State of the Conference USA College Basketball Betting Report: 3 Teams That Pose Threat to North Texas
Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Rubin Jones (North Texas)
With just four-to-five games left to play — depending on the team — the Conference USA has a likely regular-season champion in North Texas. But things are very crowded behind the Mean Green.
With its win over UAB on the road on Saturday, North Texas moved to 20-4 on the season and 13-1 in conference play. The Mean Green have now won 12 conference games in a row, and have firmly positioned themselves in first place in the West.
Meanwhile, Middle Tennessee may sit in first in the C-USA East, but its seat is getting hotter every day. Despite being 10-3 in conference play, just 3.5 games separate first from fourth in the East.
So, what's the big deal between where these teams finish if North Texas has run away with the conference regular-season title?
Seeding for the C-USA bracket.
Each division's one and two seeds will enjoy a double-bye in the conference tournament. And as of right now, North Texas is the only team that can confidently say it will have that one or two spot.
So, which teams have a chance to secure that bye? Which squads can make noise in the conference tournament? And which programs have a chance of making the NCAA Tournament?
First, I want to say I don't think the C-USA is more than a one-bid league — with the two best resumes being North Texas and UAB. But both of these teams have a significant disadvantage: they're currently on the same side of the conference tournament bracket and would not meet in the final.
The best-case scenario for UAB would be to win out, beat UNT in the tournament semifinals — giving them another Quad 1 win — and then, capture the title.
The loss would keep UNT out of the Big Dance.
If UAB lost to UNT — or anyone else — its resume isn't strong enough (and neither is UNT's) to put it anywhere better than the bubble.
The C-USA Tournament winner will get a ticket to the dance, and nothing else is guaranteed for either North Texas or UAB. They do not have enough quality wins to propel them into an at-large bid as a non-Power Five team.
Anyways, here are the four teams I think will secure one and two seeds in the conference tournament. And while I believe North Texas wins out, the other three pose the biggest threat to its tournament dreams.
North Texas Mean Green
The clear-cut best team in C-USA, North Texas, received two votes in the AP Poll to break into the top-25 following its 12th win in a row and first Quad 1 win on Saturday.
No team in the country is limiting opponents on defense better than North Texas. Opposing teams are averaging just 56.4 points, grabbing 29.3 rebounds and shooting 28.7% from deep against the Mean Green.
Their offense hasn't been stellar, but Tylor Perry has answered the call time and time again when his team needs him most. He's not putting up big scoring numbers, and he isn't leading the country in any stat, but when North Texas is in trouble — when its backs are against the wall — Perry delivers.
I believe North Texas wins the regular-season title, secures the one seed, wins the C-USA Tournament and is a team whose first-round opponent I will be anxious to see.
The Blazers were projected to win the C-USA — they have the most efficient offense in the conference and the second-best defense when it comes to adjusted defensive efficiency — but they've had some tough losses.
All of those defeats have come away from home — other than the Blazers' most recent loss to UNT. And I don't think that will change when they head to the conference tournament in Frisco.
UAB beat North Texas on the road back in January and lost by just one at home, but the Blazers have gotten worse as the season has gone on. North Texas and others have only improved.
I think UAB can secure second place in the West and the C-USA Tournament bye that comes along with it, but the rest of the season — and into the postseason — I have it on upset alert.
The Blazers play some tough teams to end their season — not to mention their final regular-season game comes at home against Louisiana Tech.
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
The Blue Raiders lead the C-USA East and have been on a tear ever since their loss to UAB on Feb. 5. They are currently on a five-game win streak, highlighted by their 87-79 win over FAU on Saturday.
The Blue Raiders have three of their last five games at home, where they haven't lost a game all season.
Middle Tennessee's biggest challenge will be against the second-place team in the East, Western Kentucky, but I think it will secure one of the top two seeds in the tournament and could be a dangerous contender.
MTSU leads the conference in defensive turnover percentage and steal percentage. But other than that, it isn't particularly great anywhere. However, they are getting hot at the right time, so don't overlook the Raiders.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
If it is healthy, Western Kentucky is the best live dog in the conference, in my opinion. The Hilltoppers have Jamarion Sharp (the tallest player in college basketball), Dayvion McKnight (sixth in the C-USA in scoring with 15.9 PPG) and a plethora of talent up-and-down the roster.
And just like MTSU, the Hilltoppers are getting hot at the right time, as they're currently on a seven-game win streak.
But after their win over Old Dominion, injury questions now surround the Hill.
🚨 from Rick in postgame Jairus Hamilton is assumed to have a strained patella tendon. Also, we’ve had a ton of questions about Jaylen Butz. He may be in the dog house, but he also has “a hurt foot”. S/O to @JMacDonaldSport for asking the tough question.
— The Towel Rack (@TheTowelRackWKU) February 20, 2022
Keep an eye on the Hilltoppers' injury updates, but if healthy, they are a severe threat to anyone in the conference.