Conference USA Basketball Tournament Odds, Bracket, Preview: UAB, North Texas Hold Betting Value
Jack Dempsey/NCAA Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: Abou Ousmane.
I have been covering Conference USA all season. It’s had its ups and downs but one thing has remained constant: every time I thought one team was the best in the league, another squad proved me wrong.
North Texas has been the closest thing to dominant in the conference. After losing to UAB in their second game of conference play, the Mean Green went undefeated up until their last game of the season against UTEP.
But even with the loss, North Texas won the regular-season conference title — its second in as many years.
And to be honest, I’m glad UNT lost to UTEP because the pressure of entering the conference tournament on a 15-game win streak can affect teams negatively.
All conference tournament games will also take place right in the Mean Green’s backyard — just 34 miles west of campus in Frisco, Texas.
A fun side note: both men’s and women’s tournaments happen at the same time in Frisco. Games happen simultaneously, and fans can easily walk from one side to the other.
C-USA is a competitive conference, and as we’ve seen throughout the season, any one of the lower-half teams can pull off an upset against a top contender.
So, who are the teams worth betting in the futures market? Let’s dive in.
Conference USA Tournament Bracket & Schedule
UAB Blazers (+190)
Before their loss to UTEP, the Blazers were the last team to beat North Texas. UAB is a great team and has looked dominant at times this year.
However, there’s one glaring issue that could especially be a problem in the tournament. The Blazers have just four losses in the conference, and all but one of those losses came against significantly inferior teams on the road.
For example, Marshall, which was 0-7 in conference play, took down UAB in late January.
The Blazers are the best offensive team in C-USA. There’s no doubt about that. But will they be complacent against inferior opponents once again? As a two-seed, UAB receives a two-round bye into the quarterfinals.
North Texas Mean Green (+185)
Every team in C-USA other than the Mean Green lost at least four conference games. North Texas finished 16-2 on the season to earn the No. 1 overall seed.
It also won its first-round game last year after making it to the NCAA Tournament.
Five different players average 10 or more points for the Mean Green, while six of the team’s top seven players have played all 28 games.
North Texas is led by one of the most dynamic players in the country, Tylor Perry. Perry averages only 13.7 points per game, but he has been a game-changer when North Texas needs him most.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (+950)
No team in the C-USA has been better over the last month than the Hilltoppers. Since Feb. 1, Western has gone 9-1 — quite the turnaround for a team that was just 3-6 in conference play before February.
However, the Tops’ only loss came against Middle Tennessee, which beat them on the road, 69-52. They also didn’t win a single game against any of the other No. 1 or No. 2 seeds in the regular season.
But Western is known for making a run in the conference tournament. The Tops have advanced to at least the semifinals in 14 of the last 16 tournaments played.
WKU is also one of 18 schools in the nation to appear in each of its league’s last three tournament championship games. The Hilltoppers lost a 61-57 heartbreak in overtime to North Texas in last year’s title game.
WKU has some of the best and most experienced players in the C-USA in Jamarion Sharp, Josh Anderson and Dayvion McKnight. But in late-game situations, no one has been able to provide that clutch game-winning ability.
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
The Blue Raiders have had by far the most impressive season by anyone in C-USA. No one expected Middle Tennessee — which finished second-to-last a year ago — to be a division champion.
However, while it’s been good on both ends of the floor and won the East, we can’t overlook how MTSU fared against teams in the West. The Blue Raiders lost to both North Texas and UAB in the singular meeting they had with each this season.
There is only one team that is not a 1- or 2-seed that I feel has a real chance to win this conference tournament.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Yes, the Bulldogs have come up short against the top teams in Conference USA. But it’s in large part due to playing in the West, which has been considerably more difficult than the East. All of the Bulldogs’ conference losses have come against teams that are .500 or better.
Louisiana Tech also has one of the best players in C-USA in Kyle Lofton. Lofton is averaging a double-double while ranking top-five in the conference when it comes to scoring, rebounding, and field-goal percentage.
One of the few consistent things in the C-USA this year has been how much better the West has been than the East, which is why I believe the tournament champion will come from the West.
Picks: UAB +170 (1.76 Units) · North Texas +185 (1.62 Units) · Louisiana Tech +850 (0.35 Units)
Southern Miss has been the best team when it comes to exceeding the total, as the Golden Eagles are 19-10 to the over this season. If they advance to the second round, it will be something to keep an eye on. Florida Atlantic and UAB both hit the over more than 59% of the time.
North Texas, meanwhile, has been an under machine on the season. The Mean Green have gone over the total in only eight total games this year cashing the under 68% of the time.
Middle Tennessee is the single best team in the country against the spread. The Blue Raiders own an ATS record of 21-7-1 for a 75% cover rate.
Opening Round Games
Marshall vs. FIU
The Thundering Herd fell in both meetings with the Panthers this season, but my focus is on the total.
Both FIU and Marshall have been slightly lacking on offense, but the biggest issue for both teams has been defense. And it’s only gotten worse as of late, Both are giving up more than 79 points per game over their last three contests.
Marshall also plays at one of the fastest paces in all of college basketball ranking ninth in adjusted tempo, per KenPom. I think Marshall pushes the pace in this one.
Also, these teams will be fighting to keep their season alive. Because of that, I’ll be taking the over in this game at 149 or better.
Pick: Over 149 or better
Southern Miss vs. UTSA
Southern Miss hasn’t won a conference game since Jan. 6, which was also its first and only conference win all season. Who did the Golden Eagles beat? None other than their first-round matchup, the University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners.
UTSA beat Southern Miss in their second meeting of the season but needed OT to pull off the 98-79 win. In this matchup to decide who is truly the worst team in the Conference USA, I have no choice but to take the team that has won more than one conference game.
I’ll be backing UTSA as high as a four-point favorite here.
Pick: UTSA -4 or better