My favorite time of the year is finally here after COVID kept us from enjoying it last year. That's right.. It's March Madness! It's the time where your friends and co-workers begin to fill out and talk about their brackets, talk about who's going to win it all, and who's on upset alert. The time of the year when everyones focus turns to the NCAA Tournament.
But before Selection Sunday gets here and we dive into the matchups that the bracket will bring, there's money to be made in the conference tournaments, so pay attention!
Below I will break down each of the major conferences, giving you the highlights of each conference along with my prediction on who will take home that conference championship. As always, my predictions are with the bettor in mind, so I've included the odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.
If you've waited until now to pay attention to the ACC, much to the surprise of sports bettors everywhere, the Duke Blue Devils have gone off the rails of their normal success and aren't anywhere close to being the betting favorite to win the ACC Tournament this year. That being said, to no surprise, the shortest shot to win the ACC is Virgina [+225]. The Cavaliers comes into the ACC Tournament ranked #16 in the nation with a 17-6 record. My concern with backing the shortest shot in this tournament is that the Cavs dropped three of their last five heading into the tournament and their slow pace makes them vulnerable to be outscored in a hurry if a team can jump on them. I think the best value in betting a futures ticket in this conference is taking Georgia Tech [+1000]. The Yellow Jackets finished 3rd in the ACC with a record of 15-8, but come into the ACC Tournament on a 6-game win streak. So if you're looking some good value, you can find it with Georgia Tech.
My Bet: Georgia Tech to win the ACC Tournament [+1000]
BIG TEN CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
The Michigan Wolverines are the shortest shot to win the Big Ten Tournament at [+175] and while I do like Michigan a lot this year, they have concerned me in their past couple of performances. After getting absolutely manhandled by Illinois, they dropped another game to their rival, Michigan State to end the season. I do think Michigan is in a good spot to get some things right before the NCAA Tournament, where they're a virtual lock to be a 2 Seed and I like their position in the Big Ten Tournament to make a run. Assuming they get past the winner between Michigan State and Maryland, their toughest opponent(s) would be Purdue or Ohio State before facing Illinois or Iowa in the championship game. That being said, I think there's a ton of value on Illinois here at [+320]. Even if they don't win it all, you're in a great position to hedge in the championship game, assuming they get past Iowa and have a rematch with Michigan. Illinois is coming into the Big Ten Tournament on a 4-game win streak, 3 of them being against Top 25 teams on the road. I can all but guarantee that you will see either Michigan or Illinois in the National Championship Game.
My Bet: Illinois to win the Big Ten Tournament [+320]
BIG 12 CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
No surprise here as the Baylor Bears come in as the favorite [-134] to win the Big 12 Tournament. I think it's worth the juice to take the Bears at this point. I think their toughest test in this tournament is going to be in the Semifinal Round against West Virginia or Oklahoma State. If they get past either of those opponents, they'll be raising the Big 12 Championship trophy on Saturday. If you don't see the value in Baylor and you're wanting a longer shot to have some money on, I would look at West Virginia [+700] or Oklahoma State [+800]. If Baylor fails to show up against either of those two teams in the semifinals, either of those teams have the guard play to pull the upset.
My Bet: Baylor to win the Big 12 Tournament [-134]
BIG EAST CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
The Big East has been all over the place all season long. The habitual powerhouse, Villanova would usually be the obvious choice, but they've been hit with injuries and I cannot suggest a play on them right now with the way they're playing. I would look into taking the shortest shot on the board, which is UCONN [+210]. The Huskies come into the Big East tournament winning 6 of their last 7 games and while they did drop both games against Creighton [+350], who knows how the Bluejays respond after their coach takes a leave after a controversial locker room talk following their loss last weekend. It could have a positive outcome and you could see Creighton win the Big East, but I'll stick with the Huskies and their tremendous guard play to get it done.
My Bet: UCONN to win the Big East Tournament [+210]
I don't see any value here in taking the favorite, Houston [-182]. If they show up and want to, I think the Cougars win the American Athletic Conference pretty easily.
PAC 12 CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
The PAC 12 may be one of the most confusing ones to handicap. At first glance, you'd say okay, Oregon [+185] is the shortest shot and is in first place of the PAC 12, so why not them and to that I would say, you're probably right. But let's dig a little deeper into what that actually looks like. Oregon comes into the PAC 12 Tournament winning 10 of their last 11, so by now you're probably thinking, okay, then Oregon [+185] is the obvious choice. However, that one loss they sustained during those 11 games was against USC [+235], who completely dominated them. That was their only matchup of the season due to cancellations caused by COVID. All of that being said, I would take a chance on USC [+235] to win it all. I would've liked to have gotten a better number here, but the Trojans have some value still.
My Bet: USC to win the PAC 12 Tournament [+235]
The SEC was dominated throughout the regular season by Alabama and that's why they're the shortest shot to win the SEC Tournament at [+220]. But the way the SEC Tournament is seeded, I actually think the Crimson Tide have the harder path to the championship game than another team I'm looking at. After their BYE, Alabama will face the winner between Mississippi State and Kentucky in the quarterfinals, which I assume they will, but Kentucky has the coaching and the talent to make a run here in the SEC Tournament. After that matchup, I assume they'll face the winner between Florida and Tennessee, two other talented teams with good coaches that could be poised for a conference tournament run. After the gauntlet of the first two games, they'll likely face the winner between Arkansas and LSU. I know this is going to come off as a homer pick, but I LOVE the Arkansas Razorbacks [+320] to win the SEC. The Razorbacks come into the SEC Tournament winning 11 straight SEC games and playing some of the best basketball in the country. They've beaten both LSU and Alabama in the last few weeks and seem to really be clicking at the right time behind freshman superstar Moses Moody and company.
My Bet: Arkansas to win the SEC Tournament [+320]
I hope you all enjoy the information and breakdowns. I hope that if you follow my bets, you cash some tickets and make some money. I look forward to rejoining you after Selection Sunday to breakdown the bracket and talk First Round Matchups.