Sun Belt Basketball Tournament Betting Preview, Bracket & Odds: Wide-Open Event Offers Value

Sun Belt Basketball Tournament Betting Preview, Bracket & Odds: Wide-Open Event Offers Value article feature image

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To the common basketball fan, March Madness starts the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. But in reality, the madness begins with the mid-major conference tournaments this week.

Not every team that wins its regular season league title gets a bid to the NCAA Tournament. That’s the case for the Sun Belt, which will only have one program representing it in the Big Dance.

The Sun Belt Tournament is one of the most wide-open conference tournaments in the country. Nine teams are live and have a legitimate chance of cutting down the nets and potentially paving the way to a Cinderella story in the NCAA Tournament.

The Sun Belt Tournament will be played in Pensacola, Florida beginning on Thursday. The top four seeds all get a first-round bye into the quarterfinals.

Over the last decade, the regular season champion has only won the event three times. This season, there are over a half a dozen teams that are capable of earning the auto bid.

Sun Belt Tournament Bracket

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2022 Sun Belt Tournament Odds

The Top Tier

Texas State Bobcats (+430)

Texas State earned the No. 1 seed for the second straight season under head coach T.J. Johnson. The group hopes for a better result than last season after the Bobcats were bounced in their first game against Appalachian State.

They enter this year’s tournament red hot after winning nine straight games.

Texas State plays at one of the slowest tempos in the country and is reliant on its defense. Despite owning the 337th-tallest roster in the country, the Bobcats are ferocious defensively. They have elite defenders who are guards and have forced turnovers at the 26th-highest rate in the country.

During the Bobcats' nine-game win streak, the defense has held its Sun Belt opponents to an average of just 60 points per game.

Texas State has covered in seven games in a row, and looks to continue that streak throughout the tournament.

The group has won half of its conference games by five points or less this season. That leaves the Bobcats vulnerable to get upset, given their slow pace of play and lack of size.

If you’re looking to back Texas State, be sure to look at FanDuel, which has posted odds of +430, rather than DraftKings, which has them at +250.

Georgia State Panthers (+270)

Georgia State was the overwhelming consensus pick to win the conference in the preseason. But the group started out with a 6-9 record while dealing with some COVID issues within the program.

Since that mark, the Panthers have ripped off nine wins in their last 10 games, including seven in a row.

Georgia State is one of the hottest teams in the conference and finds its success on the defensive end of the floor. The Panthers force turnovers at the 18th-highest clip in the country. They own a dominant 2-point defense, but have struggled defending the perimeter at times.

Georgia State has a triple-threat in Corey Allen, Kane Williams and Justin Roberts. Allen and Roberts are the outside shooting threats who have converted on a combined 34% of their 190 attempts from deep. Williams is the slasher who makes his living by getting to the free throw line.

The Panthers have started to finally play like the team that was projected to win the Sun Belt in the preseason. They are peaking at just the right time and should continue to roll through this tournament.

Georgia State is my play among the four top-tier teams in the conference.

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South Alabama Jaguars (+410)

South Alabama opened the season 9-2, with its only two losses coming to Wichita State by six points and Alabama by five points. But the group traded wins for losses for the remainder of the season, and finished conference play at 9-7.

The Jaguars ended the season with a costly victory over UT Arlington. Fifth-year senior Jay Jay Chandler broke his finger on his shooting hand, which is a monumental loss for the program.

Chandler has averaged 15 points per game while shooting 35% from deep. He’s not only the primary ball handler, but the emotional leader for the program.

Following the loss of Chandler, Charles Manning Jr. will need to carry the load offensively. That will prove to be too much as defenses will be able to key in on him.

Even though the Jaguars have a cake-walk first-round matchup against Little Rock, I will be looking to fade them against Troy.

Appalachian State Mountaineers (+600)

Despite owning the second seed, Appalachian State owns the fourth-longest odds to repeat as the winner of the Sun Belt Tournament.

Much of that is due to the tough path that the Mountaineers will have to overcome.

Their first matchup will be against the winner of Coastal Carolina and Georgia Southern. Though the Mountaineers won all four matchups against those two programs, they weren't easy.

The group defeated Coastal Carolina by one before needing overtime to survive the second matchup. They beat Georgia Southern by eight before winning by just four at home.

If they win that first game, the Mountaineers will likely be facing off vs. the red-hot Georgia State Panthers.

The Mountaineers' offense is led by senior guard Adrian Delph, who ranks second in the conference in scoring by putting up 17 points per game. Delph has taken the 17th-most 3-pointers this season (237) and converted on the 13th-most (94) of anyone in the country.

If he can get hot, then Appalachian State is certainly live to repeat as tournament champions.

The Mountaineers' offense is reliant on the shooting of Delph, though. Also, the supporting cast is a concern, and the group struggled down the stretch, winning just two of its last five.

For those reasons I’ll be staying away from the Mountaineers.

Ohio Valley Betting Preview & Bracket

The Value

Troy Trojans (+900)

The Trojans rank first in the nation in bench minutes and utilize an evolving rotation that consists of 13 players who see double-digit minutes. That has led them to a well-balanced scoring mix with anyone capable of getting hot on any given night.

That depth has kept fresh bodies in the lineup defensively, as well. Troy owns the second-best defensive efficiency rating in the conference, and has allowed just 66 points per game.

The program enters the tournament with a bye before having to (likely) match up with South Alabama. Troy split the season series with the Jaguars, but now, South Alabama will be shorthanded for the possible matchup.

Though the Trojans haven’t played their best basketball down the stretch, that has opened some value on the group. Troy is being a bit disrespected by its odds of +900 to win the event, and I’ll be backing it to make a deep run.

Texas Arlington Mavericks (+3200)

UT Arlington is my long-shot play to win the Sun Belt Tournament. With odds of +8000 (via DK), I am just looking for a potential path that could be somewhat realistic, and I see one for the Mavericks.

In the first round, they will match up with Louisiana. While catching under five in both games, UT Arlington beat Louisiana twice this season.

The Mavericks will then face off with the No. 1 seed in Texas State. UT Arlington had a 13-point wire-to-wire victory over Texas State at home before losing by just five on the road. The Mavericks are a tough matchup for the Bobcats, as both programs play at a slow pace.

UT Arlington has the leading scorer in the conference in David Azore. Azore has eclipsed the 30-point scoring mark four times this season, while putting up 24 per game in Sun Belt play.

He can single-handily carry the Broncos to a deep run.

The Broncos are priced at +2500 at WynnBet, and DraftKings is still holding a +8000 price, which presents a ton of value. As mentioned in the header, FanDuel has them at +3200.

My Sun Belt Plays

Coming up with tournament odds for 358 Division I programs playing in 32 conference tournaments is no easy feat. And as you can tell by the varying odds at each sportsbook, there's value to be had by line shopping.

In a conference as wide open as the Sun Belt, I will be taking a few positions based on the current listed odds.

Picks: Georgia State (+350 via DraftKings) | Troy (+900 via FanDuel) | UT Arlington (+8000 via DraftKings)

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Nick Sterling
Jul 15, 2024 UTC