Tourney Futures - Best Bets
March 12, 2019
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College Basketball Conference Tournament Futures
We've reached conference tournament season for the power conferences now and that's always an exciting time of year. Everybody in the country has a shot at getting hot for multiple and earning their automatic bid if they are on the outside looking in, bubble teams are looking for at least a good run to solidify their standing, and top teams already in the NCAA tournament can lay an egg if they decide they aren't too concerned with the conference tournament result.
All in all, it's a great prelude to the NCAA tournament with action all day, all week, and with the stakes as high as they are for some programs, it's always interesting to see who gets swallowed up by the pressure pill first. As bettors, all this action is great, and with distinct scheduling advantages built into these tournaments with byes and double-byes, mitigating your daily risk on these games with some futures tickets is never a bad option.
So with that in mind, let's take a look at one top seed, one mid-seed, and one low seed that could come away with conference tournament championships by the weekend, or at the very least make some noise on the way to that goal.
Odds per - BetOnline.ag
Top Seed to win Conference Tournament
Michigan State to win Big 10 (+175)
Michigan State comes into the Big 10 tournament as the top seed, but more importantly for a play like this, have got the much easier path to the finals because of it.
Michigan, Purdue, and Wisconsin have also received double-byes, but Wisconsin is a clear class behind the other three teams in that scenario and that's who Michigan State would line up against in the semis should both schools advance.
The Spartans do have to deal with the winner of Ohio State/Indiana – Spartans fans are likely rooting for the Buckeyes there since they were 2-0 SU vs Ohio State and 0-2 SU vs Indiana – and while both teams would love to make their own name from a win over a team like Michigan State, I just don't see that being the case.
It's been a few years now since the Spartans have had conference tournament success – last finals appearance was 2016 – but in this decade, this Michigan State program under Izzo tends to try and get every four-year class at least one conference tournament title ring at some point during their careers, and for the seniors on this year's squad, a win here would actually make it two.
But it's all about the relative easy path for Michigan State to find themselves not dealing with the likes of Purdue or Michigan again until the finals. If that's what it comes down to, I've got no problem holding a Michigan State ML ticket at +175.
Odds per - BetOnline.ag
Mid-Range Seed to win Conference Tournament
Iowa State to win Big 12 (+600)
The Big 12 saw quite a few changes this year with Kansas not finishing at the top and a West Virginia program – who have made three straight Big 12 tournament finals coming into this year – as the bottom-feeder in the conference for basically the entire year. It's been a conference about change and new challengers, and there can be legitimate cases made for arguably the top eight seeds in this conference should they get hot shooting the ball for a few days.
But for me, the most likely team to get hot shooting the ball simply because they already have a great scoring offense (77.7 points/game), and possibly storm in and get past the top seeds, is this Iowa State Cyclones team.
Iowa State is the highest scoring team in the Big 12 with those nearly 78 points per game, and while their defense really let them down during the final stretch of the year (1-5 SU and ATS last six), in terms of their potential matchups to reach the finals could be rather favorable.
Dealing with a Baylor Bears team that beat the Cyclones in both meetings this year is no easy task out of the gate, but both of those losses were by four points or less. All it takes is a play or two to go Iowa State's way in the third game, and the Cyclones move one to face a top-seeded Kansas State team who doesn't have the scoring to keep up with Iowa State is on.
Iowa State proved that already this year with their 14-point win IN Kansas State, and should it be that matchup in the semis, you've got to figure the Cyclones will be quite confident regardless. The first meeting with K-State ended in a one-point home defeat when Iowa State couldn't hit anything. The 57 points Iowa State scored was the only time they scored fewer than 65 points all year, so a one-point loss to the league's eventual winner isn't that bad of a result.
From there, it's likely dealing with Texas Tech or Kansas whom will both be laying chalk over the Cyclones, but again, should Iowa State's offense get/remain hot, there's no team in the Big 12 they aren't capable of beating.
Odds per - BetOnline.ag
Longshot to win Conference Tournament
Arkansas to win SEC (+6600)
This is for those that like to dream big, but similar to thoughts on both Michigan State and Iowa State earlier, the path to the finals isn't “loaded” with challenges for the Razorbacks in the SEC.
Being on the top side of the bracket at the #9 seed means that should Arkansas manage to get by Florida in their tournament opener, there won't be any games against Kentucky or Tennessee looming until the finals. Sure, the likes of #1 LSU, #4 South Carolina, and #5 Auburn aren't walks in the park, neither is Florida for that matter, but let's draw out a potential map for Arkansas to go the distance.
Beating Florida is up first, and the Razorbacks have improved a fair bit since their only meeting with the Gators on January 9th. Florida is one of those fringe NCAA tournament teams so the Gators can't afford to slip up, but they are also a great candidate to get swallowed up by pressure because they can have prolonged mental and physical lapses on both ends of the floor. Arkansas finished the year well with three straight wins thanks to their offense stepping up and being consistent, and if that continues and the confidence remains, Arkansas should get by the nervous Gators.
Next up would be a LSU team that Arkansas beat at the buzzer and lost to in OT, so the Razorbacks will feel plenty comfortable there. Throw in the fact that LSU's program is in complete chaos right now with the Will Wade suspension and Ja'vonte Smart sitting out situation, LSU's probably the best candidate of the SEC's top teams to lose first regardless. Going up against this Arkansas team that took you to the wire for the full 40 minutes in both meetings, without Smart on the floor, is a matchup LSU probably wants little to do with right now.
Obviously then it would take Arkansas getting through two of either Auburn, South Carolina, Kentucky, or Tennessee and that's where the longshot dream probably ends up dying.
But who knows, Auburn could end up not caring much about their result given they are likely locked into their seeding line for the NCAA's already, and it's not like South Carolina is an overall good team (16-15 SU). The winner of Round 3 in Kentucky/Tennessee might be so gassed that they succumb to the letdown situation following such a big game.
A lot to ask I know, but you are always going to need a little luck with longshots. With Arkansas's path to the at least the semis being tough, but totally doable, holding onto a +6600 ticket at that stage opens up quite a few hedging opportunities at worst.
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