Conference Tournament Betting Previews

Conference Tournament Betting Previews

Early Tournament Previews
By Bruce Marshall
VegasInsider.com

It's time to get acquainted with some new teams!

While we have made reference to the much-publicized "Selection Sunday" looming on the horizon (Mar. 17) for the fast-approaching NCAA Tournament, that's also the day the other postseason tourneys announce their fields as well. And, as we know, all of the surviving "off" conference teams suddenly become "on the board" teams in those various events.

A handful of these leagues have had numbers posted this season in the "added games" at most Las Vegas sports books, so a decent number of teams are already somewhat familiar. Still, some leagues will be making their debuts on the "big board" in the next few weeks, and it makes sense to familiarize ourselves with the best of this lower-echelon lot, which will be getting more exposure in coming days. Last year, the likes of Mercer, Fairfield, Oakland, and a few others provided multiple wagering opportunities as they progressed in the various postseason competitions.

The rather recent introduction of two new events (the CollegeInsider.com Tourney, or CIT, and the College Basketball Invitational, or CBI) has provided more non-Big Dance opportunities for entries from the low-major conferences. Many of these loops are now sending multiple entries to the postseason, so it behooves handicappers to begin paying attention to these sides before they enter either the Big Dance, NIT, CBI, or CIT.

We've already gotten a look at several of these teams in last weekend's BracketBusters, and many of the upcoming conference tournaments will be televised (the introduction of ESPN-3, which streams on computers, has added countless more college hoops viewing opportunities and will be providing added coverage for many of the lower-rung D-I conference tourneys). Many Las Vegas sports books will also be offering prices on these lower-echelon conference tourney matchups, and will most assuredly be posting prices whenever teams from those leagues are involved in NIT, CBI, or CIT action.

We've listed below, by conference alphabetical order, upcoming tournament specifics for those lower-profile Division I leagues. Also included are any teams that enjoy homecourt tourney edges; the top contenders in each loop, noted by italics, with any clear-cut favorite or co-favorite accompanied by an *; a quick preview of the tourneys; and last season's conference results in the NCAA, NIT, CBI, and CIT. Before Selection Sunday, we'll also review how these leagues have fared in recent Big Dance action.

March Mayhem has arrived!

AMERICA EAST...First round, quarterfinals, and semis March 7, 9-10 at SEFCU Arena, Albany, NY (home court of Albany); final March 12 at home of highest remaining seed. Top contenders--Stony Brook, Boston U, Vermont. Steve Pikiell's Stony Brook Seawolves have assumed command of the league race in recent weeks and will almost assuredly enter the conference tourney as the top seed. Though down three starters from last year's NIT qualifier, Pikiell nonetheless added the AE's Newcomer of the Year, battering ram 6-8 frosh PF Jameel Warney, who leads all Seawolves scorers at 12.1 ppg while hitting better than 62% of his FG attempts (mostly from short range). In a league without many quality bigs, the 255-lb. Warney has become the loop's most feared interior scoring threat. Over the last five games, Warney is hitting an even more eye-opening 73.1% from the floor. The backcourt has an upperclassmen look to it with jr. Gs Dave Coley (top-notch defender) and Anthony Jackson, while 6-5 sr. F Tommy Brenton was the AE's Defender of the Year last season. Keep an eye, however, on the Boston U Terriers, who entered Thursday's showdown with Stony Brook having won six in a row, with frosh G Maurice Watson, Jr. posting some big numbers in recent games. We also wouldn't sleep on Vermont, which beat CAA leader Northeastern and Ivy leader Harvard in pre-league play and just dispatched dangerous Canisius in the BracketBusters. Four starters returned for the Catamounts from last year's conference tourney winner and NCAA qualifier, joined by Illinois State transfer G Trey Blue, who broke into the starting lineup in early February and has scored in double digits in four of his last five games. Last year...NCAA-Vermont lost vs. North Carolina, 77-58; NIT-Stony Brook lost vs. Seton Hall, 63-61; CIT-Albany lost vs. Manhattan, 89-79.

ATLANTIC SUN...Tourney March 6-9 at University Center, Macon, GA (home court of Mercer). Top contenders-Mercer, Florida Gulf Coast, Stetson. By winning eight straight prior to a showdown on Thursday vs. FGCU, Mercer has guaranteed itself the top seed in next week's conference tourney, contested on its own home floor. Better yet for the Bears, there's no Belmont to worry about in this year's A-Sun, with the Bruins having moved their act to the Ohio Valley. Remember, Mercer ran the table to a surprise win in the CIT last year and returns much of that team for HC Bob Hoffman, including Gs Langston Hall (a lanky 6-4 and a good defensive stopper as well) and Travis Smith, both scoring in double digits. Fort Myers-based FGCU made some headlines way back in November when upsetting Miami-Florida, and the Eagles were not embarrassed in other non-league games at Duke and Iowa State. Sherwood Brown, a powerful 6-4 sr. G, has emerged as a compelling force (scoring 15.8 ppg) for the Eagles, who appear to have the best chance vs. Mercer. Last year...NCAA-Belmont lost vs. Georgetown, 74-59; CIT-Mercer won vs. Tennessee State, 68-60; won vs. Georgia State, 64-59; won at Old Dominion, 79-73; won at Fairfield, 64-59; won at Utah State in title game, 70-67; USC-Upstate won vs. Kent State, 73-58; lost at Old Dominion, 65-56.
   
BIG SKY...Tourney March 14-16 at home of regular-season champion (Montana or Weber State). Top contenders-Montana, Weber State. They've been anticipating another Big Sky Tourney showdown between the Grizzlies and Wildcats since prior to Thanksgiving. The teams split their two regular-season meetings, the home side winning each, which could mean advantage Montana in the tourney as the Grizzlies hold a one-game lead over Weber in the conference table entering the weekend. The Grizzlies really hit stride in mid-December when leading returning scorer G Will Cherry overcame an early-season foot injury; Montana quickly embarked upon a 14-game SU win streak when Cherry (13.2 ppg) returned to the starting lineup. There could be problems, however; Cherry re-injured his foot in the BracketBusters OT loss at Davidson, and sr. F Mathias Ward (leading scorer this season at 14.8 ppg) looks to be out for a longer duration with his own foot injury suffered last week. Weber State is now the in-form side with seven wins on the trot (including an 87-63 romp at Ogden vs. Montana on Valentine's Day night) entering Thursday's game vs. Sac State. Vet HC Randy Rahe has an athletic squad bolstered by Cal State Monterey Bay Sea Otter transfer Davion Berry, an explosive 6-4 G scoring 15 ppg and shooting 50% from the floor. Note that this tourney has changed its format slightly from last season, with the entire event scheduled at the regular-season winner, even if it isn't involved in the title game. Last year...NCAA-Montana lost vs. Wisconsin, 73-49; CIT-Weber State won vs. Utah Valley State, 72-69; lost in OT at Loyola-Marymount, 84-78.

BIG SOUTH...Tourney March 5, 7, 9-10 at HTC Center, Conway, SC (home court of Coastal Carolina); Top contenders-High Point, Charleston Southern, Gardner-Webb. Regional sources are alerting to the recent uptick from Gardner-Webb, the only Big South contender to win its BracketBuster last week (vs. College of Charleston) and carrying a six-game SU win streak into Saturday's reg.-season finale vs. the Presbyterian Blue Hose. The Runnin' Bulldogs from Boiling Springs, NC also just knocked off contender Charleston Southern at midweek, though high scorer and former Mississippi Valley State transfer G, explosive Tashan Newsome (14.1 ppg), has been in a recent shooting slump (just 11 of 45 FGs and 8 ppg last four). Newsome had previously posted four straight 20+-point efforts. High Point, coached by former North Carolina player and George Mason (during the Final Four year) assistant Scott Cherry, might be flattening out a bit with two straight losses following a 7-game win streak. But Panther 6-7 frosh F G John Brown (17 ppg) has clearly been the league's top newcomer. As for Charleston Southern, note that the Buccaneers were competitive vs. a variety of high-profile foes (Charlotte, Arizona, Alabama, Wichita State) in pre-league play. Last year...NCAA-UNC-Asheville lost vs. Syracuse, 72-65; CIT-Coastal Carolina lost at Old Dominion, 68-66.

METRO ATLANTIC...Tourney March 7-11 at MassMutual Center, Springfield, MA. First round pits seeds 7 vs. 10 and 8 vs. 9; winners advance to quarterfinals, and so forth. Top contenders-Niagara, Iona, Loyola-Maryland, Canisius, Rider, Fairfield. Absolutely wide-open conference tourney in Springfield, where more than half of the loop believes it has a legit shot to win the event. Several star performers in league, mostly guards, led by Niagara soph G Antoine Mason (18.9 ppg; 23.3 ppg last three), Iona's dynamite backcourt due of Momo Jones (23 ppg) and Sean Armand (17.4 ppg), Loyola-Maryland's Dylan Cormier (17.1 ppg), and Canisius' Billy Baron (formerly Virginia & Rhode Island and son of HC Jim Baron; 16.9 ppg), Harold "The Mayor" Washington (13.4 ppg), and another transfer, ex-UCF G Issac Sosa (12.1 ppg). Well-regarded coaches as well, including Loyola's entertaining Jimmy Patsos (he of the wild sideline gyrations) and the aforementioned Jim Baron, a longtime Digger Phelps aide at Notre Dame and an accomplished mentor at St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island before landing the Canisius gig. Last year...NCAA-Loyola-Maryland lost vs. Ohio State, 78-59; CIT-Fairfield won vs. Yale, 68-56; won vs. Manhattan, 69-57; won vs. Robert Morris, 67-61; lost vs. Mercer, 64-59; Manhattan won at Albany, 89-79; lost vs. Fairfield, 67-57; Rider lost at Northern Iowa, 84-50.

MEAC...Tourney March 11-16 at the Scope, Norfolk, VA (not the home court of Norfolk State, which plays its games at Echols Hall); First round pits seed 4 vs. 13, 5 vs. 12, 6 vs. 11, 7 vs. 10, and 8 vs. 9; winners advance to quarterfinals, and so forth, Top contenders-Norfolk State, NC-Central, Savannah State. Fans of the old ABA might recall the venue for this year's MEAC Tourney, the Norfolk Scope, then a rather new facility when one of the "regional" homes (along with the nearby Hampton-Roads Coliseum in the Tidewater area, the Roanoke Civic Center, and the Richmond Coliseum) in the early 1970s for the old Virginia Squires, Julius Erving's first pro team. Norfolk State, which stunned Missouri in last year's Big Dance, no longer can count upon frontliner Kyle O'Quinn (now with the NBA Orlando Magic), but the Spartans are unbeaten in league play entering this weekend. A truly top-heavy league, with Norfolk, NC-Central, and Savannah State head and shoulders above the rest of the loop (and the only teams above .500 for the season in the alliance). Last year...NCAA-Norfolk State won vs. Missouri, 86-84; lost vs. Florida, 84-50; NIT-Savannah State lost vs. Tennessee, 65-51.

NORTHEAST...Quarterfinals March 6, semis March 9, final March 12, all at home of highest seed. Top contenders-Robert Morris, Bryant, Wagner, Long Island, Quinnipiac. Another wide-open-looking conference tourney, although Robert Morris, the home team of the Pittsburgh Airport, has moved to the lead in the conference race with wins in six of its last seven games. A well-balanced squad featuring four DD scorers (including all-name F Lucky Jones), the Colonials advanced the quarterfinals of the CIT last season and opened some eyes with a couple of impressive pre-league efforts, including a home upset of Ohio U, another home win over Cleveland State when the Vikings were healthy and had F Anton Grady in the lineup, and a near-miss at Arkansas. Bryant, led by Columbia transfer F Dyami Starks (17.9 ppg), has been one of the nation's best storylines after winning just twice last season. Bob Beckel's alma mater Wagner is the deepest team in the league (bench goes 10 deep) and features rugged PF Jonathon Williams (15 ppg). Last year...NCAA-Long Island lost vs. Michigan State, 89-67; CIT-Robert Morris won at Indiana State, 67-60; won at Toledo, 69-51; lost at Fairfield, 67-61; CBI-Quinnipiac lost at Penn, 74-63.

OHIO VALLEY...Tourney March 6-9 at Municipal Auditorium, Nashville, TN (not the home court of Nashville-based Tennessee State, which plays its games at the Gentry Complex, or Nashville-based Belmont, which plays its games at the Mike Curb Events Center). Top contenders-Belmont, Murray State, Eastern Kentucky. Belmont's move from the Atlantic Sun has strengthened the OVC, and the Bruins' recent whip job of Ohio in the BracketBusters suggests that Rick Byrd's team also has a decent Big Dance at-large argument (especially with its RPI in the low 20s) should it lose in this event. And having the tourney conducted across town from campus at the old Nashville Municipal Auditorium should be a plus. Star G Ian Clark (18.4 ppg) could be a breakout performer in March. Keep an eye, however, on defending loop champ Murray State and star G Isaiah Canaan (21.2 ppg), familiar to many for his exploits a year ago when the Racers won a game in the Big Dance before pushing Marquette in the Round of 32. Murray also won the only regular-season matchup (79-74) vs. Belmont. Last Year...NCAA-Murray State won vs. Colorado State, 58-41; lost vs. Marquette, 62-53; CIT-Tennessee Tech lost at Georgia State, 74-43; Tennessee State lost at Mercer, 68-60.

PATRIOT...Quarterfinals March 6, semifinals March 9, final March 13, all at home of higher seed. Top contenders-Bucknell, Lehigh, Lafayette. With eight wins in its last nine games prior to the regular-season finale vs. Navy, Bucknell has taken command of the race in the past few weeks and will have homecourt edge in the conference tourney. Interestingly, the road team won both regular-season meetings involving the Bison and top contender Lehigh, which is hopeful that star G C.J. McCollum (23.9 ppg, but out since early January with a foot injury) might return in time for the conference tourney. The Mountain Hawks (last year's surprise package, which upset Duke in the NCAA sub-regionals) could use McCollum, too, as they had lost three of their last four entering Saturday's game vs. Army. Last Year...NCAA-Lehigh won vs. Duke, 75-70; lost vs. Xavier, 70-58; NIT-Bucknell won at Arizona, 65-54; lost at Nevada, 75-67; CIT-American U. lost vs. Buffalo, 78-61.

SOUTHERN...Tourney March 8-11 at ExploreAsheville.com Arena, Asheville, NC. Top contenders-Davidson*, Elon, College of Charleston. Regional observers are suggesting the SoCon isn't quite as deep this season, as only Davidson, Elon, and Charleston have above-.500 SU records entering March. Still, Davidson has all of its starters back from last year's SoCon championship side that pushed Louisville to the limit in the NCAA sub-regional at Portland. The Wildcats boast of one of the nation's unique weapons, 6-10 F Jake Cohen, a Euro-style performer who likes to float to the perimeter and shoot 3s and is hitting 50% of his FG tries. Also, do not fall behind the Wildcats and expect them to give away their game at the FT line; Davidson leads the country at a staggering 81.8% FTs. We'd be surprised if Bob McKillop's side doesn't make a return trip to the NCAAs. Last year...NCAA-Davidson lost vs. Louisville, 69-62; CBI-Wofford lost at Pittsburgh, 81-63.

SOUTHLAND...Tourney March 13-16 at Merrell Center, Katy, TX. Top contenders-Stephen F. Austin, Northwestern State, Oral Roberts. SFA will be the favorite in the conference tourney for good reason, as some believe the Lumberjacks might have an NCAA at-large case if they lose in Katy, thanks in part to an RPI that was ranked in the top 20 before league play commenced and notable road wins at Oklahoma and in the BracketBuster at Long Beach State. Disciplined and well-balanced for mustachioed HC Danny Kaspar, with only one DD scorer, F Taylor Smith (15.7 ppg), shooting an astounding 70% from the floor. The Jacks just don't take many bad shots and are snarling on the stop end, leading the nation in scoring defense (50.1 ppg). But Northwestern State, with four DD scorers and a winner over WAC leader La Tech in pre-Southland play as well as a conqueror of SFA on Jan. 26, and Oral Roberts, which moved to the Southland this season from the Summit and features sr. G Warren Niles (18.9 ppg), don't figure to roll over for the Lumberjacks. Last Year...NCAA-Lamar lost play-in game vs. Vermont, 71-59; NIT-UT-Arlington lost at Washington, 82-72; CIT-McNeese State lost at Toledo, 76-63.

SWAC...Tourney March 8-11 at Garland Special Events Center, Garland, TX. Top contenders-Southern U, Texas Southern, Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Southern U was the only league rep not below .500 in pre-league play (the Jags were 6-6), which included a 53-51 win at Texas A&M. The backcourt combo of instant-offense G Malcolm Miller (16.3 ppg and 47% beyond the arc, where he takes more than half of his shots, all from off the bench as the league's best sixth man, if not top player overall) and Derick Beltran (16.1 ppg) paces Southern. Houston-based Texas Southern, however, had won nine in a row SU prior to Thursday's showdown vs. the Jags, while Bowling Green transfer PF DaVon Hayes (12 ppg) has added some frontline presence to pesky UA-Pine Bluff, as the Golden Lions had won 7 of their last 8 (including a 55-52 home win over Southern) prior to their regular-season finale vs. Jerry Rice's alma mater, the Delta Devils of Mississippi Valley State. Last year...NCAA-Mississippi Valley State lost play-in game vs. Western Kentucky, 59-58.

SUMMIT...Tourney March 9-12 at Sioux Falls Arena, Sioux Falls, SD (not the home court of nearby, Brookings-based South Dakota State, which plays its home games at Frost Arena, or nearby, Vermillion-based South Dakota, which plays its home games at the Dakota Dome). The Summit League was formerly known as Mid-Continent Conference. Top contenders-South Dakota State, North Dakota State, Western Illinois. Although the top contenders all lost their BracketBusters games last weekend, the league still intrigues with its varied styles and well-coached outfits. Both SDSU and NDSU have made Big Dance appearances recently; the SDSU Jackrabbits have much the same look as they did a year ago when advancing to the Dance, led by G Nate Wolters, who scored 53 points in one game this year and spearheaded a rousing upset win at New Mexico in another game in December. As for the NDSU Bison, the good news is that star 6-7 jr. G Taylor Braun (on NBA radar screens) has returned from a six-week absence due to a foot injury, although he was a bit rusty (0 for 4 from the floor in 18 minutes of court time) in his first game back on Wednesday vs. Utah Valley State. Needless to say, NDSU's chances increase in the conference tourney if Braun can get back to near 100%. Keep an eye, too, on rugged and functional Western Illinois, where Lou Saban once coached the football team that spawned some other old AFL names such as Larry Garron and Booker Edgerson. Coached by ex-Bradley mentor Jim Molinari, the Leathernecks play nasty defense (allow mere 52.5 ppg, 2nd in nation behind only SFA), have a post game with 6-8, 250-lb. C Terell Parks (14 ppg & 57% from floor), and a savvy sixth-year sr. PG in Ceola Clark. Last year...NCAA-South Dakota State lost vs. Baylor, 68-60; CBI-North Dakota State lost at Wyoming, 76-75; CIT-Oakland won vs. Bowling Green, 86-69; won vs. Buffalo, 84-76; won vs. Rice, 77-70; lost at Utah State, 105-81.

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Re: Conference Tournament Betting Previews

Handicapping This Week's Mid-Major Conference Tournaments
By Covers.com

For some, March Madness doesn’t begin until Selection Sunday. For others, it starts with the big conference tournaments. But for numerous mid-major leagues around the country, March Madness starts this week with conference tournaments kicking off.

Here’s what to watch for in the mid-major conference tournaments beginning this week:

America East – March 9-16

Favorite: Stony Brook (23-6 SU, 1-1 ATS) – The Seawolves have been the class of the America East since jumping to Div. I in 1999 but have never gone to the NCAA.

Upset watch: Vermont (19-10 SU, 3-0 ATS) – The Catamounts won the America East last year and split the season series with Stony Brook this season.

Atlantic Sun – March 6-9

Favorite: Mercer (21-10 SU, 0-3 ATS) – The Bears not only come into the A-Sun tournament as the top seed but are also playing hosts at the Hawkins Center.

Upset watch: Stetson (14-15 SU, 0-0 ATS) – The Hatters come in as a No. 3 seed and took a recent win over No. 2 Florida Gulf Coast. Stetson can run up the score in a hurry.

Big South – March 5-10

Favorite: Charleston Southern (17-11 SU, 0-1 ATS) – The Buccaneers have the offensive firepower to leave the other contenders in the dust. They caught a break with the injury to High Point’s John Brown.

Upset watch: Coastal Carolina (14-14 SU, 0-1 ATS) – The Chanticleers play host to the Big South tournament and were nearly unbeatable on their home court during conference play.

Colonial Athletic Association – March 9-11

Favorite: Northeastern +200 (19-11 SU, 13-12 ATS) – The Huskies clinched the No. 1 seed before last weekend’s loss to Old Dominion, however, their wheels have wobbled with a 2-3 record (1-4 ATS) in their last five.

Upset watch: Delaware +220 (18-13 SU, 13-13-1 ATS) – The Blue Hens enter the CAA tournament on fire, winning four straight and eight of their last 10 games.

Horizon League – March 5-12

Favorite: Valparaiso -200 (24-7 SU, 17-10-1 ATS) – The Crusaders took advantage of a down year and Butler’s defection this season. It’s them or Detroit +175.

Upset watch: Green Bay +350 (16-14, 16-12 ATS) – The Phoenix, the No. 4 seed, will turn to big man Alec Brown and Keifer Sykes to shake up the Horizon postseason.

MAAC – March 8-11

Favorite: Niagara +250 (18-12, 13-13 ATS) – The Purple Eagles enter as a slight favorite, having won the MAAC regular season title – just one game in front of Iona (+275).

Upset watch: Loyola-Maryland +275 (21-10 SU, 12-12-1 ATS) – The Greyhounds are kind of the odd man out when it comes to MAAC contenders. They defeated Niagara and were a solid 7-4-1 ATS on the road this season.

Missouri Valley Conference – March 7-10

Favorite: Creighton EVEN (24-7 SU, 15-13-1 ATS) – The Bluejays took their spot back atop the MVC with a dominant win over Wichita State last weekend.

Upset watch: Evansville +1,000 (18-13 SU, 17-11 ATS) – The Purple Aces could be a wildcard in the MVC tournament. Evansville has thrived as an underdog and has two wins over WSU.

Northeast Conference – March 6-12

Favorite: Robert Morris (22-9 SU, 2-1 ATS) – The Colonials ran away with the NEC regular season crown and are looking to get over the postseason hump after losing in the title game the past two years.

Upset watch: Bryant (19-10 SU, 0-1 ATS) – The Bulldogs nearly took both meetings with Robert Morris this season, winning back in January and losing by two points last week.

Ohio Valley Conference – March 6-9

Favorite: Belmont -300 (24-6 SU, 14-13 ATS) – The Bruins played a who’s-who of mid-major darlings as well as Kansas, Stanford and VCU in non-conference play before dominating the OVC.

Upset watch: Murray State +350 (20-9 SU, 11-15 ATS) – The Racers will need to win the OVC to get back into the NCAA, losing their last two games. That should be more than enough motivation for star guard Isaiah Canaan.

Patriot League – March 6-13

Favorite: Bucknell (25-5 SU, 2-1 ATS) – The Bison benefit from the injury to Lehigh star C.J. McCollum, who isn’t expect to play in the tournament.

Upset watch: Lafayette (17-14, 1-0 ATS) – The Leopards roll into the postseason on a five-game winning streak which started with an upset win over Bucknell – one of only two conference losses for the Bison.

Southern Conference – March 8-11

Favorite: Davidson -300 (23-7, 14-14-1 ATS) – The Wildcats remain the class of the SoCon and strut into the postseason on a 13-game winning streak.

Upset watch: Charleston +350 (22-9 SU, 11-15-1 ATS) – If momentum is the maker of upsets, the Cougars may present some upset value after winning four of their last five and eight of 10 to end the season.

Summit League – March 9-12

Favorite: North Dakota State +125 (22-8, 16-11 ATS) – The Bison boast the No. 8 defense in the country, limiting opponents to 55.4 points per game. They’re just ahead of rival South Dakota State at +140.

Upset watch: Oakland +400 (16-15 SU, 13-15 ATS) – The Grizzlies have wins over NDSU, SDSU and Western Illinois this year and have a potent offense that spreads the love around.

Sun Belt Conference – March 8-11

Favorite: Middle Tennessee State -375 (27-4 SU, 14-13 ATS) – The Blue Raiders are fueled by last year’s upset in the conference tournament and lost just one game in league play.

Upset watch: Arkansas Little Rock +1,500 (17-14 SU, 15-13 ATS) – The Trojans enter the postseason off a big win over Arkansas State. WKU’s run last year proves anything can happen in the Sun Belt tournament.

West Coast Conference – March 6-11

Favorite: Gonzaga -400 (29-2 SU, 16-11-2 ATS) – The new No. 1 team in the nation could get caught looking ahead to a top seed in the NCAA in the WCC tournament.

Upset watch: St. Mary’s +280 (26-5 SU, 15-12-1 ATS) – The Gaels come into the tournament on a five-game winning run, with their only loss in the past 10 outings coming to Gonzaga.

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Re: Conference Tournament Betting Previews

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Betting Preview
By Andrew Lange
Sportsmemo.com

Midway through January it looked as if the MVC was Creighton and Wichita State and everyone else. But the competitive nature of the conference took over and once in the hunt for a potential 5-7 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Blue Jays and Shockers slipped a bit the back half of the slate and now find themselves likely in but with no guarantees. Neither team, especially Wichita, can afford to get bounced in their opening game against a lower seeded team. There were a handful of teams that at times showed the quality needed to cut down the nets in St. Louis. Northern Iowa finished 7-1 including wins over Wichita and Creighton. Illinois State reeled off seven of eight after opening the year 0-6. Indiana State had wins against all four of those squads but faded down the stretch. And senior-laden Evansville quietly finished 10-8. Historically, the top seeds have fared well. Last year snapped a five-year streak of the No. 1 seed reaching the finals when No. 2 Creighton beat No. 4 Illinois State in overtime. 

First Round Pick: Southern Illinois started conference play 1-10 but got a huge home win against Wichita State and used that momentum to finish a respectable 6-12. SIU averaged over a point per possession in seven of its eight final games and allowed over that mark only three times. Those are two feats that were practically unheard of the first half of conference play. Missouri State was a nice story after getting dismantled during non-conference play (2-10). The Bears started MVC play 3-1 and were able to hold up on their home court to finish 7-11. This however is a very young group and one that didn't always fare well away from home. SIU didn't either but at their best, the Salukis are the better team and worth a play at anything -2 or less.

Darkhorse: I hate that Northern Iowa and Illinois State play in the first round because I like both teams and whoever wins has a legitimate shot to take down a reeling Wichita State squad in the semifinals. For as well as NIU played down the stretch, it was the complete opposite for ISU who looked as if it had things figured out after the 0-6 start. But the Redbirds have plenty of talent and experience having lost to Creighton in last year’s finals. And their conference only numbers suggest they are better than their 8-10 record. They fit the profile of a team that in a three-game setting that can get hot.

Tournament Winner: While I think ISU has a shot to make some noise, I’m not ready to write off Wichita State. I tend to project the best from teams in the postseason and at their best, the Shockers can make some noise in March. The Shockers had some key injuries and got a little complacent which you simply can’t do in the MVC. I think if they can find a way to get past the winner of ISU/NIU – assuming they beat Missouri State or Southern Illinois – it would be huge for their confidence. I still have issues with Creighton’s lack of defense (6th in MVC defensive efficiency 1.02 ppp allowed). The Blue Jays are tough to stop offensively but can they win if the shots aren’t falling? Wichita seems a little better suited to win a scrum-type game where stops becoming the deciding factor.

Conference Play Breakdown   

Best Offense - Creighton 1.17 ppp
Best Defense - Northern Iowa 95.6 ppp   
Best 3-point - Creighton 43.1%
Best Free Throw - Northern Iowa 76.8% 
Fastest - Illinois State 68.1
Slowest - Missouri State 60.0

Schedule (All games in St. Louis)

Thursday, March 7
#8 Bradley vs. #9 Drake
#7 Missouri State vs. #10 Southern Illinois

Friday, March 8
#1 Creighton vs. #8/#9 Winner
#4 Evansville vs. #5 Indiana State
#3 Northern Iowa vs. #6 Illinois State
#2 Wichita State vs. #7/#10 Winner

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Re: Conference Tournament Betting Previews

West Coast Conference Tournament Betting Preview
By Rob Veno
Sportsmemo.com

Overview: The WCC is another mid-major conference that goes to great lengths in order to assure their top teams have the shortest route possible to the championship. No. 1 seed Gonzaga along with No. 2 St. Mary’s get to sit and watch until the semifinals which will take place on the fourth day of tourney action. Because every team in the nine team conference qualifies, there is a No. 8 vs. No. 9 play-in game between Portland and Loyola Marymount which kicks off the tournament later this evening. Portland defeated LMU twice this season (68-64 Jan 12 @ LMU and 69-60 Feb 7 at home). Loyola has led each of the two games by double digits either at halftime or into the second half. The Orleans Arena venue in Las Vegas has been hosting this tournament since 2009 and it provides a very slight fan advantage to BYU. Gonzaga and St. Mary’s have won 12 of the last 14 conference tournaments rotating the last four. Last season, top seed St. Mary’s closed as a +2.5 point underdog to the Zags and won in overtime 78-74. San Diego is the only other team to capture the crown since 1999 winning twice on their Jenny Craig Pavilion home floor.

Best Bet: San Diego (Thursday, Second Round)

No. 6 seed San Diego will likely open in the vicinity of 2-point favorites over Pepperdine in the late game of Thursday’s doubleheader. The Toreros hit a brick wall down the stretch going 1-3 ATS in their final four games after posting a 4-0-1 ATS mark in their previous five. The season did however end on a high note last Saturday when USD won and covered 76-69 as -5.5 home favorites against these same Pepperdine Waves. The win gave them a series sweep over Pepperdine having won by 12 (62-50) in Malibu back on January 12. San Diego starting senior forwards Ken Rancifer and Chris Manresa were the difference outscoring their Pepperdine counterparts by a combine 50-21 over the pair of games. USD’s best player Johnny Dee has not gotten on track against the Waves yet shooting 9-of-21 42.8% from the field and 2-of-9 22.2% from three-point range. Expect a much stronger performance from him in this matchup and look for San Diego to enter this tournament fully focused. Pepperdine has been miserable since early January going 3-11 straight up and if not for bottom feeders Portland and Loyola-Marymount, they would not have won a league game. Play San Diego to get the hat trick and cover the number.

Darkhorse: It’s rare to be able to list the No. 3 seed in a conference tournament as a longshot but that’s exactly what BYU is because Gonzaga and St. Mary’s have been so dominant this season going 28-0 straight up against the other seven teams. Despite losing all four games straight up to the top two seeds, BYU did come within 1, 5, and 7 in three of those contests (2-1-1 ATS). It’s a tall order to ask of them and not very realistic because in all likelihood they’ll have to beat both St. Mary’s and Gonzaga. You could take an even deeper flyer on No. 5 San Francisco which played the top two almost as good as BYU did. Three of their losses were by 10 or less and the largest was by only 14 as they went 4-0 against the number vs. the top two. Defensively challenged No. 4 Santa Clara has a punchers chance only if the final does not include one of the top two seeds. Over the last month they’ve been crushed by 13, 21, and 43 by the Gaels and Bulldogs.       

Tournament Winner: Gonzaga. Head coach Mark Few’s team blew out St. Mary’s in Moraga 77-60 three weeks ago and at that time, the Gaels were rolling. It gave them the series sweep and this year the Zags have a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament at stake. There will be zero lack of focus as they continue the trend of winning the title here in Las Vegas in odd number years.

Conference Play Breakdown 

Best Offense - Gonzaga 1.21 ppp 
Best Defense - Gonzaga 90.6 pp   
Best 3-point - San Francisco 41.1%
Best Free Throw - Loyola Marymount 73.6%
Fastest - BYU 69.1
Slowest - Pepperdine 63.5

Schedule (All games in Las Vegas)

Wednesday, March 6
#8 Portland vs. #9 Loyola Marymount

Thursday, March 7
#5 San Francisco vs. #8/#9 Winners
#6 San Diego vs. #7 Pepperdine

Friday, March 8
#4 Santa Clara vs. #5/#8/#9 Winner
#3 BYU vs. #6/#7 Winner

Saturday, March 9
#1 Gonzaga vs. TBA
#2 St. Mary's vs. TBA

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Ohio Valley Tournament Betting Preview
By Andrew Lange
Sportsmemo.com

This will mark the third year of the double-bye system for the OVC Tournament. Eight teams made the field; the bottom four play on Wednesday. The No. 3 and No. 4 seeds get a first round bye. The two division winners, No. 1 Belmont (East) and No. 2 Murray State (West) received double-byes. Over the last 11 tournaments, no team has won in all with more than four regular season conference losses. If history repeats itself, either Belmont (14-2) or Eastern Kentucky (12-4) will cut down the nets. Murray State benefited from the OVC splitting into two divisions thanks to the addition of Belmont. The Racers had the fourth-best record (10-6) but won the weaker West Division, hence their No. 2 seed.

First Round Pick: Southeast Missouri

There were a lot of expectations for Dickey Nutt's bunch heading into the season but the Redhawks got off to a sluggish 3-7 start in league play and were on the verge of potentially being left out of the postseason. But the back half of the schedule was more favorable and this team started to gain confidence winning five out of its last six league games by margins of 9, 13, 22, 27, and 16 with the lone loss by two on the road. Included in that was an 84-68 road win at Murray State to close out the regular season. SEMO faces an Eastern Illinois squad that started league play 0-6 but finished 6-10. Both teams have plenty of flaws but SEMO seems to have the profile of an experienced team (6 upperclassmen) peaking at the right time.

Darkhorse: Eastern Kentucky had the second best record in the league and played in the tougher division. Had they remained healthy they might have been able to beat Belmont in one of their two meetings (lost by 7 and 9). The Colonels are opposite Belmont in the bracket and even though Murray State will be rested and ready, the Racers were awful down the stretch (lost four of six – and were very lucky in one of those wins). EKU appears to have the best profile of being able to take down Belmont (efficient offense, low turnover rate, can knock down threes and free throws).

Tournament Winner: Belmont proved it was beatable by losing to Murray and Tennessee State on the road. But for a majority of league play they absolutely dominated. I just don't see them losing, especially with only needing to win two games in their home town.

Conference Play Breakdown

Best Offense - Belmont 1.17 ppp 
Best Defense - Belmont 94.9 ppp 
Best 3-point - SE Missouri 42.3%
Best Free Throw - Eastern Kentucky 82.3%
Fastest - SE Missouri 68.8
Slowest - Eastern Illinois 60.3

Schedule (All Game in Nashville, Tenn.)

Wednesday, March 6
#5 Morehead State vs. #8 UT-Martin
#6 SE Missouri vs. #7 Eastern Illinois

Thursday, March 7
#5/#8 Winner vs. #4 Tennessee State
#6/#7 Winner vs. #3 Eastern Kentucky

Friday, March 8
#5/#8/#4 Winner vs. #1 Belmont
#6/#7/#3 Winner vs. #2 Murray State

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Horizon League Tournament Betting Preview
By Andrew Lange
Sportsmemo.com

As structured as this tournament is to reward the regular season champ, it has been far from automatic for the top seed of late with the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds winning three of the last four titles. That said, since changing the format of the tournament back in 2003, seven out of the last 10 years have featured a No. 1 vs. No. 2 final. Not once during that span has a seed lower than No. 3 reached the finals.

First Round Pick: UW-Milwaukee +14

Not a lot to like about the Panthers this season – they were without question the worst team in the league. But their struggles have been well accounted for in the line for quite some time. And I like that Green Bay won both meetings by big margins (74-54 and 78-61). Both contests were actually fairly close for a while before GB went on ridiculous scoring runs. UWM has nothing to lose and knows it can hang with its in-state rival. Worth a shot on the underdog.

Darkhorse: Given the history of this tournament and how strong #1 Valpo and #2 Detroit have been this season, it's hard to have any sort of confidence in a true darkhorse. Wright State is really the only logical option in part because the Raiders have a first round bye but also because they defend and play a contrasting style to that of the top two seeds.

Tournament Winner: I lean Valpo but assuming they face Detroit, I'll be looking to take the points with anything more than +2.5 given the even nature of the on-paper matchup.

Conference Play Breakdown

Best Offense - Valparaiso 1.14 ppp
Best Defense - Wright State 92.6 ppp
Best 3-point - Valparaiso 38.9%
Best Free Throw - UIC 75.1%
Fastest - Detroit 70.4
Slowest - Wright State 62.6

Schedule

1st Round, Tuesday, March 5
#9 Milwaukee at #4 Green Bay
#8 Cleveland State at #5 UIC
#7 Loyola at #6 Youngstown State

2nd Round, Friday, March 8, at #1 Valparaiso
#9/#4 Winner vs. #5/#8 Winner
#6/#7 Winner vs. Wright State

Semifinals, Saturday, March 9 at #1 Valparaiso

Finals, Tuesday, March 12 at Highest Remaining Seed

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Metro Atlantic Conference Tournament Betting Preview
By Andrew Lange
Sportsmemo.com

After the three straight years of the No. 1 seed knocking off the No. 2 seed in the finals, the last two MAAC title games have featured a No. 2 vs. No. 4 matchup. The conference was highly competitive this season with five teams in the hunt for regular season crown. For example, Niagara, the regular season champ, had games decided by 3, 4, 1, 3 (OT), 2 (2 OT), 3, 4, and 3. The close nature of the league should make for a crazy tournament and perhaps a difficult handicap with nothing but the slimmest of margins separating most of these squads. Note that this will mark the first year the tourney will be held at the MassMutual Center even though no one in the MAAC resides in Massachusetts.

Darkhorse: Hard to pick a darkhorse when over half the field should all be priced the same the win the tournament. Bettors should be prepared for a lot of games lined -2.5 or less. Rider can hardly be considered a darkhorse as the No. 2 seed but the Broncs weren't even considered a contender with a league record of 6-5 heading into February. They got hot at the right time but drew a tough card with a potential quarterfinal matchup against an underachieving but gritty Fairfield squad.

Winner: It is a divided bracket with the more defensive and slowed paced teams on one side (Fairfield, Manhattan, Rider, and Loyola-MD) and up-tempo, offensive minded squads on the other side (Iona, Canisius, and Niagara). I wouldn't count out Iona who was upset in last year's semifinals by Fairfield. The Gaels' league losses were by 5, 3 (OT), 3, 1 (2 OT), 1 (2 OT), and 2. They say defense wins championships, but in these three-game scenarios, catching fire from three can as well and no one in the league is better at doing that than Iona (39.1%). But for how fortunate Niagara was at times, they are a perhaps the most complete team in the league. I give the Purple Eagles the slight edge only because the remainder of the field is so balanced and will likely have to expend a lot of energy just to get to the semifinals. Niagara, though far from a lock, should have an easiest route in taking on the winner of Marist and Siena. But once the final four is determined, anything can happen. 

Conference Play Breakdown 

Best Offense - Iona 1.12 ppp
Best Defense - Fairfield 92.3 ppp 
Best 3-point - Iona 39.1% 
Best Free Throw - Iona 73.8% 
Fastest - Iona 68.7
Slowest - Manhattan 61.2

Schedule (All games at Springfield, Mass)

Friday, March 8
#7 Fairfield vs. #10 St. Peter's
#8 Marist vs. #9 Siena

Saturday
#3 Loyola-Maryland vs. #6 Manhattan
#4 Iona vs. #5 Canisius
#2 Rider vs. #7/#10 Winner
#1 Niagara vs. #8/#9 Winner

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Re: Conference Tournament Betting Previews

Sun Belt Conference Tournament Betting Preview
By Andrew Lange
Sportsmemo.com

The Sun Belt Conference Tournament has a long history of craziness. Upsets happen with regularity, like last season when the top two seeds were bounced in their first game and the finals featured a No. 5 vs. No. 7 matchup. Of the last 12 teams to participate in the championship game, seven were a fourth seed or lower. On paper No. 1 Middle Tennessee State is as close to a lock as you can get to cut down the nets this conference tournament season. The Blue Raiders rolled through league play (14-2) last year and lost to No. 9 Arkansas State in the quarterfinals but this year’s edition is even stronger; a veteran club on a mission.

First Round Pick: North Texas

For much of the season, North Texas was an easy bet against. Longtime head coach Johnny Jones left for LSU, they had a ton of injuries, and Tony Mitchell underperformed. But the Mean Green have talent and a little bit of confidence having won four of six to close out the regular season. The also got point guard Chris Jones back. Jones missed practically all of January and February but returned and played the last two games. The low point of the season for NT was when it traveled to UL-Lafayette in late January and got blasted 105-74. They remember that game and now get the extremely youthful Ragin Cajuns away from the comforts of their home gym.

Darkhorse: Not to be lazy but you could make a case for practically every team. Western Kentucky, Arkansas State, and South Alabama likely stand the best chance because they are all opposite MTSU in the bracket. USA was probably the most impressive the back half of the schedule (6-2 SU) but could face a Western Kentucky team that would have been significantly better than 10-10 if not for injuries. Arkansas State plays stout defense and handed MTSU its only league loss. The Red Wolves do however struggle to score at times and shot 31.3% from three and 44.9% from two in Sun Belt play.

Winner: Middle Tennessee is so far ahead of anyone else that they may not be favored by less than -10 in any game. History says to expect the unexpected but it would be a shock not to see this team win – especially after last year's disaster.

Conference Play Breakdown

Best Offense - Middle Tennessee 1.09 ppp
Best Defense - Middle Tennessee 84.7 
Best 3-point - Middle Tennessee 39.9%
Best Free Throw - North Texas 72.5% 
Fastest - UL-Lafayette 70.3
Slowest - Troy 61.2

Schedule (All games in Little Rock, Ark.; Summit Arena and Convention Center)

Friday, March 8
#6 Western Kentucky vs. #11 UL-Monroe
#8 UL-Lafayette vs. #9 North Texas
#7 Florida Atlantic vs. #10 Troy

Saturday, March 9
#4 Florida International vs. #5 Arkansas-Little Rock
#1 Middle Tennessee vs. #8/#9 Winner
#3 South Alabama vs. #6/#11 Winner
#2 Arkansas State vs. #7/#10 Winner

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Re: Conference Tournament Betting Previews

Colonial Conference Tournament Betting Preview
By Andrew Lange
Sportsmemo.com

What a year for the Colonial! Perennial heavyweight VCU bolted for the A-10. Old Dominion, who won back-to-back tournament titles in 2010 and 2011 and reached the semifinals last year, went 5-25 and fired its coach midseason. Preseason favorite George Mason finished fifth. Towson went from 1-31 to 18-13 but can't play in the postseason due to poor grades. UNC-Wilmington is also ineligible. Georgia State is leaving for the Sun Belt so wasn't invited. As a result of those three teams being out, Hofstra (7-23, 4-13) got in. And Northeastern won the regular season title despite being one of the luckiest teams on the planet for a month-long stretch. With the exception of George Mason (2008) and James Madison (1994), the remainder of the field has exactly zero Colonial Conference tournament titles.

First Round Pick: Delaware played a tough non-conference schedule, battling with the likes of Villanova, Duke, Temple, Pitt, Virginia, and Kansas State. They acquitted themselves fairly well in those games and opened conference play 3-0 SU, 3-0 ATS. Unfortunately, it was the kiss of the death. The Blue Hens were arguably the best team in the league down the stretch (7-1) but despite being a relative newcomer to success, they were a money-burning 6-9 ATS. One of those spread losses came at Hofstra last week. You look at Hofstra’s record (7-24, 4-14) and immediately think the worst but its scoring margin in league play was only -6.3 in part because the Pride played at a slow pace and for the most defended. Against the three best teams in the league record-wise (Northeastern, Delaware, and Towson) Hofstra lost by margins of 5, 5, 1, 15, 3, and 7. All that despite setting basketball back four decades with an offense that averaged less than 0.90 points per possession. Playing with house money, the underdog may worth a look at anything +8 or above.

Darkhorse: Drexel went 2-6 against the top four seeds but all those games were close, including against top seed Northeastern who the Dragons will face should they get past George Mason. Now beating Mason won't be easy, but Drexel played better down the stretch and can offset a poor shooting night with defense and rebounding.

Winner: Like the MAAC, this league is the epitome of parity. Of all the conferences in the country, no one played more games (28%) decided by four points or fewer (or OT) than the Colonial. Whereas blowouts rarely if ever occur (the worst scoring margin in the league was -6.5). I called out Northeastern for some of its fortunes but some of it was a result of its ability to hit threes (41%) and free throws (79.5%). Those are two essentials when playing in games decided in the last two minutes.

Conference Play Breakdown

Best Offense - Georgia State 1.10 ppp
Best Defense - James Madison 97.1 ppp 
Best 3-point - Northeastern 41.0%
Best Free Throw - Northeastern 79.5% 
Fastest - Old Dominion 66.9
Slowest - Drexel 61.2

Schedule (All games at Richmond, Va.)

Saturday, March 9
#4 George Mason vs. #5 Drexel
#2 Delaware vs. #7 Hofstra
#3 James Madison vs. #6 William & Mary

Sunday, March 10
#1 Northeastern vs. #4/#5 Winner
#2/#7 Winner vs. #3/#6 Winner

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MAC Tournament Betting Preview
By Andrew Lange
Sportsmemo.com

As a result of Toledo's postseason ineligibility, this year's MAC Tournament format is pretty wild. Seeds 6-11 play at campus sites on Monday. The fifth seed, Ball State, received a bye into the second round. No. 4 Kent State and No. 3 Western Michigan received byes in the third round. And then top seeds, No. 1 Akron and No. 2 Ohio won't play until Friday in the semifinals. The big storyline of the tournament is the suspension of Akron point guard Alex Abreu. Heading into March, the Zips were off their second win over Ohio and in the at-large discussion with a stellar record of 23-4 and 13-0 in league play. Akron then lost at Buffalo, Abreu was busted for weed, and they suffered a devastating loss to Kent State at home in the regular season finale. The Zips are talented enough to overcome the loss of their star point guard and win two games but without him, they are far more vulnerable.

First Round Pick: Egads! Conference tournaments are a tough nut to crack and seemingly produce more random outcomes than any other situation in college basketball (If you have time, Google “Liberty” and “Middle Tennessee State” and you’ll know what I’m talking about). Here we have three teams, all of which with sub-.500 overall records and in league play, laying big points based on their pedigree. On the flip side however are three extremely ugly underdogs. Miami-Ohio is perhaps the most trusting in that the RedHawks played in that tougher East Division and were competitive in far more games than Central Michigan and Northern Illinois. Unfortunately, Miami will be without the services of Allen Roberts (Jr., 12.7 ppg) and Drew McGhee (Jr., 6-11) due to injury. And as scary as it is to lay -8.5 with Eastern Michigan, NIU's Abdel Nader is likely out due to personal reasons. In NIU's most recent two wins Nader scored 26 and 23 points. In both losses to EMU (53-41 and 42-25) Nader combined for 11 points and 9 turnovers. In the Huskies' three most recent games without Nader, they lost by 19 at home to an equally awful Central Michigan, by 24 at Toledo, and by 2 at Ball State (BSU shot 14-of-30 from the FT line). Pick your poison.

Darkhorse: By default, you need to look Kent State's way because if the Golden Flashes win their first game they face Akron. Yes, KSU took advantage of a shell-shocked Akron last time out, but back in mid-January, they lost to the Zips by only four. Since losing at Northern Illinois to close out January, KSU went 8-2 with the two losses by six at No. 3 Western Michigan and by three in overtime at No. 2 Ohio. Kent posted a league-best 1.08 ppp and 38.7% from three and while not as skilled or experienced as Akron or Ohio, there is enough talent to spring two upsets.

Tournament Winner: As bettors we are trained to take advantage of situations when overcompensations for injuries and suspensions occur. And in Akron’s case, yes, they are down a point guard but it shouldn’t blow anyone’s mind if they win two games. That being said, I can’t help but think of the importance of Abreu against Ohio’s DJ Cooper. In both regular season games against the Bobcats, Abreu was a huge difference maker with 37 points, 18 assists and six turnovers. Cooper had 40 points but a more modest 10 assists and 7 turnovers. Without Abreu, Cooper's productivity is likely to go up whereas a significant part of Akron's is now gone. If there was ever a team to capitalize on Abreu's absence, it’s the Bobcats who are one of the most experienced teams in the country. Note that in last year's title game (Ohio won 64-63), Cooper went off for 23 points and six assists. Abreu wasn't shabby either, finishing 8-of-8 from the floor, 6-of-7 from the line, and dishing out seven assists.

Conference Play Breakdown 

Best Offense - Kent State 1.08 ppp 
Best Defense - Akron 92.8 ppp   
Best 3-point - Kent State 38.7% 
Best Free Throw - Bowling Green 72.7% (Toledo 75.4%)
Fastest - Ohio 68.0
Slowest - Eastern Michigan 58.9

Schedule

Monday, March 11 (Campus Sites)
#9 Central Michigan vs. #8 Buffalo
#10 Northern Illinois vs. #7 Eastern Michigan
#11 Miami vs. #6 Bowling Green

Wednesday, March 13 (Cleveland)
#5 Ball State vs. #9/#8 Winner
#10/#7 Winner vs. #11 vs. #6 Winner

Thursday, March 14
#4 Kent State vs. #5/#9/#8 Winner
#3 Western Michigan vs. #10/#7/#11#6 Winner

Friday, March 15
#1 Akron vs. TBA
#2 Ohio vs. TBA

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Big East Tournament Betting Preview
By Rob Veno
Sportsmemo.com

This is the final Big East Tournament so especially expect the eight original members to bring complete focus and effort to their matchups. The 15-team league will only have a 14-team field since Connecticut’s low APR scores prevent them from participating. As always, multiple upsets are extremely possible. My power ratings indicate that on this Madison Square Garden neutral site floor there are eight teams separated by only 9.5 points. However, none of the bottom four teams playing in the first round appear capable of duplicating Connecticut’s Cinderella five-day run in 2011. That being said, there are teams playing on the second day that could repeat Louisville’s four-win run to the title as last year’s No. 7 seed. The top of this league possesses a lot of power and it’s possible that either No. 1 Georgetown or No. 2 Louisville could grab a top seed in the NCAA Tournament if they win this championship. Last season, the favorites were very strong here going 11-4 against the spread while totals went 5-10 O/U. Just to show how volatile the ATS results can be here in MSG, two years ago favorites were only 7-8 ATS and totals went 11-4 O/U.
   
First Round Pick: In what figures to open as a near pick ‘em game, siding with the No. 13 seed Bulls looks like a solid choice. Maybe I should re-phrase that and say that fading No. 12 Seton Hall looks like a solid choice. The Pirates have been a miserable 2-15 straight up since January 5 and only 6-11 ATS during that stretch. There are signs that this team is worn down. They’ve lost six of their last nine games by double-digits and six of their final seven to teams not named Rutgers. Meanwhile, USF seemed to find a spark at the end of the season. Their 83-73 home victory over DePaul eight days ago seems like a “so what” type of victory but the team quotes afterward were of excitement and desire to win more games. They subsequently defeated Connecticut by 14 albeit without star PG Shabazz Napier and then battled Cincinnati on the road before losing 61-53 but covering as a +12.5 underdog. Also note that in their only meeting this season, Seton Hall shot 53% on its home floor while holding USF to just 34% but still could only win by eight (55-47).These teams are separated by very little talent wise so confidence and situation are key. With South Florida playing better right now and having revenge from their earlier season meeting, look for the Bulls to get this first round win.   

Darkhorse: Let’s use any team outside of the top four seeds as the guideline for a darkhorse pick here. With that parameter, I’m going to go real deep and select No. 8 Providence. In a short tournament, Kemba Walker of UConn showed us a couple years back that a star player can catch fire and carry a team. The Friars have an explosive and experienced backcourt tandem in Vincent Council and Bryce Cotton which fits the bill. Junior Kadeem Batts provides PC with an interior scoring presence (19 ppg, last 8 games). Providence has the offensive scoring balance, defensive acumen (allow 41.5% FG and 28.7% 3s) and just enough depth to be considered a legitimate longshot in this tournament.           

Tournament Winner: They’re just too good defensively at this point and with 6-11 Gorgui Dieng protecting the rim, the Cards can shoot crooked and still win. Everybody they face will give them their best shot but UL’s half of the bracket sets up nicely. After a double bye, they’ll either get a young, depth shy St. John’s team or a revenge match with No. 7 Villanova. The semifinals would likely bring them a hand in glove type matchup with smallish No. 3 Marquette or another opportunity to repay No. 6 Notre Dame for that triple overtime fluke loss in South Bend five weeks ago. The championship game will be a grinder whether it against top seed Georgetown, No. 4 Pittsburgh, revenge minded No. 5 Syracuse or the winner of the No. 8/9 game. As poor as their shooting is most of the time, I believe Louisville will get enough layups, dunks and free throws to win the final version of the Big East Tournament.     

Conference Play Breakdown

Best Offense - Marquette 1.06 ppp   
Best Defense - Louisville 87.7 ppp   
Best 3-point - Kent State 38.7%   
Best Free Throw - Syracuse 74.3% (UConn 74.5%) 
Fastest - DePaul 70.2
Slowest - South Florida 59.5

Schedule (All games in New York)

Tuesday, March 12
#13 South Florida vs. #12 Seton Hall
$14 DePaul vs. #11 Rutgers

Wednesday, March 13
#9 Cincinnati vs. #8 Providence
#5 Syracuse vs. # 13/#12 Winner
#7 Villanova vs. #10 St. John's
#6 Notre Dame vs. #14/#11 Winner

Thursday, March 14
#1 Georgetown vs. #8/#9 Winner
#2 Louisville vs. #10/#7 Winner
#3 Marquette vs. TBA
#4 Pittsburgh vs. TBA

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WAC Tournament Betting Preview
By Ian Cameron
Sportsmemo.com

The WAC Tournament will be held at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas which is the same site as the WCC Tournament. It’ll be a 10-team field thanks to the additions of Denver, Seattle, UT-Arlington, UT-San Antonio, and Texas State. No. 1 seed Louisiana Tech was the class of this conference from start to finish but were exposed somewhat on a couple of very tough home courts, New Mexico State and Denver, to close out the regular season. The top six teams all receive byes to the quarterfinals – Louisiana Tech, Denver, New Mexico State, UTA, Utah State and Idaho. There will be two first round matchups on Tuesday with No. 7 Texas State vs. No. 10 Seattle and No. 8 San Jose State vs. No. 9 UTSA. On Thursday the 7-10 winner will play No. 2 Denver and the 8-9 winner will play No. 1 Louisiana Tech. Note that the off day on Wednesday due to the women's tournament may give the two lower seeded winners a slight boost.

First Round Pick: Texas-San Antonio beating San Jose State would be a minor upset only based on seed. The Spartans have been a disaster since mid-January – on a woeful 0-13 SU, 3-10 ATS run. Things fell apart when star guard James Kinney was suspended for the season for violating team rules and the Spartans have yet to win a game since Kinney’s departure. UTSA had its struggles too but there has been some improvement. The Roadrunners went 4-10 SU but a solid 7-6 ATS their last 14 games (one game wasn’t lined). They only lost by two points at home to No. 1 seed Louisiana Tech and posted decent wins over Idaho, Texas State and Seattle inside the conference. UTSA has been much better defensively of late allowing just 60 points per game on 42.3% shooting in their last five games while the Spartans have given up a dreadful 77.6 points per game on 50.2% shooting in their last five. Anything close to a pick ‘em price and I’m on UTSA.

Darkhorse: I’ll be honest in saying I wasn’t very impressed with UT-Arlington early in the season and I even cashed a few bets against them but the Mavericks have quietly flown under the radar and enter this tournament on an 8-3 SU, 7-4 ATS run in league play. Arlington nearly defeated Tech at home back in early January and got past New Mexico State at home, 68-47, so we know they are capable. They play a very grinding, methodical, slow paced style of basketball in order to hang around in games due to a lack of consistent scoring. Defensively, they allow just 61.8 points per game and own the 11th ranked FG% defense in the country at 38.2%. This is the perfect type of team to support in a conference tournament – not very sexy and an undervalued pointspread commodity. I think Arlington will take care of business in the quarterfinals against a Utah State team decimated by key injuries in the second half of the season. The Mavericks proved to be a bad matchup for Stew Morril’s squad going 2-0 during the regular season. Should they get past Utah State, UTA certainly has the potential to cause teams like Louisiana Tech, Denver and New Mexico State some problems in the semifinals and possibly beyond.

Winner: Denver has everything you want in a team that can win this type of tournament – great efficiency on both ends of the court. The Pioneers allowed just 55.1 points per game and boast the most efficient offense in the conference (1.13 ppp). They share the basketball, get everyone involved in the offense, and rarely fail to get a clean look at the basket. Denver isn’t loaded with upperclassmen – Chase Hallam is the lone senior starter – but they still have multi-year players with experience and talent such as Chris Udofia, Brett Olson and Royce O’Neale who were all named along with Hallam to the All-WAC team. If it comes down to Louisiana Tech and Denver and their identical 16-2 conference records in the finals, I think Denver will prove that the 78-54 beat down they handed to Tech on Saturday wasn’t a fluke. Louisiana Tech stumbled a bit down the stretch while Denver kept getting better. The Pioneers were nearly unbeatable notching a 16-2 SU and 13-4-1 ATS mark during the WAC regular season. We’ve seen hot and seemingly unbeatable teams during the regular season lose in their conference tournaments like Middle Tennessee in the Sun Belt last night but in the end, I still feel like Denver is the most complete team in this field and has the best chance to cut down the nets.

Conference Play Breakdown

Best Offense - Denver 1.13 ppp   
Best Defense - Denver 90.2 ppp   
Best 3-point - Denver 39.8%   
Best Free Throw - Idaho 75.5%
Fastest - Texas State 70.0
Slowest - Denver 58.6

Schedule (All games in Las Vegas)

Tuesday, March 12
#7 Texas State vs. #10 Seattle
#9 UT-San Antonio vs. #8 San Jose State

Thursday, March 14
#3 New Mexico State vs. #6 Idaho
#2 Denver vs. #7/#10 Winner
#1 Louisiana Tech vs. #8/#9 Winner
#4 UT-Arlington vs. # Utah State

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Re: Conference Tournament Betting Previews

C-USA Tournament Betting Preview
By Andrew Lange
Sportsmemo.com

Top seed Memphis has won six of the last seven conference tournaments but five of those were in the friendly confines of the FedEx Forum. This year's tournament is in Tulsa and the champion will have to win at least three games. Memphis didn't lose a regular season conference game and is obviously headed to the Big Dance regardless of this week's outcome. No. 2 seed Southern Miss is in the at-large discussion but it'll need no less than a title game appearance to be considered. Central Florida would have been the fourth seed but is ineligible for the postseason.

First Round Pick/Darkhorse: Name a team in college basketball that endured more emotional highs and lows than Marshall. You probably could drum up a similar situation but the Thundering Herd have been there and back and then some this season. What we know about this squad is that on any given day they can beat anyone in the league. Despite its 6-10 league record, Marshall swept Central Florida, just beat No. 2 seed Southern Miss (after losing to the Eagles by 56 in late January), and went on the road to Memphis and lost by 1. They have absolutely nothing to lose – and know it – and get a Tulane squad in the first round that is trending in the wrong direction with four straight losses to close out the regular season.

Tournament Winner: Memphis is without question the best team but the field has an advantage in that the Tigers may not put their heart and soul into winning three games in three days. Remember, five of Memphis' six conference tournament titles were at home. In 2011, in El Paso, the Tigers were the fourth seed and thus far more motivated. Here we get a potentially disinterested squad away from home where they have at times looked vulnerable. The key will be getting to Memphis early. If they win two games and reach the championship then there are no longer motivation concerns. Southern Miss had no answer defensively for Memphis' interior in both regular season meetings. UTEP has the defense and plays at the pace to keep Memphis from running wild but the Miners have had a difficult time shooting (and scoring) over Memphis' length. UTEP did however just provide the league with a blueprint on how to take down the Tigers – get out in transition on misses, work the clock off of makes, be physical, and get Tarik Black and Shaq Goodwin into foul trouble. Memphis deserves to be the heavy favorite but it wouldn't shock me to see them sent home early.

Conference Play Breakdown 

Best Offense - Southern Miss 1.11 ppp   
Best Defense - Memphis 90.6 ppp   
Best 3-point - Southern Miss 40.5%   
Best Free Throw - East Carolina 75.0 %   
Fastest - Memphis 70.1
Slowest - UTEP 61.3

Schedule (All games in Tulsa)

Wednesday, March 13
#7 UAB vs. #10 SMU
#6 Houston vs. #11 Rice
#8 Tulane vs. #9 Marshall

Thursday, March 14
#2 Southern Miss vs. #7/#10 Winner
#3 UTEP vs. #6/#11 Winner
#1 Memphis vs. #8/#9 Winner
#4 East Carolina vs. #5 Tulsa

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Re: Conference Tournament Betting Previews

Handicapping This Week's Major Conference Tournaments
By Covers.com

March Madness is already in full swing with many mid-major conferences already starting their postseason. Now it’s time for the big boys to get in on the fun.

Major conference tournaments begin this week and we take a look at the favorites and some live long shots to win the conference crowns.

ACC

Favorite: Duke -120 – The Blue Devils enter the postseason off three straight wins and could earn the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA with an ACC tournament title.

Upset watch: Virginia +700 – The Cavaliers have one of the best defenses in the country and have wins over the top teams in the conference. No. 4 seed Virginia is actually getting higher odds than No. 5 NC State (+400).

2012 tournament record: Favorites – 7-4 SU/5-6 ATS, Over/Under – 7-4

Big East

Favorite: Louisville +180 – The Cardinals captured a share of the Big East title and earned a No. 2 seed in the tiebreaker. Louisville comes into the tournament with the most momentum, winning seven in a row (5-2 ATS).

Upset watch: Marquette +600 – The Golden Eagles also took home a piece of the Big East season crown but got the short end of the straw in the tiebreaker as a No. 3 seed. Marquette plays great defense and shoots the ball well, two key components of winning the grueling conference tournament.

2012 tournament record: Favorites – 12-3 SU/11-4 ATS, Over/Under – 6-9

Big 12

Favorite: Kansas -150 – The Jayhawks took the tiebreaker over KSU but no seed is safe in this conference. Kansas, which lost its last game to Baylor, could face Oklahoma or Iowa State in its second game. The Sooners have a win over KU and ISU took Rock Chalk to OT in both meetings this season.

Upset watch: Iowa State +500 – The Cyclones can flat out score, averaging more than 80 points per game – fourth in the country. Iowa State is getting more respect from books as a No. 5 seed than OU, which is priced at +800 as a No. 4 seed, and is on par with No. 2 seed KSU (+500).

2012 tournament record: Favorites – 7-2 SU/7-2 ATS, Over/Under – 7-2

Big Ten

Favorite: Indiana +120 – The Hoosiers edged out Michigan this past weekend to secure the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament. Indiana, however, takes on the winner of Minnesota-Illinois – two teams that beat IU last month.

Upset watch: Ohio State +400 – The price tag seems a little slim to call Ohio State an upset to watch, but the No. 2 seed is the fourth overall favorite in the tournament. The Buckeyes strut into the postseason on a five-game winning streak, which included victories over IU and MSU (+300).

2012 tournament record: Favorites – 7-4 SU/6-5 ATS, Over/Under - 7-4

Pac-12

Favorite: UCLA/Arizona +260 – The Bruins and Wildcats have traded spots atop the Pac-12 all season, but it seems funny that the No. 4 Wildcats would be on par pricewise with No. 1 UCLA. Being the favorite doesn’t mean much in the most volatile conference in the land.

Upset watch: Colorado +500 – The Buffaloes took wins over the conference’s top teams but slipped up against weaker opponents, dragging Colorado down to a No. 5 seed. The loss of Andre Roberson (illness) is a big hit to take right before the postseason.

2012 tournament record: Favorites – 6-5 SU/5-6 ATS, Over/Under -3-8

SEC

Favorite: Florida -120 – The Gators limp into the SEC tournament after a loss to Kentucky in the season finale, going 2-2 SU in their final four games. Florida waits for the winner of LSU-Georgia in the quarterfinals.

Upset watch: Kentucky +800 – Could last weekend’s win over UF be the Wildcats’ wakeup call? Kentucky may need to win the entire SEC tourney to secure a place among the field of 68 NCAA teams. You won’t find a more talented underdog in the country.

2012 tournament record: Favorites – 8-3 SU/4-7 ATS, Over/Under – 6-5

Mountain West

Favorite: New Mexico +125 – The Lobos secured a No. 1 seed but took their foot off the gas in the final week of the schedule. New Mexico lost to Air Force in the finale, which could serve as a jolt of reality before the postseason.

Upset watch: Boise State +800 – Las Vegas has become a second home for BSU teams in the postseason. The Broncos won five of their final six contests, with the one loss coming by four points at UNLV. Boise State has wins over SDSU, CSU, UNLV and lost to New Mexico in OT this season.

2012 tournament record: Favorites – 6-1 SU/4-3 ATS, Over/Under – 4-3

Atlantic 10

Favorite: Saint Louis +200 – The Billikens could nail down a nice seed in the NCAA with a tournament win. Saint Louis has been one of the hottest teams in the country, going 12-1 SU and ATS in its last 13 conference tilts.

Upset watch: Butler +600 – If any program knows how to get the job done in March, it’s Butler. The Bulldogs slid back to a No. 5 seed but entered the postseason off back-to-back wins. They open versus Dayton Thursday.

2012 tournament record: Favorites – 7-4 SU/5-6 ATS, Over/Under – 7-4

C-USA

Favorite: Memphis -125 – The Tigers are head and shoulders the top team in the C-USA, but Josh Pastner’s young roster could be looking ahead to the NCAA and get caught with their shorts down in the conference tournament.

Upset watch: Southern Mississippi +225 – The Golden Eagles earned the No. 2 seed in the C-USA tournament and will more than likely need to win the whole thing in order to make the cut for the NCAA tournament. But if coach Donnie Tyndall – formerly of Morehead State - knows one thing, it’s upsets.

2012 tournament record: Favorites – 9-2 SU/8-3 ATS, Over/Under – 6-9

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Re: Conference Tournament Betting Previews

Big XII Tournament Betting Preview
By Otto Sports
Sportsmemo.com

The Big XII Tournament will get under way Wednesday evening at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO. Arrivals and departures over the past couple of seasons have transformed the conference entirely. Once a solid top two or three power conference I’d say they’ve dropped a few spots with their current roster. Texas and West Virginia’s struggles this season have certainly been a big reason for the drop but losing solid contributors like Texas A&M, Missouri and Colorado while adding TCU really hurts (at least for basketball). Still there is some quality here with Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Oklahoma all ranked in the top 50 in KenPom’s rankings and all five having a legit claim at a berth in the NCAA Tournament. One more team, Baylor, could potentially sneak in to the Big Dance with a deep run to the finals. I don’t see any of the bottom four – Texas, WVU, Texas Tech or TCU – making a championship run so at max I see the Big XII as a five- or six-bid league. Kansas has been a historically dominant force in this tournament having won five of the last seven overall. No current member outside of the Jayhawks has won this championship since Oklahoma State back in 2005.

First Round: Coming up with a rhyme or reason for any one of these bottom four teams to win a game on Wednesday seems like a waste of time and potentially money. They’ve just been so erratic. TCU has won exactly two games in the conference but those wins came against the No.1 and No.4 seeds. WVU hasn’t won a Big XII game since mid-February when it coincidentally defeated Texas Tech by two points while failing to cover as 13.5-point favorites. Texas probably qualifies as the hottest of this putrid bunch having won 50% of its final ten games of the season and do own two SU and ATS wins over TCU so perhaps they can make it a perfect three-for-three come Wednesday. Still, the Longhorns’ defense has been dreadful since Myck Kabongo was reinstated as they’ve transformed into a higher tempo, offensive minded squad rather than one forced to clamp down on defense. In the eight games since Kabongo made his debut Texas is 7-1 over the posted total. While TCU has a reputation as a slow and pathetic offensive team, the OVER (114.5 as of Tuesday morning) may be worth a shot again.

Dark Horse: As I said earlier I don’t expect any of the bottom four to make a championship run in this tournament which leaves the top six to choose from. Baylor, Iowa State and Oklahoma are the only unranked teams in that top six so we’ll eliminate KU, KSU and OSU from darkhorse contention. Of the three I think Iowa State is the most dangerous. The Cyclones have solid upperclassmen presence, great guard play, they take care of the basketball, and sports a killer three-point shooting profile. This team takes and makes a ton of three-point shots and if hot can beat anyone in the field.

Tournament Winner: For me, even though they were embarrassed last Saturday, Kansas is still the class of this conference and should win the tournament. They’ve got nine wins over the KenPom top 50, they’ve proven they can win away from home, and they play exceptional defense. While their offense can be hit or miss this team as a whole can weather a storm and still win strictly with defense and there aren’t many others in the Big XII (if any) that can say that. Pedigree shines through once more as the Jayhawks win their ninth title.

Conference Play Breakdown   

Best Offense - Iowa State 1.12 ppp   
Best Defense - Kansas 91.5 90.6 ppp     
Best 3-point - Iowa State 39.1%   
Best Free Throw - Oklahoma 77.4%   
Fastest - Oklahoma State 68.3 
Slowest - TCU 62.1

Schedule (All games in Kansas City)

Wednesday, March 13
#8 West Virginia vs. #9 Texas Tech
#7 Texas vs. #10 TCU

Thursday, March 14
#1 Kansas vs. #8/#9 Winner
#4 Oklahoma vs. #5 Iowa State
#3 Oklahoma State vs. #6 Baylor
#2 Kansas State vs. #7/#10 Winner

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Re: Conference Tournament Betting Previews

Big Sky Tournament Betting Preview
By Andrew Lange
Sportsmemo.com

The format of the Big Sky Tournament changes seemingly every year. Last year, only six teams made the field and the first round were at campus sites. The semifinals were at top seed Montana and the Grizzlies defeated second seed Weber State, 85-66, in the finals. This year sets up for an identical scenario with Montana hosting and Weber once again the No. 2 seed. After the first round they reseed the teams with Montana playing the lowest remaining seed in the semifinals.

First Round Pick: Southern Utah/North Dakota Over

I'm not usually looking to play neutral site conference tournament games over the total but both teams have obviously played in Montana's gym – which is normal in terms of back drop and depth perception – and I'm confident that pace of the game will be fairly high. In the two regular season meetings, SUU and ND hit 72 and 70 possessions. Both teams score and allow about a point per possession which gives us a raw score around 140. In the first meeting, SUU won 79-67 and like a lot of lower-level Big Sky games – because a lot these teams don't defend particularly well – there were 45 free throw attempts. In the last meeting, ND won 68-61, and again, there were 48 free throws. What kept the game below 130 was the remarkably low offensive efficiency – even for these two squads. Both teams combined for 27-of-75, 36% from 2-point range. The four best players on the court, all of which earned all-conference honors, SUU's Jackson Stevenett and Damon Heuir and ND's Troy Huff and Aaron Anderson went a combined 11-of-44 from the floor and netted only 34 points (Anderson only played 4 minutes and is probable with a concussion). In the first meeting, Huff didn't play and Stevenett, Heuir, and Anderson combined for 50 points. If we get something in between both meetings, and the projected pace, we cash the over.

Darkhorse: The gap between Montana and Weber and the rest of the Big Sky is astronomical. Both teams went a combined 34-1 SU vs. in games not against one another. So if someone outside of the top two wins this tournament it would be a massive upset. Out of the five-team pool, Northern Colorado looks to have the most upside. The Bears won six of their finals seven in league play and have enough offensive talent (1.08 ppp, 40.1% 3pt.) to potentially spring an upset or two.

Tournament Winner: It isn't by much but I think Weber State is the best team in the league, especially now that Montana is without the services of Mathias Ward (14.8 ppg). Will Cherry, Montana's veteran point guard and Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year, is also banged up. But, winning in Missoula has been damn near impossible for opposing Big Sky teams. The last time Montana lost to a conference opponent on its home court was February of 2010. That is tough to go against. Assuming it's a Montana vs. Weber State final, I'd love to get Weber at +2 or more but I expect to see a near pick 'em type game.

Schedule (All games in Missoula, Mont.)

Thursday, March 14
#2 Weber State vs. #7 Northern Arizona
#3 North Dakota vs. #6 Southern Utah
#4 Montana State vs. #5 Northern Colorado

Friday
#1 Montana vs. lowest remaining seed
Highest remaining seed vs. 2nd highest remaining seed

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Re: Conference Tournament Betting Previews

PAC-12 Tournament Betting Preview
By Teddy Covers
Sportsmemo.com

The PAC-12 received only one at-large bid from the tournament selection committee last year.  That was at least partially the result of the numerous upsets in the PAC-12 tournament, where No. 6 seed Colorado beat No. 4 seed Arizona 53-51 in the Final. This year, UCLA, Oregon and Arizona are “locks” to make the Big Dance, and both Cal and Colorado are in good shape to get a bid as well.  As a result, the PAC-12’s first tournament here at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas isn’t as crucial for many of the top seeds as it was last year.

The PAC-12 lacks elite teams, but they don’t have any true bottom feeders in the conference either.  Arizona spent most of the season as the highest ranked PAC-12 team in the polls, but the Wildcats slumped down the stretch, losing four of their last eight games, including three out of four away from home.  UCLA enters the postseason near the bottom of the top 25.  Oregon spent a good portion of the season ranked, but the Ducks’ 5-6 SU mark down the stretch has left them in the “others receiving votes” category as tournament play begins.  It’s clear that there is no clear-cut favorite to cut down the nets.

The bottom of the PAC-12 is capable of pulling an upset or two (or three, for that matter).  Utah, Oregon State and Washington State were the only three teams to finish with sub .500 records in conference play.  But Utah knocked off Oregon State and Oregon at home last weekend; entering the tourney with some legitimate positive momentum.  Washington State upset UCLA and USC last weekend; another team with real momentum.  And even Oregon State closed out the regular season with a road win at Colorado on senior day for the Buffaloes.  There’s not a “dead” team in the bunch!

The pointspreads clearly show there’s not a huge difference between the contenders and the bottom feeders in this tournament.  All four first round games are lined at -4.5 or less, although it looks like Colorado is going to take money against Oregon State now that leading rebounder and third leading scorer Andre Roberson has been upgraded to probable after missing the last two games due to a bout of mono.   The Buffs are in a short turnaround revenge situation, but it’s surely worth noting that both regular season meetings were decided by exactly four points.  It’s also worth noting that Colorado had only one win away from home in conference play by more than four points; back in January in Pullman.

First Round Pick: Stanford I’ll be giving Stanford a good look as short chalk (-3.5 at the opener) against Arizona State.  The Cardinal won the NIT last year and their quotes all season long tell us clearly that they have absolutely zero desire to return to the NIT again in 2013.  Johnny Dawkins’ squad has underachieved to their talent level for a good portion of the season, and the Cardinal clearly looked disinterested down the stretch, knowing full well that their Big Dance dreams would require them to win this tournament to get the automatic bid.  They played well in preparation for the tourney last weekend, including an impressive road win at Cal.   The Cardinal are big and bulky in the paint, with Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis blocking shots and cleaning up on the boards.  Point guard Aaron Bright didn’t lose a single turnover in either game last weekend, and sharpshooter Chasson Randle can score from anywhere on the floor.  Their first round opponent, Arizona State, was a surprise team back in January, but Herb Sendek’s Sun Devils dropped seven of their last ten regular season games and looked gassed in their non-competitive loss at arch-rival Arizona over the weekend.

Darkhorse: Stanford As I wrote above, the team with the most motivation of any coming into the weekend is Stanford and they have the talent level to back up their motivation.  I’d definitely rate the Cardinal as a legitimate darkhorse candidate to win the whole thing and steal a bid.

Tournament Winner: Arizona Arizona and UCLA are the two best teams in the conference.  But Ben Howland hasn’t put his full effort and attention on the PAC-12 tourney throughout his tenure in Westwood – the Bruins haven’t won more than a single game in this tournament since 2008, and even in that tournament victory they failed to cover the spread in two of their three games.  Arizona, on the other hand, came up a bucket short of a PAC-12 tournament title last year and a bucket short (in overtime) of the tournament title in 2011 as well.  I’ll call for the Sean Miller’s squad to get over the hump and win the tourney this year.

Conference Play Breakdown

Best Offense - Arizona 1.06 ppp   
Best Defense - Colorado 95.5 ppp     
Best 3-point - Stanford 41.1%   
Best Free Throw - Stanford 74.4%   
Fastest - UCLA 69.3 
Slowest - Washington State 63.1

Schedule (All games in Las Vegas)

Wendesday, March 13
#8 Stanford vs. #9 Arizona State
#5 Colorado vs. #12 Oregon State
#7 USC vs. #10 Utah
#6 Washington vs. #11 Washington State

Thursday, March 14
#1 UCLA vs. #8/#9 Winner
#4 Arizona vs. #5/#12 Winner
#2 California vs. #7/#10 Winner
#3 Oregon vs. #6/#12 Winner

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Re: Conference Tournament Betting Previews

Mountain West Tournament Betting Preview
By Alatex Sports
Sportsmemo.com

The Mountain West Conference Tournament features nine teams, with five of them in position to earn an NCAA berth. As a result, this year’s tournament should be a wide open affair. The contenders include top seed New Mexico, No. 2 Colorado State, No. 3 (and host) UNLV, No. 4 San Diego State and No. 5 Boise State. The Aztecs have had the most success in the tournament in recent years with four straight championship game appearances and two titles including last year.
 
First Round Pick: Air Force Air Force had a surprising 8-8 finish in the conference, just two games behind UNLV’s 10-6 mark. They also played UNLV very tough, beating the Rebels by 15 on their home court and falling in overtime here back in January. UNLV was 7-1 SU on its home court in conference play, but covered just twice and won by more than 10 just twice, against bottom feeders Nevada and Wyoming. They lost their last home game to Fresno State and also struggled to beat Boise State in their next to last game, winning by just four. Air Force did have some poor efforts away from home this year, but did have home wins against New Mexico, San Diego State and Boise State in addition to its win over UNLV. They will not be overmatched in this one, and given the way that UNLV seems to play to their level of opponent, I see no reason to expect a blowout here and would not be shocked at an outright upset.
 
Darkhorse: Boise State Of the top five teams in the league, Boise’s position in the field of 68 is the most precarious. They have a solid resume, but no history and no name recognition, so they could benefit the most from a strong run in the tournament. They have proven that they can beat anyone in the conference, and have had some solid efforts on the road as well as at home. They almost knocked off UNLV here last week despite not getting anything from their best player, point guard Derrick Marks, who was saddled with foul trouble the entire game. They played two close games with San Diego State, their first round opponent, winning at home and losing by one on the road. They are a solid No. 5 seed with a great opportunity to win this tournament.
 
Tournament Winner: New Mexico If Boise doesn’t get the job done it will be because they couldn’t get past New Mexico in the semifinals. If that is the case, New Mexico is my pick to cut down the nets. They were the regular season champs and the one team that proved that they could beat the other contenders on the road as well as at home. I wouldn’t make them much of a favorite, however, simply because of the strength at the top of this conference. Like UNLV, Colorado State and San Diego State, the Lobos know that they are already in the Big Dance, so there is no extra motivation. All in all, this should be one of the best conference tournaments of the year, with a solid group of players and teams.

Conference Play Breakdown

Best Offense - Colorado State 1.12 ppp   
Best Defense - New Mexico 93.3 ppp   
Best 3-point - Boise State 37.5% 
Best Free Throw - Air Force 77.4%   
Fastest - UNLV 66.3
Slowest - Wyoming 59.2

Schedule (All games in Las Vegas)

Tuesday, March 12
#8 Wyoming vs. #9 Nevada

Wednesday, March 13
#3 UNLV vs. #6 Air Force 
#2 Colorado State vs. #7 Fresno State
#1 New Mexico vs. #8/#9 Winner
#4 San Diego State vs. #5 Boise State

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Re: Conference Tournament Betting Previews

Atlantic-10 Tournament Betting Preview
By Teddy Covers
Sportsmemo.com

The Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament has moved from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, home of the Nets for the 2013 season.  This conference got four Big Dance bids last year (Xavier, who made a run all the way to the Sweet 16, along with Saint Louis, St. Bonaventure and Temple).  They should get four teams into the mix this year – Saint Louis, VCU, Temple and Butler – and a fifth team, LaSalle, is live to get an at large bid if it doesn’t earn an auto-bid from winning the tourney title.

Last year the top seeds didn’t bring much intensity to the A-10 tournament, knowing that their Big Dance bids were already secure.  No. 1 seed Temple lost in their first game, as did No. 2 Saint Louis, and No. 4 seed St Bonaventure won the title in an 11-point win over Xavier on Selection Sunday.  I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if we saw a similar no-show from some of the top seeds this year!

First Round Pick: Xavier The bottom three teams in the standings – Rhode Island, Fordham and Duquesne – were all true bottom feeders this year.  The A-10 tournament structure allows only 12 of the 16 teams in the conference to participate, so none of the true “bet against” squads will be playing, and St. Bonnie lost its chance for a repeat tourney run with a home loss to Fordham on the final day of the regular season.

That leaves some compelling first round matchups!  All four first round games are lined at -4.5 or less – we can expect plenty of drama and perhaps a last second buzzer beater or two.  My clients and I cashed several tickets betting against Charlotte down the stretch, but the 49ers snapped their losing streak with back-to-back wins over the final weekend of the season; not a “dead team walking” heading into this weekend’s action.

The early money has shown for St. Joe’s against Xavier – Phil Martelli’s Hawks are 1-point favorites in that first round matchup as I write this preview.  I’m not buying that the Musketeers should be the dog in this matchup.  Xavier has been an undervalued commodity for most of the season, riding a 12-5 ATS run into the tourney.  Over the last two weeks, they played heavyweights VCU and Butler down the final possession, both games coming on the road.  Yes, their backcourt is very young with starters frosh Semaj Christon and sophomore Dee Davis.  But with low post force Travis Taylor and sharpshooter Brad Redford draining open looks on the perimeter, I expect Xavier to get out of the first round with a win over a St. Joe’s team that lost its last five away from home both SU and ATS.

Darkhorse: Xavier I used Xavier as my first round pick, and I’ll pick them as my darkhorse contender to cut down the nets on Sunday as well.  The Musketeers have a long history of playing well in the A-10 tournament, including last year’s trip to the championship game, and they haven’t lost an A-10 tournament game by more than two points in regulation since 2008!  They’ve beaten top notch foes like Saint Louis and Memphis in the last two weeks alone; capable of making a big run this weekend in an effort to steal a Big Dance bid.

Tournament Winner: VCU I hesitate to bet against St Louis, VCU or Butler; three teams that are quite capable of competing on a national stage.  But the Billikens, Bulldogs and Rams have their Big Dance bids already locked up; all currently projected as No. 6 seeds or higher.  I’m not convinced we’ll see maximum effort for any of the three.  But I’ll call for this deep, defensive minded VCU squad to be the best of the three in this tournament.  The Rams have shown they can dominate Butler and they’re certainly going to remember their ugly loss in Saint Louis should they meet up with the Billikens in the final.

Conference Play Breakdown

Best Offense - VCU 1.13 ppp 
Best Defense - Saint Louis 92.0 ppp   
Best 3-point - Dayton 40.9%
Best Free Throw - St. Bonaventure 81.4% 
Fastest - UMass 68.9
Slowest - St. Joe's 62.8

Schedule (All games in Brooklyn)

Thursday, March 14
#8 Richmond vs. #9 Charlotte
#5 Butler vs. #12 Dayton
#7 Xavier vs. #10 St. Joe's
#6 UMass vs. #11 George Washington

Friday, March 15
#1 Saint Louis vs. #8/#9 Winner
#2 VCU vs. #7/#10 Winner
#3 Temple vs. #6/#11 Winner
#3 La Salle vs. #5/#12 Winner

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Re: Conference Tournament Betting Previews

SEC Tournament Betting Preview
By Alatex Sports
Sportsmemo.com

This year’s SEC Tournament is being played at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. All 14 teams are in action including SEC newcomers Texas A&M and Missouri. Of the 14 teams, only top seeded Florida is assured of a spot in the NCAA Tournament. There are currently no fewer than six SEC teams are on the bubble for the Big Dance – Kentucky, Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas and Ole Miss. Of those teams, all of them have at least one bye, with only Arkansas playing before the quarterfinals. Kentucky has dominated the SEC tournament recently and historically, winning 27 times and reaching the finals in each of the last three years with two titles. Top-seed Florida hasn’t won since 2007, reaching the finals just once in the past five years.
 
First Round pick: Arkansas This is a huge game for the Razorbacks, who will still have work to boost their résumé should they get past the Commodores. Arkansas, like many SEC teams, played well at home but struggled on the highwat. Their series with Vandy was typical of their results; they beat Vandy 56-33 at home and lost 67-49 on the road. Even though this game is being played on Nashville, it is a neutral court and there won’t be an overwhelming crowd in the Commodores’ favor. Arkansas has more talent than Vandy, which has really struggled to score due to their lack of talent. The price is right as the Razorbacks move on to the next round.
 
Darkhorse: Kentucky It seems illogical for the No. 2 seed to be a darkhorse, but considering the gap between Florida and the rest of the league, everyone is a candidate. I think Kentucky has the best chance outside of the Gators. The Wildcats are young, flawed, and certainly miss Nerlens Noel. However they still have the most talent in the conference save for Florida. The win over the Gators in the regular season finale shows their capabilities and they certainly have a head coach with a proven track record in the postseason.

Winner: Florida The Gators are unquestionably the best team in the conference, and playing on a neutral court, they are substantial favorites to win this tourney. The season ending loss at Kentucky should give them solid motivation entering the tournament along with the fact that they are a senior laden group that has yet to win an SEC tourney. They also have a fairly easy bracket to the finals, with either LSU or Georgia and then Tennessee or Alabama. They have also gotten healthy, which gives them some depth, something that no other team in the league has. It should be a fairly easy road to the championship for the Gators.

Conference Play Breakdown 

Best Offense - Florida 1.13 ppp 
Best Defense - Florida 85.3 ppp   
Best 3-point - Florida 39.2% 
Best Free Throw - Missouri 76.0%
Fastest - Ole Miss 69.5
Slowest - Vanderbilt 61.2

Schedule (All games in Nashville)

Wednesday, March 13
#13 Mississippi State vs. #12 South Carolina
#14 Auburn vs. #11 Texas A&M

Thursday, March 14
#9 LSU vs. #8 Georgia
#5 Tennessee vs. #12/#13 Winner
#10 Vanderbilt vs. #7 Arkansas
#6 Missouri vs. #11/#14 Winner

Friday, March 15
#1 Florida vs. ##8/#9 Winner
#4 Alabama vs. TBA
#2 Kentucky vs. #7/#10 Winner
#3 Ole Miss vs. TBA

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