For as much as I love football, this is my favorite time of year for betting purposes. Year in and year out we see mid major programs go into the tournament as these nobody’s and not only do they cover a giant spread, but they beat your favorite teams across the power five conferences. Yet, when people are building their bracket, no one knows anything about the Catamounts of Vermont or the Bryant Bulldogs. Most of the teams who win their conference tournament do so for a reason. They are a great team, well coached, and have the hunger to want to win this thing. Before all of that happens though, we have to have the conference tournaments. Below I went ahead and scouted the vast land of the NCAA to put together my picks for each of the conference tournaments. Now I will admit, some conferences have a clear cut favorite. Some on the other hand have 2-5 teams that can truly make a run happen if things click at the right time. With March Madness right there at our fingertips, let’s crack this book and put some money in our pockets leading up to the big dance.
American East – Vermont (-190)
I think this might be one of the easier choices in the NCAA. Vermont is leading the division in essentially every scoring category. They are excellent on the glass, rarely turn the ball over, and rank 22nd in the nation in points allowed per game. This team is lead by a core group of seniors who know how to play together. I expect them to stun some teams when it comes time for March Madness. Lock in the Catamounts and forget about it.
American – Memphis (+400)
This is a little bit of a contrarian play. Memphis is a solid team that has hype behind them thanks to being coached by the famed Penny Hardaway. Despite the fact that Houston leads them in every major category, I think the chip on the shoulders of the Memphis players helps them win this conference. Plus we are going to see a lot more value in selecting Memphis over Houston. I think SMU shouldn’t be forgotten about in this conference either. Especially since they owned Memphis in both of their matchups during the regular season. But it’s hard to beat the same team three times in any sport. Go Tigers.
Atlantic 10 – VCU (+300)
Let me start out by saying how difficult this pick was. Davidson is coming in as a decent favorite. For good reason though. They rank inside the top 60 in points per game and opponents ppg. They commit very little turnovers while also scoring at an uber efficient clip. But they also don’t need to win the conference in order to make the tournament, so will the hunger be there? The preseason favorite coming in were the Bonnies. The preseason top 25 ranking coupled with a lot of returning players coming off a March Madness appearance made them an easy pick on paper. Yet, they haven’t really wowed people the way we expected so now the hype has kind of died down. So right in the middle there is the VCU Rams who are playing some quality ass ball. They have finished the regular season as one of the hottest teams in the NCAA and I expect that momentum to roll. They are quietly one of the best defensive teams across the board in the NCAA. VCU has a way of getting you off script and taking advantage. Plus with Davidson being the favorite, and the Bonnies looking to repeat, I am loving the value on the Rams.
ACC – Duke (-125)
In my humblest of opinions, this is the best team in the country. Led by the best player in the country, Paolo Banchero, this Duke team has a mission they must complete. In Coach K’s last season with the team, they absolutely must win the ACC. Coach K can’t go out on a sour note. He is too amazing for the arc of collegiate basketball. In a basketball sense, though, this team can matchup with anyone. Duke is one of the top 10 schools in the NCAA at scoring, and play defense effectively. It may not look pretty at times, but I see the Blue Devils sending Coach Krzyzewski out with a championship.
ASUN – Liberty (+130)
Liberty is led by senior Darius McGhee and his 23.8 ppg, ranking him second in the NCAA. Liberty is also one of the best teams when it comes to making 3-point shots. The loss to Jacksonville State earlier in the year was tough, but the basketball just always happened to bounce in favor of J State. Liberty is another team lead by upperclassmen, and that carries value in my eyes. When it comes to mid-majors, that matters.
Big 12 – Kansas (+200)
Let me start this off with a notion, I hate Kansas. It’s a personal thing if I’m being honest. But when I’m kind of caught between some teams, I ask my guys. The RahlReviews team was almost unanimous about Kansas winning it. They come ready with great size, great coaching and a player of the year candidate. So why do I seem so apprehensive regarding what some people have asked me. I just feel that this team knows how to look great against poorer opponents, but can’t seem to compete with the best of them. They will always get a huge bump in the rankings just because of the programs pedigree, but I will say I’m not a huge believer. Even with that said, I can see where people are coming from. The Jayhawks will be a little slept on because of that bad loss to Baylor at the end of the regular season. There will be value that probably shouldn’t be there because Baylor finishes the regular season in the top 4 now.
Big East – Villanova (+170)
This was my toughest choice among all of the other divisions. UCONN, Providence and Nova are all playing quality basketball at the right time. Connecticut has been really up and down this year. A big win in OT against Auburn to start the year, but immediately lost to a below average Michigan State team. They went on a little run during conference play winning 5 straight, but then lost 3 of their next 4. Now we see them finishing the year extremely strong with a quality win over my pick in Nova. Providence was able to crack the top 5 thanks to some strong defense and pulling out narrow victories. Knowing how to win in close situations is a great trait for a team. Although a good trait, I’m also a little turned off by how often these situations keep on happening. Then we have the ever so solid Villanova team. They are arguably the best coached team in the NCAA. That is evident in the fact that they are extremely great at winning the free throw game. They rank 16th in fouls and are actually the best team in the country at the free throw line. They play tough defensively and don’t take bad shots. Nova is arguably my favorite pick to win the whole thing. That means they will need to get that momentum going with winning one of the toughest division in basketball.
Big Sky – Weber State (+400)
I’m going to be completely honest and say, I haven’t watched too much Big Sky basketball before writing. Yet, when I dug into what this conference has to offer, I noticed one team that appears to have the best group of starters in the conference. They have four guys inside 20 points per game. Two of which rank #4 and #7 in FG% in the conference as well. They have an embarrassing loss to Montana State on their record but the MTST Bobcats were on one in that game. Shooting over 50% from the field and three ball. I don’t see the same amount of luck in the championship game. Give me the Wildcats.
Big South – Winthrop (+220)
This was a little more difficult than other conferences. It really comes down to two teams, Winthrop vs Longwood. Now Longwood won the first matchup, but when you look deeper you can see how the basketball just bounced their way. They went 14-25 from the 3 point line and 22-23 from the charity stripe. Should we expect that in a future matchup from a team who shot 72% during the regular season? Winthrop has the size that allows Longwood to be successful and a pedigree of winning to help them in the crucial moments.
Big Ten – Purdue (+175)
Purdue has proven to the whole Big 10 conference that they are the best team. They are the only team in the conference to shoot 50% from the field and 40% from the 3-point line. Kind of like Duke, I see the route to a conference championship being a little cloudy. They are not a good free throw shooting team. They are also pretty average defensively. I can see them being stumbled by a hot Iowa team or maybe come in soft against a still quality Michigan program. I’m riding with the future NBA lottery pick in Jaden Ivey doing everything he can to state his case as the #1 overall pick in a couple months.
Big West – UC Irvine (+250)
The Anteaters. Yes you read that right – UC Irvine’s team mascot is the Anteaters. They come into this tournament extremely hungry to make a statement. They struggled at the beginning of the year, losing 3 of their first 4 games in the conference. They also have a couple tough non conference losses that make their record look worse than it actually is. This is a good team across the board. They beat a quality Boise State team, kept things interesting against a solid USC squad, and won 7 straight conference games after that bad start. UC Irvine cashes in on that value.
CAA – Towson (+140)
This is another conference I can admit to neglecting while the season progressed. Towson, on paper, looks to be set up to have a promising outcome. They come in with quality length, and 4 guys on the roster scoring double figures. Towson relies heavily on hitting the three ball which scares me. Towson is also lead by 3 juniors who might be lacking the situational experience necessary to take home a victory, but I think I’m going to ride the public on this one.
Conference USA – North Texas (+125)
Guess who leads the entire NCAA in opponent points per game? North Texas’ opponents average a minimal 56.4 ppg. North Texas is solid from the three ball and I really don’t see a team in the conference to stop them. I will say that UAB has played this team in both matchups, being the lone team to beat the Mean Green in conference play. I’ll be curious to see how that matchup lines up when the time comes. Let’s ride with one of the best de
Horizon League – Cleveland State (+200)
This was a preseason favorite to win the Horizon League after a miraculous run last year. Lead by three strong seniors in Hodge, Patton, and Comillion; the Cleveland State Vikings are here to prove last year was no fluke. They come in one of the best teams at getting high percentage shots. They are excellent at getting to the line and I think that experience from last year will pay off here to solidify back to back titles
Ivy League – Princeton (+100)
So we have a team who is ranked 15th in points per game, 20th in shooting percentage, 21st in 3 point percentage and a team that has proven to beat quality teams here in the Princeton Tigers. They have three guys who rank inside the top 7 in scoring in the Ivy League. Those three also shoot the ball better than anyone in the conference to boot. I’ve seen this team play. This is going to be a dangerous team in March Madness if they can make it. Tigers all day baby.
MAAC – Iona (-143)
This is one of the easiest winners to project across the conference tournament landscape. In Pitino’s first season, he lead the Gales to their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2016. He has no plans of stopping though. This Iona team is better and hungrier than last year. But even with this being a kind of “chalk pick,” I do see some holes. They are a terrible free throw shooting team at 69%. They score 75 ppg but it’s not a very solid rate. Defensively, they are pretty middle of the pack. I can see a title here, but I’m more nervous than most when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.
MAC – Kent State (+450)
The Golden Flashes ended the regular season as the hottest team in the conference. Multiple wins in double digits and finally scoring some points. When you break them down statistically, it causes some hesitation. They shoot the ball poorly, they are one of the worst teams when it comes to personal fouls, and they also give up some of the most 2nd half points across the NCAA. Yet, for some silly ass reason, they win games. You can see a team that is functional in being disfunctional per say. If this team just doesn’t face a disciplined team like Buffalo, I think they can win the title.
Missouri Valley – Loyola Chicago (+130)
Should this even be a question? Loyola has shown to be the most dominant team this entire year in the Missouri Valley. This is also the last time the Ramblers have to win a Missouri Conference title since they will be officially moved to the Atlantic 10 before the start of next season. The Ramblers are a better team than most defensively and the 19th ranking in opponents shooting % backs that up. This entire program is destined for great things. I personally believe in coach Valentine. He may be the youngest head coach in the NCAA, but he has a proven program and quality talent ready to prove to the world that 2018 wasn’t just a fluke year. Plus, how are you going to bet against Sister Jean??
Mountain West – Colorado State (+370)
When I was looking into a winner for this conference, there was one thing that stuck out to me. Colorado State was excellent outside of the conference. Wins against Saint Marys, Creighton, and Mississippi State tells me this team has it. Offensively, they lead the conference in points per game, field goal %, 3 point %, and FT %. Now they have been humbled. A loss at Wyoming is tough, and having UNLV come into their house and leave with a win can cause some pause, too. Yet, I firmly believe that this team can turn it on when them want to. Let’s just hope they don’t get caught sleeping in an early round being as a NCAA Tournament birth isn’t guaranteed.
North East – Bryant (+115)
I bet some people didn’t know this but Bryant actually has one of the best scorers in the league. Peter Kiss is averaging 25 points per game and is leading Bryant to its first NEC Championship. This team is all gas and no breaks. They rank inside the top 30 in scoring, yet are 300th in points allowed. They have great size and quality rebounding skills. This team plays fast, but sometimes that can come back to bite them. This team will have to maintain getting up early on opponents, but once the Bulldogs force you into their play style, it’ll be hard to win.
Ohio Valley – Murray State (-175)
I was really holding out hope in Belmont running the table against the Racers. Yet, we saw in both matchups just how much better Murray State is compared to everyone else in the conference. This team leads the NCAA in wins, and has a perfect conference record. We have seen a couple close matchups, but nothing they couldn’t overcome. I feel like this team puts themselves in bad circumstances just to see if they can get out of it. The Racers by a mile.
Pac-12 – Arizona (+115)
This may look like a decent race on paper but people may forget how dominant Arizona can be at times. After a tough loss in UCLA, the Wildcats only have 2 losses not by double digits. They have handled business all year and are in line for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, pending they can put a proper bow on this regular season. Two of the top scorers in the Pac-12 plan to carry this team to not only its first Pac-12 Championship since 2017, but also a NCAA Championship. Something this program hasn’t seen since 1997.
Patriot League – Navy (+300)
With what’s going on in the world today, some may look at what’s going on as a distraction to this Navy team. I am however going to show the hope in Navy to use this chance at a Patriot League title to give the Midshipmen something to be happy about. They are not a great team offensively. They play gritty, tough, and hard nose basketball. Things have not always bounced the right way for them, but I’m thinking something will now. When a team gets hot, they can’t keep up. I’m just going to go with a feeling and the value here.
SEC – Kentucky (+150)
This is another extremely tough conference to project. Arkansas has come on extremely late here to cause even more confusion. However, Arkansas is winning games with a hard to predict play style. They aren’t extremely great at one thing, but also nothing extremely negative to point at for why they would lose. Tennessee is the best defensive team in the SEC, but their inconsistency on offense has me wondering. Then you have Auburn and Kentucky. Auburn is arguably the most complete team in the SEC. They are top 15 in scoring thanks to their two biggest stars. Jabari Smith Jr, who is a projected lottery pick, and potential Player of the Year in Walker Kessler. Both guys have been dominant on the floor all season and even had their way against my pick ‘Kentucky’ in their lone matchup this year. Regardless, I am really liking not only the value we see in Kentucky, but the players on this team. They come in ranked 8th in scoring on the year. Their average score margin of +14.6 points comes in at 5th in the country and they have all the talent in the world to win the NCAA tournament. Kentucky has amazing size, shooting and discipline to win the SEC.
Southern – Chattanooga (+210)
This might be my favorite conference in the NCAA. Year in and year out I see quality talent. The Mocs are a team I believe will make a little noise. Malachi Smith leads this team with 20+ points per game while shooting a handsome 51% from the field. Chattanooga doest exactly do any one thing extremely well, but that allows them to play a more free type of basketball game.
Southland – Texas A&M-CC (+700)
I will admit this isn’t one of my most confident picks. For starters, it’s weird taking a school named the Islanders despite not even being close to an island. In all of their conference losses this season, they never finished with a FG% above 42. Yet, I see this team also having a great chance at cashing in on the +700 value. They have quality size at the forward position. They kept up with Notre Dame earlier in the year and also were one of the hotter teams coming in the Southland tournament
SWAC – Texas Southern (+135)
Do not let their overall record deceive you. The Tigers are a quality basketball program. They started off the season 0-7, but they didn’t shy away from competition during that span (St. Mary’s, Oregon, Washington, BYU, NC State, Air Force and LA Tech). More than half of those schools have a legit shot to make the tournament. Now, after seeing that top level talent, it allowed them to not fear anyone in their own conference. No slouch on the teams in the SWAC, but the completion just isn’t the same.
Summit League – South Dakota State (-180)
What value is more, 3 or 2? If you said 3, you would be correct. Now I understand this is a super simple question. The Jackrabbits of South Dakota State think so as well and that has helped them be one of the highest scoring teams in the country. They rank 2nd in ppg with 85.9 a game. We can credit that to the fact that they make 3-point shots at such an efficient rate. They come in at 240th in the country in 3PA/Game, but rank 9th in 3PM/Game. That equals out to a 44.3% 3-point percentage and makes them the best in the country. This team has an identity and it’s making shots. I am ready to see the Jackrabbits crush the hopes of a big school come late March.
Sun Belt – Troy (+900)
This is a dart throw in my eyes. No ‘one’ team is this division seems to be the obvious choice. When I see that, I tend to lean into the value on the board. Troy has a victory against the three teams ahead of them in the standings. They are near the top 100 defensively, but that might have to do with the lack of talent in the division. Troy has more losses by single digits than not so maybe we can get a team that comes correct in the crunch time.
West Coast – Gonzaga (-390)
Now that win against the Zags was nice, but it’s not uncommon. Every couple years the Bulldogs underestimate the Gaels in the regular season. Yet, when it comes to tournament time, we see a real deal effort and Saint Mary’s can’t keep up. This year I expect no different. Gonzaga is in a pivotal point in their history. This is arguably the best run the school has ever had and this team was herald as the best team in school history. With multiple first round picks on the starting roster, I just don’t see a realm in which they lose this conference tournament and overall one seed ranking in the big tourney. Let the Gaels have that little regular season win and watch Gonzaga blows these boys out when it matters most.
WAC – Grand Canyon (+200)
This is a hard one for me because I’m completely torn between what my heart wants and what my head thinks. New Mexico State has proven to be the best team in the conference. They actually handled my projected by double digits in both of their matchups this season. In both of those matchups, New Mexico State made a high percentage of their shots. Thats something not a lot of teams can say they have been successful at against Grand Canyon. GCU comes in ranked 2nd in opponents effective FG percentage, and 3rd in opponents 3-point percentage. I’m not gonna say any wins are flukey, but I think maybe Lady Luck was on the side of the Aggies in those games. Grand Canyon cashes in on some decent value here.