College Basketball Conference Tournament Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 03/10/2009
Conference tournaments are going strong. Some of the smaller conferences have chosen their winners, and there has been an upset or two along the way. Now the major conferences are getting underway. Before too much happens in the big six conferences, let's take a stab at making some predictions for each tournament. All odds are from Bodog:
Big East - We'll start with a tough one. The odds would logically suggest that three teams are favored well above the rest - UConn and Pitt at 7/4, and Louisville at 9/4. Head to head matchups don't help much - Pitt beat UConn twice but lost to Louisville, and the Cardinals lost to UConn. My personal bias would lean towards Louisville, but in this case I think that that's the best choice anyway. Louisville is seeded No. 1, followed by Pitt then UConn. That means that the latter two will have to play each other in the semifinals before facing Louisville, while the Cardinals have an easier route to the end. That will leave them fresher and ready to go.
If I was going to look for a longshot I would have to take Syracuse at 8/1. They have a tough road with UConn then Pitt before the finals, but they have found their form in their last six games, and they always seem to get motivated for this tournament.
Big Ten - Michigan State is favored to win at 6/5, and they should be. They are the class of the field, and they have the easiest road they could have to the final - avoiding both Illinois and Purdue. They are most likely to win. The Big Ten is deep and tough, though, and 6/5 and isn't much of a price, so I'd rather look beyond the favorite for something a bit juicier. Neither Illinois nor Purdue finished particularly strong, so they could perhaps be beat. That leads me to Wisconsin. After a slump in early conference play they have found their game again. They are more talented than their record or ranking, and they enjoy a first round bye. At 6/1 they are pretty good value.
The longshot here would definitely by Northwestern at 30/1. They closed well, they played their best games against tough opponents, and their backs are against the wall - they have their first-ever tournament bid in sight, but they need at least a couple of wins to get there. Not likely, but probably worth a shot at the price. It would be a heck of a story.
Big 12 - There are three main contenders here - Kansas and Oklahoma at 3/2, and Missouri at 7/2. Oklahoma comes in having lost three of their last five, so I can't justify betting on them to win three in a row at this price, even if they have the best player in the country. Missouri beat Oklahoma in their second to last game, but they were crushed by Kansas right before that. Kansas, as unlikely as it seems given the expectations for them coming into the season, are the best of the top three choices. They won six of their last seven, Sherron Collins is playing spectacular ball, and they have the most favorable draw of the three teams.
The longer shot that looks best is Texas at 8/1. They have experience, depth, and the ability to play big when they need to, even if they don't all of the time.
ACC - North Carolina is favored to win at 4/11. Though they are certainly the best team right now, they have the softest draw, and they are a good pick to win it, this price certainly isn't attractive. That means that there isn't much point in spending time on this group. Wake Forest at 5/1 is the closest to other value if you don't like the Tar Heels.
Pac-10 - UCLA is favored here at 7/5, but I'm certainly not buying at that price. UCLA is the public team in this group, and this price reflects that far more than their current performance. Washington won the regular season title, beat all the big teams in the conference at least once, and have at least as much chance to win the tournament as UCLA. Since they are at 47/20 that makes them a comparative value.
At the awkward price of 28/5, Arizona State is reasonably attractive. They slumped a bit down the stretch, but they beat UCLA twice and they have the best player in the conference in James Harden.
SEC - I don't like or particularly respect any teams in this conference, so finding one worthy of a bet could be tough. LSU lost their last two games, but up until that point they had been the clear class of the conference. They are well coached, and match up well with the rest of the conference. Their 57/20 price seems like reasonable value in the circumstances.
A longer shot here would be Kentucky at 8/1. They had a disastrous finish to the season, but they are better than they looked, Jodie Meeks is immensely talented, and Billy Gillispie and company are under intense pressure to live up to expectations.