This article will hopefully lead you down a path toward cashing in on some of the conference championships. It is a challenging week for bettors because some teams lay low knowing they already have a spot in the big dance, while others play especially hard because they may need a win or two to get in. Included are some “sleeper” teams that are playing well at the right time of the year or may just get hot at the right time.
Big East Tournament
Seton Hall +300
The Wildcats are the favorite here because they are a good team, but mainly because of their past history in conference tourney play. Creighton with its sweep of Seton Hall became the No. 1 seed in the tournament for the first time since joining the Big East. The Bluejays are only 6-5 on the road this season and winning the regular-season title might just be enough for them as they are probably a 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament regardless. Seton Hall was 7-2 in the Big East on the road thanks in part to guard Myles Powell, who averages 22 points a game.
Sleepers: Marquette & Providence
Marquette has lost six of its last seven but has a player in Markus Howard (28 ppg) who can carry a team to the title game. The Eagles also are 12th in the country in three-point shooting and 21st in rebounds per game. Providence has won six games in a row and guard Luwane Pipkins, who averages only 11 points per game, has been on a tear, scoring 12, 23, 27 and 24 points in his last four games.
Big East Sportsbook: Seton Hall
Big 12 Tournament
West Virginia +550
Texas Tech +800
Kansas and head coach Bill Self just closed out winning another regular-season title on a wave of winning 16 straight games. Baylor has had a wonderful season but has lost three of its last five games and one of those two wins was in overtime at home.
Sleeper: Texas Tech
The Red Raiders get the Texas Longhorns on Thursday in first-round action. Texas Tech just lost two tough games this past week, to Baylor in overtime and to Kansas after being tied with a minute to go in the game. In fact, Texas Tech has lost four in a row, but before that had won five of its previous six games. This is a shot in the dark but let us not forget that the Red Raiders played in the national championship game last year and show some moxie. They play great and play their way into the NCAAs.
Big 12 Sportsbook: Texas Tech
Florida State +275
NC State +1300
North Carolina +4000
Duke is only 3-3 in its last six games but Vernon Carey Jr. and Tre Jones have the capabilities to bring home a championship. The two have combined for 34 points, 13 boards and eight assists a game. Florida State has a lot to play for considering it could still get a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if Dayton were to slip. I get the feeling everyone has written off the defending champs, which isn’t a smart thing to do. Virginia has won 11 of 12 and has held its last five opponents to 56, 53, 50, 44 and 54 points.
Sleeper: North Carolina
The Tar Heels’ season has been disappointing but they do have wins against Oregon, Alabama and UCLA. They average the second-most rebounds per game in the nation and Roy Williams gets Virginia Tech in the first round (a team UNC lost to by just two points in Blacksburg, Virginia). The only way UNC will get to the big dance is by winning the ACC tourney so look for the Tar Heels to play spirited and loose. UNC has played extremely tough the past month and playing in the state of North Carolina, you just never know.
ACC Sportsbook: Florida State
Arizona State +1100
Oregon State +4000
Oregon is led by standout senior guard Payton Pritchard. Pritchard is averaging 21 points, six assists and four rebounds per game. He also is shooting 47 percent from the field in leading the Ducks. Oregon is the only team in the Pac-12 that has a record over .500 on the road. Arizona has been awful, losing four of its last five games. However, if the Wildcats can get their claws on Oregon for a third time this season (Oregon won both games by one point, both in overtime), mark my words, they will take the Ducks down.
The Buffaloes have had a nice season but have lost four in a row and need a major pick-me-up. They have quality wins this season, beating Oregon, Dayton and USC (twice). They are led by McKinley Wright, who averages 14 points and five rebounds and assists a game. Colorado is more than capable of making a run in the Pac-12 tourney in Sin City.
Pac-12 Sportsbook: Arizona
Atlantic 10 Tournament
Rhode Island +600
St. Bonaventure +2500
St. Louis +4000
The Flyers are amazing in every single way as they went 18-0 in conference play and rank No. 1 in field-goal percentage at 53. Obi Toppin is my player of the year as he averages 20 points and eight rebounds a game and shoots a remarkable 63 percent from the field. There are no sleepers here — why should I even waste the time trying to come up with one.
Atlantic 10 Sportsbook: Dayton
Mississippi State +1500
South Carolina +4000
Coach Calipari and his Wildcats were an impressive 8-2 on the road and won the regular-season title going away by three games over Auburn and LSU. Auburn boasts a solid 25-6 record and could win this if it gets play out of guys like Samir Doughty on Saturday at Tennessee. Doughty had eight three-pointers in a rout over the Vols.
The Gators have underachieved this season and that includes blowing an 18-point lead on Saturday at home to Kentucky (they lost two games to Kentucky in two weeks by a total of six points). Florida may have to impress the committee in this situation with a couple of tournament victories. I can see the Gators getting to the conference championship, knowing they need to still get some work done.
SEC Sportsbook: Kentucky
Big Ten Tournament
Michigan State +350
Penn State +550
Ohio State +900
This conference has been predictable more than any other major conference because no one can win on the road. Michigan State is surging as Xavier Tillman has been a beast down low for the Spartans and has led them in rebounding in all but three games this season. To my point, I’ve ruled out Iowa and Illinois because they have been awful on the road within the conference. Maryland is a great team but has lost three of its last five, which is actually quite surprising.
The Badgers are a good team who tied for the Big Ten regular-season crown. They are my sleeper here because of their price. I’ll roll the dice any time with a team with those credentials at +2000 odds.
Big Ten Sportsbook: Maryland
Harry’s Hidden Gem Conference Sportsbook
Big Sky Sportsbook: Northern Colorado Bears
The favorite will be Eastern Washington, who won the regular-season title, but Northern Colorado had a solid 10-5 record on the road and is led by senior guard Jonah Radebaugh, who shot 44 percent from three-point range this season. The Bears lost to Eastern Washington twice (once in OT and once by four points) but come in hot, winning 10 of their last 12 games. At 22-9, I’m predicting Northern Colorado wins in the championship game over EWU.