College Basketball State of the Conference USA Betting Report: Checking in on Rice, UAB & Charlotte
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It’s been two weeks since my first dive into the Conference USA, and not a single team has had a regular two weeks in that timespan.
A few teams have had COVID-19 delays and cancellations, which now that we are in conference play, have impacted the entire league.
Charlotte, for example, has not played a single conference game yet, and hasn’t played a game at all since December 22nd.
Meanwhile, while UAB still remains the odds-on favorite, it suffered a loss on the road to the 169th-ranked (via KenPom) Rice Owls.
In all likelihood the Conference USA is a one-bid league for the NCAA Tournament. But is it worth taking a flyer on one of the underdog teams to win the conference regular-season title with cancellations being a factor?
In short, yes, and there’s a very clear team with a lot of value to bet on before that value disappears.
Odds via DraftKings
The Rice Owls were just 7-4 before conference play started and weren’t on anyone’s radar coming into the season. Even if they were, most of the Owls’ hope was wiped away after they opened league play with a 73-45 blowout loss to North Texas.
But something changed in the Rice program: the Owls took down a middle-of-the-pack C-USA team in Middle Tennessee. But what really caught my eye was their performance in their most recent game. The Owls took down the Conference-USA leader and odds-on favorite UAB, 85-80.
In its game against UAB, Rice shot 60.9% in the second half to turn a 10-point deficit into an 85-80 victory.
The Owls were led by sophomore Travis Evee, who scored a game and season-high 25 points by connecting on 13-of-14 from the free throw line. Evee also added three assists. It was also his third 20-point game of the year and the 15th of his career.
Rice is currently listed at +6000, so I think it goes without saying that it is still very much a long shot and that any bet placed on it should be a small wager. I, for example, will be placing just a .2 unit bet.
But right now is the time to bet on Rice. Over their next five games, Rice will play three of the top four teams in the East and the best team in the West in Louisiana Tech.
If the Owls can get wins against even three of these teams, it will put them confidently near the top of the C-USA, and more importantly, +6000 will be long gone.
Betting Perspective on Rest of C-USA
As far as the rest of the league, if you haven’t gotten a ticket in on UAB, now may be the best time after its loss to Rice. The Blazers are the best team in Conference USA right now, and will likely be at the end of the season, as well.
Even with the Blazers’ recent loss, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi still ranks them as the last team in the tournament. That means there’s still hope that the Blazers could get an at-large bid, even if they don’t win the conference tournament.
UAB’s odds two weeks ago were listed at +140. As of now, they are still available at +135, and I think there’s value in the Blazers at +130 or better.
One team I wouldn’t advise making a bet on now if you haven’t yet is Charlotte. The 49ers have yet to play a single conference game, but somehow their odds have dropped from +3000 two weeks ago all the way down to +2300.
Sure, the 49ers could come out of their COVID-19 pause and run the league — they are a team with enough talent. But dating back to last season, we’ve seen teams struggle to shake off the rust after coming out of a COVID-19 pause.
The 49ers are slated to open conference play on Thursday against UTEP — a middle-of-the-pack team in the conference, in my opinion, but definitely someone who can catch Charlotte if it struggles out of the gate.
Following the UTEP game, the 49ers will take on one of the worst teams in C-USA in UTSA. If the 49ers drop either of these games — which again I think there’s a decent chance of — we should be able to catch a much better price on Charlotte.