College Basketball Outright Bets: Our Top Picks to Win Each Power 6 Conference Tournament & More
Joe Murphy/Getty Images. Pictured: Feron Hunt (1) and Landers Nolley II (3).
College basketball conference tournament season began on Feb. 25 with the Horizon League. Since then, six conferences champions have been crowned, each of whom has earned an automatic qualifying bid to participate in the 2021 NCAA Tournament:
- Morehead State (Ohio Valley)
- Loyola Chicago (Missouri Valley)
- Winthrop (Big South)
- Liberty (Atlantic Sun)
- Appalachian State (Sun Belt)
- UNC Greensboro (SoCon)
On Tuesday, March 9, five more teams will clinch berths in the NCAA Tournament from the Summit League, Northeast Conference, West Coast Conference, Horizon League and Colonial Athletic Association.
The rest of the Division-I conference tournaments won’t crown champions until this weekend, with 15 conference championship games on Saturday, March 13 and five more on Sunday, March 14 before the Selection Sunday NCAA Tournament Bracket release.
So, in order to help you navigate the jam-packed week of college basketball ahead of us, our NCAAB staff has come together in order to deliver their top picks to win each of this week’s Power 6 and high-major conference tournaments.
That includes outright bets from the following conferences: AAC, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Pac-12 and SEC.
College Basketball Conference Tournament Outright Picks
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Collin Wilson: Georgia Tech +2500 / Clemson +2000
Editor’s Note: Georgia Tech has since dropped to 10-1 at DraftKings, and 13-1 is the best price across the U.S. market.
The two hottest teams in the ACC are set to clash in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals, prompting an investor to split a half-unit wager on both teams.
While odds on other double-bye teams such as Virginia, Florida State and Virginia Tech provide little to no value, the Yellow Jackets and Tigers represent a combination with a greater reward. Not only are the odds in Clemson and Georgia Tech’s favor, but they avoid the other side of the bracket which includes Duke, Louisville and North Carolina.
Per Torvik Rank, since Feb. 1, no team has had a better adjusted defensive efficiency than Clemson. The Tigers have won six of their past seven games with a lone loss coming against the zone defense at Syracuse.
Brad Brownell’s squad is not known for being an offensive powerhouse, but in the past five weeks, the Tigers are third in effective field goal percentage led by the best shooting percentage from 3-point territory at 41.1%.
As for the Yellow Jackets, Josh Pastner has led his team to six straight victories. Georgia Tech has dominated the ACC in the paint, ranking first in the conference from 2-point percentage at 55.6%.
Turnovers are the name of the game for the Yellow Jackets defense, as it ranks first in the ACC in steal percentage, led by guard Jose Alvarado, who is 13th in the nation in steals.
Both Clemson and Georgia Tech project to be a pick’em game in the quarterfinals. The winner will be approximately a 3-point dog to Virginia in the semifinals, but that sweat will be accompanied by needing just two victories with a ticket that is 20-1 or better.
Mike Randle: Georgia Tech +2500
There is little value in betting Florida State (+250) as the favorite, or Virginia (+350), which is a notch below its usual talent level. But there is tremendous value in a Georgia Tech team that shockingly provides just the eighth-best odds at +2500.
The Yellow Jackets enter the ACC Tournament with six consecutive wins, including three ACC road wins. They are still one of our teams that enjoy the double-bye, yet Georgia Tech has substantially worse odds than the other three teams: Florida State, Virginia, and Virginia Tech (+500).
Head coach Josh Pastner found a way to defeat Florida State at home by 11, Virginia Tech on the road by 16, and barely lost twice to Virginia, including a 64-62 result in Charlottesville.
Georgia Tech has the balance to beat any opponent, ranking first in ACC play in 20% (55.6%), while forcing the highest turnover rate in conference play.
It has one of the most underrated point guards in the nation in Jose Alvarado (15.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.2 APG, 2.9 SPG) and has senior forward Moses Wright (18 PPG, 8.1 RPG) playing the best basketball of his career.
In their recent four-game winning streak over Miami, Virginia Tech, Duke, and Syracuse, Wright was dominant with per-game averages of 25 points and 13 rebounds.
Everything points to Georgia Tech as a huge betting value. It has a great inside-outside combination, has momentum, a double-bye, and the much easier side of the bracket without Florida State, Louisville, or Virginia Tech.
Conference USA Tournament
Mike Randle: Louisiana Tech +300
One of the few teams entering a wide-open Conference USA Tournament with momentum is Louisiana Tech.
The Bulldogs won the West Division with a 12-4 conference record, one game ahead of UAB. They not only earned the precious double-bye until Thursday, but they enter the postseason having won nine of their past 10 games and 12 of their past 14.
The Bulldogs are C-USA’s second-rate team per KenPom, just one spot behind North Texas. As a result of the unbalanced schedule, Louisiana Tech is the only team that can boast wins over each of the top three seeds: Western Kentucky (63-58, away), North Texas (68-63, away), and UAB (twice at home).
Head coach Adam Konkol’s philosophy is grounded in good, tough, man-to-man defense, with the league’s best defense in 2019-20 and again this season. The Bulldogs hold opponents to just a 45.2% effective field goal percentage and a microscopic 28.2% from beyond the arc.
The interior presence of forward Isaiah Crawford (11.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG) and Kenneth Lofton Jr. (11.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG) is balanced by the explosive guard-play of Kalob Ledoux (11.3 PPG, 40% 3P). Ledoux, last year’s Sixth Man of the Year in CUSA, is shooting 60% (12-of-20) from 3-point range over the past three contests.
Louisiana Tech is dying for an NCAA Tournament bid, something that has eluded the program for 30 years. Konkol has the talent — and tournament draw — to end that drought in 2021.
Pick: Louisiana Tech +300
Mountain West Tournament
Collin Wilson: Colorado State +600
There could not be a better draw for the Rams, sitting with a bye as the No. 3 seed and being on the other side of the bracket, away from San Diego State and Nevada.
Colorado State has been hot through conference play in racking up 11 victories in 13 games before suffering a short loss at Nevada. No team in the Mountain West has had a better effective field goal percentage since February 1st. Per Tovik Rank, the Rams have been in the top three in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency over the past five weeks.
Colorado State did sit for multiple weeks in February due to a COVID-19 disruption with scheduled opponents New Mexico and Nevada.
The layoff did nothing to deter the offense of the Rams, which is heavily reliant on point distribution from beyond the arc. More importantly, this is a play on a team in the charity-stripe department. The Rams are third in the Mountain West in free-throw rate and first in free-throw percentage.
That is the profile of a team to invest in when single elimination play is at hand, but it also helps when the tournament draw puts the best teams on the other side of the bracket.
Pick: Colorado State +600
Mike Randle: Colorado State +600
For my money, the Rams have been the best team in the Mountain West all season.
They fell short of a regular-season title due to an 85-82 end-of-season road loss at Nevada and two shaky forfeit wins gifted to San Diego State. Regardless, the Rams have shown their talent and resiliency all season.
Colorado State is the only Mountain West team to defeat San Diego State, Utah State, and Boise State. The Rams feature a guard-heavy lineup, led by last season’s Mountain West Freshman of the Year Isaiah Stevens (15 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 5.7 APG, 42.2% 3P). Juniors Kendle Moore (10.9 PPG, 37.6% 3P) and Adam Thistlewood (9.9 PPG, 39.6% 3P) help stretch opposing defenses out away from the basket.
Their only real interior presence is undersized sophomore David Roddy (16.3 PPG, 9.6 RPG,.2.8 APG). What the Rams lack in size, they makeup for with offensive efficiency and elite perimeter defense. Colorado State ranks first in conference play in adjusted offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, and 2-point percentage allowed, while holding opponents to just 31.1% from beyond the arc.
In a close game, head coach Niko Medved’s squad always holds an advantage, shooting 80.8% from the free-throw line.
The Rams will likely face Utah State in the semifinals, a team they already defeated on the road on Jan. 21. They avoid three of the other teams that defeated them until the finals: Nevada, San Diego State, and Boise State.
Big 12 Tournament
BJ Cunningham: Texas Tech +1500
Listen, Baylor is probably going to cruise through the Big 12 Tournament.
KenPom has the Bears’ chances of cutting down the nets in Kansas City at over 57%. So, if you are looking for a longshot, I think the Red Raiders are your best option given the odds.
They rank inside the top 30 nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency, per KenPom. They also have the second-best efficiency differential in the Big 12, so the fact they have the sixth best odds is quite shocking in my opinion.
They get to face Texas in the first round, which is good news because they swept Texas in the regular-season series. Texas Tech then will have to get past Kansas, which it lost two very close games to this year.
The Red Raiders do a few things extremely well that are really key in an elimination tournament setting:
They take care of the ball (35th in turnover rate)
They crash the offensive boards at a high rate (32nd in offensive rebounding rate)
They get to the free-throw line at a high rate (21st in free throw rate).
So, if the Red Raiders aren’t shooting the ball well, they still will have plenty of second-chance and free-throw opportunities.
KenPom has Texas Tech’s probability of winning the Big 12 Tournament at 8.5%, so given the implied odds of +1500 is 6.25%, you’re getting 2.25% value on the Red Raiders.
Pat McMahon: Oklahoma +3000
I know the Sooners have been reeling, but this is simply too talented of a team to be getting odds this high.
Oklahoma enters the Big 12 Tournament on a four-game losing streak, and as a result, slid to the No. 7 seed and have to play in the opening round on Wednesday. It shouldn’t have an issue in the opener against an Iowa State team that doesn’t have enough offense to hang with the Sooners.
Kansas awaits in the quarterfinals in a game that I think is essentially a coin flip. The two teams split a pair of close games in the regular season. Kansas has an edge on the defensive end, but the Sooners have more consistent scoring options, and if they can get it going from the outside, should be able to take down the Jayhawks.
Texas and Texas Tech are the potential semifinal opponents for the Sooners. Oklahoma split the regular-season meetings with Texas and lost to Texas Tech twice by a combined seven points. It wouldn’t be a stretch for the Sooners to take down both Kansas and the winner of the Longhorns/Red Raiders game.
In order to profit from a ticket with this high of a price, you just need the Sooners to reach the title game, where you would then be able to hedge.
The Sooners rank in the top 50 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, per KenPom, and will be in every game they play. Austin Reaves is one of the most dynamic players in the conference, and when he gets hot from the outside, this group is really tough to stop.
The Sooners have a number of streaky shooters — Reaves, De’Vion Harmon, Brady Manek, and Elijah Harkless, in addition to the reliable Umoja Gibson (43% from deep). This makes them worth a flyer in a single-elimination tournament because if they collectively get hot for a couple of days, the Sooners will make a run.
Pricing is key in this play, so it’s important you find the best number out there.
The Sooners are as low as +1000 at some books, so I think it’s crazy that DraftKings is giving us such a great number. I’d play the Sooners at +2500 or better.
Pick: Oklahoma +3000
Big East Tournament
Collin Wilson: St. John’s +2000
Call this a bet on the current status of injuries all going in favor of this futures wager.
Posh Alexander was named to the Big East All-Freshman team and is set to return after missing a couple of games with a thumb injury. Alexander has not played since the Feb. 23 loss to Villanova, but the Red Storm have executed without their young star. Mike Anderson’s roster has beaten both Providence and Seton Hall, who they draw in the quarterfinals of the tournament.
Led by sophomore Julian Champagnie, St. John’s dominated the second half against the Pirates. With Alexander back in the fold, the Red Storm are slated to meet a Villanova team that is on the ropes. The Wildcats are reeling after the loss of star Collin Gillespie to a torn MCL against Creighton on March 3.
To compound those issues, significant contributor Justin Moore fell in the season finale to Providence with a sprained ankle. Both Moore and Gillespie played at least 79% of Villanova’s total minutes, which is terrible news for a squad that ranks 325th in bench minutes.
A play on St. John’s is counting on the health of Alexander to return against a Seton Hall team that was just defeated and against a Villanova squad with unfortunate injuries.
Shane McNichol: St. John’s +2000
It is so tempting to allow the ins and outs of the regular season to play an outsized role when looking at conference tournament brackets.
In reality, a large portion of this week’s games and tournaments will come down to matchups, incentives, and quirks within each bracket. In the Big East, all of those factors favor the Johnnies.
They’ll start with a quarterfinal game against a collapsing Seton Hall team. The Pirates, once solidly on the correct side of the bubble, now find themselves on the outside looking in, according to most Bracketologists. Seton Hall’s regular-season finale was a loss to St. John’s in which the Pirates allowed 53 second-half points.
The winner of that matchup is in luck, setting itself up to face a Villanova team currently ravaged by injury. Jay Wright was already playing a shallow lineup, with only seven VIllanova players receiving more than 150 total minutes so far this season.
Injuries to Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore will severely hamper this Villanova team. The Wildcats looked completely out of sorts until a late run against Providence. Sophomore Chris Arcidiacono, who sports a familiar name thanks to his brother Ryan’s time at Villanova, played more minutes Saturday against Providence than he had all season.
Not only were Gillespie and Moore pivotal players for Villanova, they were the starting backcourt on a team that ranks in the top five in the nation in avoiding turnovers.
To date, Villanova’s two most turnover-heavy games this season came against St. John’s. The Red Storm have their own problems, but a favorable path on their side of the bracket and a tournament in their home city is enough value to grab the Johnnies at +2000.
Mike Randle: Connecticut +300
The Connecticut Huskies are the best team in the Big East. Period.
After battling through a season filled with COVID-19 pauses and injuries, the Huskies are now fully healthy and playing their best basketball of the season.
Since the return of star guard James Bouknight (20.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG) from an elbow injury, the Huskies have won five of their last six games. Their only loss was a close 68-60 battle at Villanova against a Wildcats team that will now be without point guard Collin Gillespie (torn MCL) for the remainder of the season.
Head coach Danny Hurley has the best defensive team in the Big East, leading the conference in adjusted defensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, and 2-point percentage allowed (KenPom). The Huskies have a deep roster filled with multiple bigs that comprise the best defensive block percentage in the Big East.
Almost every other contender in the conference has major flaws that will be exposed over a four-day tournament. Connecticut ranks 25th overall in adjusted offensive efficiency and 29th in defense, per KenPom. It’s fully healthy, balanced, and has great team chemistry with Hurley (unlike tournament favorite Creighton).
Even at relatively low odds of +300, the Huskies are my best value in a top-heavy Big East Tournament.
Kyle Remillard: Connecticut +300
The Connecticut Huskies are the 3-seed in the Big East Tournament, and if they had James Bouknight all season, they would be the 1-seed.
Bouknight is averaging 20.2 points along with 5.6 rebounds per game and makes the rest of his teammates better when he’s on the court. I’ve posted the image below about a half-a-dozen times this season as I don’t think his importance to this program can be overstated.
UConn is a different team when he’s on the court, and it’s thriving at just the right time heading into the Big East Tournament. It’s won six of its last seven games since he returned to the lineup, only losing to Villanova when the Huskies couldn’t hit water out of a boat in the second half.
The Huskies own the No. 1 ranked defensive efficiency in the Big East and a top-25 offensive efficiency nationally. In the semifinals, they will need to get by Creighton, which has had some drama with head coach Greg McDermott and lost two of its last three.
It could also face Villanova that will be without Collin Gillespie in the finals. The Wildcats have also been struggling of late, dropping half of their last six games.
Shane McNichol: Ole Miss +4000
Like any longshot, there’s a reason the Rebels are paying out at such a high price.
Kermit Davis has a very flawed team with some bad losses on its resume. The teams that are seeded above Ole Miss and will receive an extra bye into the quarterfinals are all better than the Rebels.
Yet, there’s still value on Ole Miss as a dark horse. The Rebels are 7-2 since the start of February, with notable wins over Tennessee, Missouri (twice), and Kentucky in that stretch of their season. Ole Miss’ path through the SEC Tournament won’t include either of the conference’s two best teams, Alabama and Arkansas, until at least the semifinals.
Style of play is also in Mississippi’s favor.
Davis’ team features a rare defensive ability: Ole Miss plays slowly, ranking second-slowest in tempo in the conference but forces turnovers at a high level. Only nine teams in the nation force more turnovers on a per possession basis. Seven of those nine teams rank in the top 120 in the nation in tempo. Mississippi sits outside the top 320 in pace, relying more on length and scheme to harass opponents than pressure and chaos.
The slow pace should give the Rebels fresher legs in their quest to win four games in four days, but opponents facing Ole Miss with less than a day’s notice should be less prepared to handle the Rebels’ defensive prowess.
The Ole Miss offensive attack is low-variance, shooting 3-pointers at the second-lowest rate in the conference. A cold shooting night doesn’t doom this team.
If the Rebels’ defense shows up in Nashville, they have a puncher’s chance in every game they play.
Kyle Remillard: Kentucky +3000
Although some may call me crazy, I see value at +3000 on the Kentucky Wildcats to win the SEC Tournament.
They must win four games in a row to get a ticket to go dancing in March, and that challenge starts off with Mississippi State. Kentucky took down the Bulldogs in a double-OT thriller earlier in the year.
If the Wildcats recreate that effort, they will match up with the 1-seed Alabama. Kentucky went punch-for-punch with Alabama earlier in the year and held the lead with less than four minutes to play before going ice cold and ultimately losing, 70-59.
That loss was back in January, and Kentucky has begun playing some of its best basketball of the season as of late. It won four of its last six games and ended the season with its largest margin of victory, beating South Carolina by 28 points.
This Kentucky team is undoubtedly trending upward and has beaten some of the top teams in the conference already such as LSU, Tennessee, and Florida. The Cats also went down to the wire with Arkansas, losing by just one on the road.
Kentucky has four players who were ranked inside the top 30 in their recruiting class and have the talent needed to make a run.
At a price of +3000, I’m willing to put my money on a desperate John Calipari to make some magic happen to find a way to get into the NCAA Tournament.
Tanner McGrath: Arkansas +300
Arkansas is simply too hot to not bet right now.
The Razorbacks have won eight straight games and 11 of their last 12. Additionally, the team is 9-2 against the spread in its last 11 games. Good teams win, great teams cover.
While LSU is super efficient offensively and Alabama is super efficient defensively, Arkansas combines an above-average offense with an above-average defense. It finished the regular season third in both offensive and defensive efficiency, per KenPom.
While Alabama dominated the SEC this season, finishing with a 16-2 conference record, it also proved it can be vulnerable at times. The last time Alabama played Arkansas, the Razorbacks dominated the Crimson Tide when the two played on Feb. 24. Arkansas won by 15 despite shooting just 4-for-14 from 3.
Eric Musselman, who has proved he can really coach, has coached up a great combination of freshmen and grad transfers. Moses Moody has made the biggest jump over the course of the season, as he’s now scoring 17.5 points per game on 44% shooting.
Collin Wilson: Toledo +180
There could be a level of boredom betting the favorite to win the conference tournament, but in this case, the price warrants investment.
Toledo finished the season 15-4 in conference play with three of its losses coming on the road. One of those opponents was Central Michigan, which did not qualify for the MAC Tournament. The Rockets’ opening-round opponent, Ball State, did score a victory over them on Feb. 6, but Toledo avenged that with a 19-point drumming this past Friday.
KenPom projects an eight-point victory over Ball State in the quarterfinals and anywhere from 5-to-7 points over Ohio or Kent State in the semifinals.
There is a strong possibility that Toledo could get into the conference championship game without breaking a sweat. Since the beginning of February, Toledo has led the MAC in adjusted offensive efficiency and ranked second in defensive efficiency per Torvik.
This is the top-ranked 3-point shooting team in the MAC, and it has the highest point distribution from long distance.
More importantly, Toledo finished the season with the lowest MAC defensive free-throw rate, making it tough for opponents to get to the foul line for free points.
Be careful with price point when taking favorites in conference tournaments. This number should be played no lower than +160.
Mike Randle: Bowling Green +1000
Bowling Green’s end-of-season home loss to Miami (OH) is masking one critical fact: the Falcons were the hottest team in MAC during the month of February.
They finished a disappointing sixth in the conference after receiving eight of 12 votes as the preseason MAC favorite. Bowling Green suffered a six-game losing streak midseason but then hit its stride with four consecutive road wins last month.
Over the course of the season, the Falcons scored huge road wins at No. 1 seed Toledo (88-81), No. 2 seed Buffalo (76-69), and No. 3 seed Akron (83-71).
They still have one of the top players in the conference in seniors Justin Turner (19.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.5 APG) and Daeqwon Plowden (13.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG).
The Falcons’ offense has struggled in MAC play, ranking 10th in 2-point percentage (48.3%) and 11th in 3-point percentage (31.3%) but have seen improved efficiency across the board from beyond the arc.
Freshman Kaden Metheny (10.5 PPG) senior Trey Diggs (11.5 PPG) have combined to shoot 44.8% (22-of-49) from 3 over the past three games.
Other teams in the conference have major concerns such as Kent State (Michael Nuga injury), Buffalo (free throws/turnovers), and Toledo (road losses at Ball State/Central Michigan). Every team is flawed, making Bowling Green’s struggles less impactful.
BJ Cunningham: Memphis +550
Nobody is hotter than Memphis heading into the AAC Tournament.
It’s won six of its last seven games, and Houston needed a half-court buzzer-beater to beat it at home this past Sunday. The reason I like Memphis at a nice price of +550 is because it’s one of the best defensive teams in the country, ranking second in defensive efficiency, per KenPom.
The Tigers are the No. 3 seed and will have to play Houston in the semis, but if Sunday is any indication, they are absolutely capable of beating them. They also blew out No. 1 seed Wichita State back in January, holding it to 52 points and 2-of-23 from 3-point range.
They say “defense wins championships,” but their offense actually isn’t that far behind and can get hot from deep, as they’re the No. 1 3-point shooting team in the conference, averaging over 38% from deep.
Memphis is second in the AAC in adjusted efficiency, so getting it at the third-best odds is a price worth betting.
Kyle Remillard: Memphis +550
The Memphis Tigers had their best finish in AAC play since 2013-14, ending the regular season in third place at 11-4 on the year.
The Tigers are one of the hottest teams in the conference after winning nine of their last 11 conference games. The two losses come from a half-court miracle by Houston on Sunday and a two-point loss to SMU back in January.
Memphis owns the second-best defensive efficiency in the entire country, allowing just 86.3 points per every 100 possessions, according to KenPom. The Tigers rank first in conference play, holding opponents to 42.8% from the field and just 24.8% from behind the arc.
In addition, they own the highest block and steal percentage in AAC play. That defense flexed its muscles against the powerhouse of the conference on Sunday by holding Houston to just 37.0% from the field.
The Tigers are on the outside of the bubble and looking in. That win on Sunday may have pushed them over the edge, but fortunately, the Tigers will get another shot at Houston in the semifinals.
If they can get past the Cougars, they will most likely face off against Wichita State, a team Memphis beat by 20 earlier in the year. At a price of +550, I see value in a desperate Tiger team winning the AAC.
Pick: Memphis +550
BJ Cunningham: USC +235
In my opinion, USC is the most complete team in the Pac-12.
The Trojans destroy their opponents in the paint, as USC is the tallest team in the country, and it has one the best big men in the country in five-star freshman Evan Mobley. Mobley himself has carried the Trojans in the scoring department, averaging 16.1 points per game.
The Trojans shoot over 51% from inside the arc and over 61% on shot attempts at the rim, according to Hoop-Math. USC also grabs offensive rebounds better than anybody in the conference at 38.6%, which is the sixth-best rate in the entire country.
Defensively, the Trojans have been the best defense in the conference all season long, allowing only 0.95 points per possession and ranking 14th nationally in defensive efficiency, per KenPom.
Since they are the tallest team in the country, trying to score inside on the Trojans is a nightmare. USC allows only 42.1% from inside the arc, which is the third-best rate in the country. So, teams like Oregon, Colorado, and UCLA are going to have to shoot more 3s than they are used to.
USC has the best adjusted efficiency in the conference, so being priced behind Oregon gives it some value at +235.
Tanner McGrath: Oregon +310
Oregon is being severely undervalued right now.
The Ducks have won 10 of their last 11 games, are 7-3 against the spread in their last 10 games and are 4-0 ATS in their last four games. The streak catapulted the Ducks to a Pac-12 regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the tournament.
Dana Altman has his team peaking at just the right time. Behind the collective efforts of Chris Duarte and Eugene Omoruyi, the Oregon offense is first in the conference in offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.
While the team lost Payton Pritchard to the NBA last season, Oregon is still a very experienced team. The starting lineup features three seniors and two juniors, and there wasn’t too much roster turnover for the team that won this tournament last year.
I’ll happily snag the No. 1 seed in the tournament at better than 3-to-1.
Kyle Remillard: Oregon +310
The Oregon Ducks don’t seem to be getting the respect they deserve after a 19-5 season. The Ducks have won 10 of their final 11 games and still aren’t ranked inside the top 25 nationally. They are the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament yet still have +310 odds to win it available on FanDuel.
The Ducks own the top-ranked offense in the Pac-12, hitting 53.5% from the field including 39.4% from behind the arc. They’re a well-rounded offense that has five upperclassmen who average double-digits in scoring and four who average at least five rebounds per game.
Oregon also boasts three seniors and two juniors in the starting lineup who are at least 6-foot-5 and extremely athletic.
Dana Altman is one of the more underrated coaches late in the season. In the second half of the season, he owns a 71.7% winning percentage against Pac-12 opponents, scoring victories in 71-of-99 games.
As the No. 1 seed, Oregon has the easier side of the bracket and should meet UCLA or Oregon State in the semifinals. The Ducks ended the season with two wire-to-wire wins against those programs.
I see value in Oregon not only to win the Pac-12 Tournament, but to win the NCAA Tournament at odds of +6000.
Mike Calabrese: Oregon +350
For casual gamblers, shopping around can feel pretty tedious.
The difference between 6.5 points and 7.5 points on a one-off basis can seem fairly inconsequential. But when it comes to conference tournament futures, it’s worth the effort.
In this case, Oregon is listed as low as +200 at some books, while Fox Bet is offering the Quack Attack at +350. That should be enough value to convince just about anyone to throw down a little coin on the Pac-12 tournament’s top seed, now that UO is at full strength.
Also, it bears mentioning that in a fixed bracket setup, Oregon has a desirable path to the title game.
Colorado and USC, who nearly handed the Ducks three losses this season (1-2 straight up), are on the other side of the bracket, which means that Dana Altman’s squad will likely draw Arizona State and UCLA on its way to the championship.
The Ducks, winners of 10 of their last 11 SU, had no problems putting away the Sun Devils and Bruins and have added a new gear offensively since the return of Will Richardson. The junior guard has blossomed in the past few weeks and is fresh off a 6-for-7 performance from 3-point range against Oregon State.
Big Ten Tournament
Shane McNichol: Illinois +375
In a tournament as vast as the 14-team Big Ten bracket, it’s easiest to boil down to the teams with a leg up on the competition. The top four seeds receive a “double-bye” and need to win only three times to win the conference tournament.
Of those four, Illinois is the best positioned to capitalize and earn the crown this week. The Illini’s quarterfinal matchup will come against the winner of Rutgers and Indiana, both of whom are limping into the conference tournament.
Illinois is also sharing its half of the bracket with third-seeded Iowa, which may be without Joe Wieskamp, who was injured in Sunday’s win over Wisconsin. In total, Illinois has not lost a game to any team in its half of the conference tournament bracket since turning the calendar to 2021.
Michigan is the favorite at +175 but has lost twice in March already. One of those losses was a rout at the hands of Illinois without Ayo Dosunmu in the lineup. Dosunmu returned for Illinois’ win at Ohio State Saturday and put up 19 points and three assists.
Nabbing the Illini at more than double the price of Michigan is too good to pass up. Illinois is poised to continue playing its best basketball and earn a top seed in the Big Dance.
Kyle Remillard: Illinois +375
Illinois enters the Big Ten Tournament with a double-bye and is the hottest team in the conference.
The Fighting Illini have won 11 of their last 12 conference games, losing only to Michigan State, which has been playing better the last few weeks.
During that span, Illinois has averaged 77.8 points per game while allowing just 67.8. The Illini lead the conference in field goal percentage, hitting 54.6% of their shots from the field in conference play.
They have two potential lottery picks in their starting lineup in Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. Those two are quite possibly the most dominant 1-2 punch in the country, with Dosunmu averaging 20.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.2 assists. Cockburn is a 7-foot center who puts up 17.3 points with 10.0 rebounds and is virtually unstoppable when he gets the ball inside the paint.
Even though Michigan seems to be “America’s Team” as of late, the +175 price is way too short on it.
Illinois dismantled it by 23 without Dosunmu, and the Wolverines ended the season losing to Michigan State by 14.
The +375 on Illinois presents the most value in the conference, as it only has to win three games to be crowned Big Ten champs with the double-bye and a relatively easy road to get there.
BJ Cunningham: Iowa +425
Iowa has been drastically improving on the defensive end of the floor over the second half of the season.
That’s huge because its offense is already one of the best in the country, averaging 1.17 points per possession. Over their last nine games, the Hawks have held their opponents under 1.00 points per possession in seven of those games. Their offense has stayed consistent, as only Gonzaga has a better offensive efficiency nationally, per KenPom.
The only team that actually blew out the Hawks this season is Michigan, and it’s on the other side of the bracket. Iowa took Illinois to overtime in their only meeting in Champaign, so it’s capable of beating the Illini.
Now, this is all dependent on the status of Joe Wieskamp, who is the Hawkeyes’ second-leading scorer. He went down with an ankle injury in the first half of the Wisconsin game Sunday and did not return. Fran McCaffery confirmed this week that Wieskamp did, in fact, sprain his ankle. If he is unable to play in the Big Ten Tournament, I would not play this.
Additionally, KenPom gives Iowa a 21.9% chance to win the Big Ten Tournament. Implied odds of +425 means 19.05%, so you’re getting 2.85% of value on Iowa at +425.
Pick: Iowa +425
Mike Calabrese: Penn State +10000
Over the years, the Big Ten Tournament has been pretty chalky.
Since its inception in 1998, the conference tournament has gone to the top seed nine times (41%). That being said, we’ve seen four straight Big Ten Tournament semifinals that have featured either a seven or an eight seed.
Penn State, the 11th seed in this year’s tournament, would need a miracle to make the finals, but a trip to the semis isn’t as crazy as it sounds for Jim Ferry and company.
Let’s start by analyzing the Nittany Lions’ road.
They open in the first round against Nebraska, a team they split with on the year. The Cornhuskers have lost seven of their last nine games straight up and are one of worst defensive teams in major college basketball. Should PSU best Nebraska, they’d draw a Wisconsin team it beat by 10 in Happy Valley.
While not quite as extreme as Nebraska, the Badgers are mired in a losing streak of their own, having dropped 6-of-8. Sensing a theme here?
If you can score a win over Nebraska and an upset of Wisconsin, which the Nitts have proven capable of beating this season, you’re holding a valuable future at 100-1.
Hedging then becomes pretty straightforward against a Luka Garza-led Iowa squad. I won’t take this line of thinking much further and mention that Penn State was tied with Iowa with nine to play in Iowa City.
That would be taking this dream too far, but you don’t have to squint to see a few of these Big Ten squads falling on their keys against a PSU team that has won three of its last four and has proven highly capable against Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State this season.
Pick: Penn State +10000