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