It is Championship Week in men's college basketball. And while teams from mid-major conferences all over the country have one-by-one been punching their ticket to the Big Dance all week long, the big boys in the majors will be in action right through this weekend to decide the winner in their conference tournament.
BetOnline has weighed in on some of the biggest battles on the board with prop bet odds for which team will be cutting down the nets in their respective conference when the smoke finally clears. Going through all the numbers, the following are my top value picks for a few of those teams.
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Big Ten Tournament Pick
The Indiana Hoosiers have been the toast of the Big Ten for most of the season with a 15-3 record that was good enough to claim the regular-season title. The Michigan State Spartans finished two games back at 13-5, but they come in as the favorites to win the conference tournament at +105 betting odds. Indiana is a +300 second-favorite to pull off the sweep.
Moving down the list, the team that has caught my eye as +550 third-favorites is the Purdue Boilermakers. They finished the regular season with five wins in their last seven games that included victories against both Michigan State and Maryland, while covering as 4.5-point road underdogs in a tight 77-73 loss to Indiana.
The Boilermakers will probably have to face Iowa in the quarterfinals in what could be a tough matchup given two previous losses to the Hawkeyes. However, counting on the third time being the charm, I like the fact that they should get chance to face Indiana in the semifinals. This would give Purdue a huge edge in an expected matchup against either the Spartans or the Terrapins in the Finals having survived the gauntlet of the first two rounds.
Big East Tournament Pick
The Big East has basically been a two-team battle between Villanova and Xavier all season long. After the Wildcats waxed the Musketeers by more than 30 points in the conference opener on their home court, Xavier returned the favor more recently with a 90-83 victory on Feb. 24 as a one-point home favorite. Villanova won the war with a conference record of 16-2 that was two games better than Xavier (14-4), and it has been opened as a +100 favorite to win this week's Big East Tournament. The Musketeers' odds to win have been set at +250.
The main reason that I am going chalk in this team prop is the path to the title game. The Wildcats will have to get past either DePaul or Georgetown on Thursday before heading into a matchup between the winner of the Butler/Providence quarterfinal matchup. Their combined record against all of those teams was 7-1. The lone loss was to Providence, which was playing much better at that time.
The Musketeers will play the winner of Wednesday's St. John's vs. Marquette game on Thursday before facing either Creighton or the Seton Hall Pirates in the semifinals. The No. 3 seed Pirates are the one wildcard in this whole shooting match. They finished strong down the stretch at 5-1, including a key 90-81 victory against Xavier on Feb. 28 as two-point home underdogs. I am not sure that Seton Hall can upend the Musketeers two times in a row, but it opens the door just enough to further enhance Villanova's odds as an even-money favorite.
Pac-12 Tournament Pick
The Oregon Ducks set the pace in the Pac-12 during the regular season at 14-4, but the race to the top was tight with teams such as Utah, California and Arizona right in the mix as the top four seeds. The betting odds for the conference tournament favor Arizona at +200, followed by the Ducks at +275. The Utes are next at +300, but I think the best value on the board is the Golden Bears as +375 fourth-favorites to win.
Cal comes into this tournament with eight victories in its last nine games, including a 20-point romp over Oregon in early February. The lone loss was to Arizona on March 3 in a tight three-point loss as a seven-point road underdog.
This is another situation where the pairings in the bracket are guiding my pick. The Golden Bears toughest game could be in the semifinals against Utah. The Utes are hot as well with a seven-game winning streak, but Cal has been able to push the tempo in its last few games, which should serve them well in this matchup.
A win in this round would probably set up a rematch against either Oregon or Arizona. I actually have the Wildcats making it to the Pac-12 Championship Game. Given just how close that recent matchup was, I really like the Golden Bears' chances to come out on top this time around.
Read more articles by Dave Schwab
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