March 13, 2013
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Big Conference Tournaments get going Wednesday
The term March Madness is typically reserved for the NCAA tournament but the real madness tends to begin during the conference tournaments as teams have one last shot to get into the big dance. As long as you can get hot at the right time, winning your conference tournament ensures you of a bid in the NCAA tournament and from there anything can happen. Here are a few conference championship tournaments bettors should keep a close eye on:
The first round of this event begins on Wednesday but it’s highly unlikely that Marshall, Tulane, SMU, UAB, Rice or Houston (6-11 seeds) make it much further than Thursday’s quarterfinal action. None of these teams finished with a winning record in conference play and only Houston and Tulane were above .500 for the entire year. At +600 for any one of these teams that means bettors should simply pass on a shocking upset here.
Memphis (-125) is the big favorite and after going undefeated in conference play (16-0 SU) it’s easy to see why. As long as they make it to the final of this event, the Tigers should get to the dance and that makes it nearly impossible to lay juice with them here. Having beaten everyone already, the rest of the conference will be gunning for them and that isn’t a good thing at -125.
Instead, I believe Southern Miss at +225 is the best play here. They would love to get one over Memphis in a double revenge spot and with them being projected as one of the first 4-8 teams out of the NCAA tournament, winning Conference USA is likely their only shot. The value is there with Southern Mississippi.
The only play in this tournament is Ohio at +100. They are the #2 seed as well but with #1 Akron losing their starting guard Alex Abreu to suspension after his drug arrest, the Zips season is likely a lost one. Abreu was the third leading scorer on the team, averaged the most minutes per game and ran that offense as if it were his own. He won’t be playing anytime soon and with Akron getting blown out in their season finale after the news, the future is bleak for this team.
Like Akron, Ohio has a bye right to the semi-finals and should make the most of it. Only one team will get to the show from this conference, so look for the Bobcats to be that team.
#1 Stephen F. Austin (-175) are big favorites here but at this price it’s tough to take them here. Although they get a bye right to the semi-finals, one of their two conference losses came to Northwestern State (+300) who is #2 and is in the semi’s already as well. These two will likely meet in the finals and in a winner-take-all scenario, it’s tough not to like the +300 team in terms of value. But Stephen F. Austin should walk away with this conference tournament and the steep price suggests to not go against them.
#1 seed Louisiana Tech may have the top spot for now but after finishing the year on a two-game losing streak against the 2nd and 3rd best teams in the conference, oddsmakers believe that they are a false #1. Tech comes in at +350 to win this tournament and although they were blown out by #2 Denver in the regular season finale, you have to believe that if these two were to meet in the finals of this tournament, Louisiana Tech would have learned from their numerous mistakes in that game.
We also can’t discount the fact that Denver may not even get there themselves with a likely 2/3 matchup in the semifinals where anything can happen. Denver may have finished the year as the hottest team in the conference (winning 17 of their last 18), but in a potential one game do-or-die scenario, I don’t think you can take them at this price at all. New Mexico State (+400) will be gunning for them as well and there is just too much value to pass up with them or Louisiana Tech here.