College Basketball Handicapping: Ranking Conference Tournaments
by Trevor Whenham - 3/6/2012
March is here, and I couldn’t be more excited. Starting this week with the conference tournaments we are entering into one of the most exciting months of the sports calendar. This is one of the best times of the year to be a sports bettor. Conference tournaments don’t get quite the attention that the main event does starting next week. However, they typically offer no shortage of drama, excitement, and the potential for profit.
The six major conferences start their march to their championship games today, and by Sunday all six will have their champions. Here’s a look at how those six tournaments rank in terms of interest and betting potential.
No. 1 - Big East
This may be the last year of a truly great Big East Tournament as the conference embarks on their mission of total self-destruction starting this summer. For now, though, there is still absolutely nothing not to like about this great tournament.
For starters, the Madison Square Garden setting is the perfect place for college basketball. What makes the tournament so great every year, though, is how big the field is and how competitive the tourney always is. Not all of the 16 teams in the field are competitive, but each year there are eight or nine that could do some damage if things work out just right for them.
There is no better proof of that than UConn last year. They entered the tournament as the ninth seed. A month later they were cutting down the nets after winning the NCAA Tournament. UConn comes in seeded ninth again, but they aren’t as likely to make the same run again this year.
There are several very competitive teams, though, and a Syracuse squad that is looking to head into the NCAA Tournament on the right note. It should be a classic.
No. 2 - Big Ten
The Big Ten is not going to have a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament barring a miracle at this point. What they do have, though, is a tremendous amount of depth.
The conference is as competitive at the top end as it has been for years, as proven by the three-way tie for the regular season championship and the five teams ranked in the Top 15 of the most recent AP poll. Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Indiana are all fully capable of winning the tournament and Purdue may have the best player in the tournament in Robbie Hummel so they are dangerous as well.
The quality in the bottom half of the league isn’t nearly as strong, but the top-end will more than make up for it. The semifinals in this tournament are going to be brilliant no matter what, and the team that wins the conference tournament will head into the NCAA Tournament riding a serious wave of confidence.
No. 3 - Big 12
The Big 12 isn’t a big conference right now, but t is a competitive one — five of its 10 teams have at least 21 wins. All five of those squads — Kansas, Missouri, Iowa State, Baylor and Kansas State — are capable of winning the tournament.
The rest of the league isn’t very good — with the possible exception of Texas if they can get their act together — but that top end is potent.
Both Missouri and Kansas will be hungry to establish their No. 1 seed credentials, and it won’t hurt that the bitter rivals could be playing for the last time in a long time if they meet in the finals. That could really be a game to watch.
No. 4 - ACC
The top end of this conference is, as always great. North Carolina and Duke played an epic game the last time they met, and a rematch would be welcomed as always. Florida State is a solid team as well.
The problem in the ACC this year, though, is that the quality dries up quickly after that. The rest of the teams either just aren’t very good or they have some talent but lack consistency. To be great a tournament needs to be wide-open, and it would be surprising if this one is.
No. 5 - SEC
Conference tournaments are all about drama. There is no drama here. If Kentucky doesn’t win this tournament then it would be the biggest upset of the year so far. They are so much better than every other team in the conference that it is ridiculous — as their 16-0 SEC record proves. The battle is for second place, and that’s just not very compelling.
No. 6 - Pac-12
Every time it seems like the Pac-12 could be getting their act together they do something to confirm just how bad they really are. The top teams in the conference are limping into this tournament after a rough final weekend, and it is still a possibility that the conference could secure just one NCAA Tournament bid.
There isn’t a single ranked team in the conference, and there isn’t a single inspiring or particularly interesting squad, either. Just awful.
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