March 13, 2013
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This particular week is one of my favorite times in college basketball betting because it allows me to pack a backpack, put on my favorite cowboy hat (of which I only own one) and venture out in to the fringe conferences to see if I can build some bankroll. The major conferences will certainly see plenty of action, but there's money to be made in lesser known leagues like the Atlantic 10 and Big West.
This isn't easy money by any stretch, but it certainly allows me to spread my bankroll around instead of investing in a landmine like the Big East. Here are some tips in case you decide to go exploring outside the mainstream, which I highly recommend.
ATLANTIC 10 TOURNAMENT ODDS
A couple years ago, the VCU Rams became one of the biggest darlings in college basketball history. The idea was that head coach Shaka Smart would parlay his team's success in to a job at a major program. When those offers came down the pipeline, however, Smart stayed put. His VCU Rams have flourished and are +220 favorites to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament this coming weekend.
Smart's defensive schemes are the talk of the town, and not just because they're called "havoc defense". VCU causes the most turnovers by adjusted stats. Of ranked teams in the country, however, VCU was one of the worst betting sides out there finishing the year at 9-15 ATS. That shouldn't make you ignore them in the futures market, but you might want to tread lightly. This team is defensively minded.
The St. Louis Billikens share the same odds as +220 co-favorites to win the Atlantic 10 and deserve plenty of your attention as well. Jim Crews has led a team that has ripped off an impressive 12-1 SU record to finish the season, and this team is also playing with plenty of motivation after one of their former coaches - Rich Majerus - passed away just months ago. St. Louis is a dangerous combination of balance and confidence, which makes them a sturdy play.
Any team outside of St. Louis and VCU is not worth your consideration. Butler (+600) will definitely attract some attention, as will Temple at +700. My pick is the VCU Rams because Shaka Smart is such a brilliant tactician and St. Louis may have issues playing to the high level of expectations set for them after they've won the conference title.
MOUNTAIN WEST TOURNAMENT ODDS
Since the MWC Tournament takes place in Las Vegas, the UNLV Rebels get the inside track as favorites registering +160 odds in college basketball futures. Those that actually venture in to the fringes to bet on bubble teams will laugh at this idea, since UNLV went an absolutely appalling 8-15 ATS this season. However, they did pick up a huge win over New Mexico this season, which won the conference title.
The fact that UNLV gets to be the favorite despite a regular season which proves otherwise should probably speak volumes about the other teams in the Mountain West. New Mexico is the next favorite on the board at +200 but is probably the actual favorite when you don't consider things like home court advantage. Don't be fooled by the Lobos' regular season title. This conference is very tight. New Mexico deserves to be the front runner based on the production of Kendall Williams and Alex Kirk, an inside-outside combination that should see them through the war that will be the MWC Tournament.
No team in this conference finished better than the +1000 Boise State Broncos who have perhaps the best value on the board of any team. There really is no such thing as a bad bet in the MWC as long as you don't throw your money at the field, which has +5000 odds. Getting back to Boise, who already face San Diego State tonight, they went a profitable 7-3 SU and 9-1 ATS to finish the season. I'm not saying they're a lock, but at 10-to-1 they have the best value and really any team is worth taking in the MWC.
If you had to rank them, New Mexico and Boise probably have the most value when it comes to the MWC Tournament. You could wait to see who wins in a likely matchup between the two in the semis, are leverage hedge bets with the two before those games kick off. It's up to you. This is a tightly fought conference where there are no bad bets amongst the remaining teams.
Well, except for Air Force. They're a horrifying play.
BIG SKY TOURNAMENT ODDS
This is a two horse race between Montana and Weber State, both of whom have -110 odds to win the Big Sky Tournament. Both teams finished well ahead of the rest of the pack, besting the third place team by 6 and 7 conference wins respectively. My money is on the Weber State Wildcats, who have claimed 11 straight wins and should victimize a Montana squad that has had its fair share of injuries. The Grizzlies are a decent team in this setting, but will be without their leading scorer and their second best player. So you do the math.
BIG WEST TOURNAMENT ODDS
This is very much a "take your pick" tournament since there is really no clear front runner. The favorite by the odds is Pacific at +275 but they're followed closely by top seeded Long Beach State who have +300 odds themselves. Not far behind are a pair of California campuses including Irvine at +350 and Polytechnic at +400.
The best bet is on the defending champion Long Beach State 49ers who are still fueled by barely missing out on a ticket to the big dance last season. They won't leave anything to fate by winning the Big West for a second straight season and marching onwards in to war with the bigger programs at March Madness.