Conference Tournament Week: 11 Teams to Bet Ahead of March Madness

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Indiana basketball is a popular betting target with March Madness on the horizon.
(AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
Chase Kiddy @chaseakiddy Mar 06, 2023, 4:10 PM
  • Teams like Vanderbilt have flown under the radar for weeks.
  • Other teams, like Indiana and Texas A&M, may become overvalued.
  • Mid-major teams like South Alabama and Northern Arizona are hot.

Conference tournaments have been underway for several days now, but this is the week where online sports betting experts start to key into what’s happening.

While conferences like the Missouri Valley and Sun Belt started determining their automatic bids last week, major names like the ACC, Big 12 and SEC will begin their conference tournaments this week.

Bet on March Madness

March Madness doesn’t just start with the First Four in Dayton.  With virtually every Division I team participating in a conference tournament, hoping to win an NCAA Tournament berth, the time to start betting on March Madness is right now.

With that in mind, I’m highlighting about a dozen teams to pay attention to this week for one reason or another.

In some cases, these programs are playing well right now but might be flying below the radar.

In other cases, they might be teams whose market value may have outpaced their worth, which could make them a valuable fade target.

South Alabama Basketball

South Alabama is listed at the top because the Jaguars will play in the Sun Belt championship game Monday night, so there’s a pretty fast turnaround on this information.

South Alabama is a No. 8 seed in the Sun Belt tournament, but it’s playing like a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Jaguars are playing with confidence and shooting the lights out of the ball. 

In the quarterfinal, the No. 8 seed Jags closed as a pick ‘em against regular-season champion Southern Miss. They won going away, 78-61.

In the semifinals, they opened as nominal favorites over No. 4 seed JMU before the market started to bet the Dukes. 

Now, against the No. 2 seed, USA opened as a pick ‘em against No. 2 Louisiana. The market is once against fading South Alabama, but I’m not sure that’s wise at this point.

I’d consider South Alabama on Monday night. If they win, mark them down as a very dangerous team next week. 

UConn Basketball

UConn has been on a real roller coaster ride this season. One of the last undefeated teams left in college basketball at Christmas, UConn suddenly went 3-6 in a bad four-week stretch from New Year’s Eve through the end of January.

The Huskies rose to the top of the college basketball national championship odds board, then abruptly fell out of the AP Top 25 altogether.

But UConn has quietly put the pieces back together through the late season, winning eight of its last 10 games. Their 7-3 ATS mark over that same span with double-digit wins over Villanova, Providence and Marquette.

The top of the Big East is dangerous, but few teams are showing better form right now than UConn.

Texas A&M Basketball

From a betting market perspective, Texas A&M is a very interesting team right now. The Aggies flew under the radar all year – they only just got AP Top 25 recognition a couple of weeks ago – but likely reached their value peak right at the end of the regular season.

Over the weekend, A&M clinched the No. 2 spot in the SEC Tournament with an emphatic, statement-making win over Alabama.

I could be wrong, but a win over Alabama just before the SEC conference tournament begins could be inflationary when it comes to how A&M is priced in the single-game betting market. 

The Aggies have been available for great value all season, but if the numbers are too high this week, don’t be afraid to bet against them. This could be an excellent sell-high spot.

Pitt Basketball

Pour some out for the Panthers. Pittsburgh is 6-3 straight up (and 6-3 ATS) since the start of February, and it could have clinched a share of the ACC regular season championship with a win at Miami over the weekend.

Instead of a victory, Pitt lost 78-76. And because the top of the ACC is so tight, the one-possession loss for in-contention Pitt drops them all the way to the No. 5 seed for this week’s ACC Tournament.

Pitt’s misfortune could be a savvy market bettor’s gain. Pitt should play the winner of Florida State and Georgia Tech, a game in which it will be the far better (and likely more motivated) team. 

No one will know the number on this game until Tuesday or Wednesday, but if it’s a reasonable price, Pitt is a great buy-low candidate.

Indiana Basketball

Indiana posted one of the most impressive late-season runs of any team in college basketball, surging through Big Ten play with a 6-3 record over its final nine games.

However, the problem with Indiana seems to be that everyone noticed how good they were. That partially accounts for why the Hoosiers were just 4-5 ATS down the stretch. 

Indiana will be a trendy pick to win the Big Ten tournament, but I see the Hoosiers as more of a game-by-game fade target. When Indiana takes the court this week, I’m interested in leveraging the growing market appetite in my favor. 

If the number is right, I’ll be looking to take the points and go against Indiana. 

Iona Basketball

Iona, which you may know better as that one school where Rick Pitino is the head coach, is riding an active 11-game winning streak into the MAAC conference tournament. 

But if the MAAC is known for anything, it’s known for crazy upsets. (See also: Peacocks, Saint Peter’s.)

Iona is a tournament regular, and no one will be surprised if the Gaels are back in the bracket. But conference tournament games are almost always competitive, and bettors are likely to lay heavy juice with Iona in the MAAC conference tournament. There could be some value in going the other way. 

Conference USA Sleepers: UAB and North Texas

Florida Atlantic has spent several weeks in the AP Top 25 this week. That brings a lot of good publicity to a mid-major brand, but it also brings a lot of visibility and casual impetus to bettors. 

As a result, FAU has laid big prices in the spreads market over the latter half of the season. The Owls started the season 11-1 ATS; it finished 4-6 ATS through its final 10 games of the regular season.

There’s little doubt that Florida Atlantic is the class of Conference USA, but don’t sleep on UAB and North Texas, who are a combined 19-3 straight up across their last 11 games apiece. 

Every year, it seems, there’s a great mid-major team that gets left out of the NCAA Tournament because it didn’t win its conference tournament and got squeezed off the bubble by high-majors. 

Could we see that this year in Conference USA? Maybe. Either way, I’ll look for betting opportunities in the Conference USA tournament with North Texas and UAB.

Vanderbilt Basketball

The Commodores are one of the best P5 sleepers going right now. After an uninspiring start to the season, Vanderbilt is 8-1 straight up since February 1 with five outright wins as an underdog. 

The Commodores are playing really good ball. On Thursday, they’ll draw the winner of Georgia vs. LSU in the SEC Tournament. 

Depending on the number, I’ll be looking to hit Vanderbilt hard in that spot, as well as ensuing tournament games against potentially higher seeds. 

Oral Roberts Basketball

Remember when Oral Roberts shocked Ohio State as a No. 15 seed two years ago? Well, the Golden Eagles are back with another really good team, and they smashed through the Summit League with an 18-0 conference record to prove it.

Because of how the Summit League styles its conference tournament, No. 1 seed Oral Roberts has a bye through to the semifinals. But once it’s finally forced to take the court and play on… well, what do you think the point spread for a team undefeated in conference play is going to look like? 

If given a good number, I’ll be looking to take the points against Oral Roberts.

Northern Arizona Basketball

Northern Arizona was the big winner on Twitter on Sunday night, taking out the No. 1 seed in the Big Sky tournament in Eastern Washington with a great buzzer-beater.

While bettors are likely to consider this a byproduct of March chaos, NAU has played really well for weeks now, posting a 10-6 ATS record in January and February with five outright underdog wins.

If NAU continues to get healthy spreads in the Big Sky tournament – it closed at +7.5 against Eastern Washington – the Lumberjacks will remain a great bet. 

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About the Author

Chase Kiddy

Read More @chaseakiddy

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.