The major conference tournaments begin this week and gives Las Vegas somewhat of a prelude to what we can expect next week with the Big Dance.
Things won’t be nearly as wild as what we’ll see next week, but it gives every sports book director, supervisor and ticket writer some practice with several games going off at once all day long, all week long.
Overtime will be expected from everyone because this type of compacted daily schedule during the week only happens twice a year and a normal 40 hour week won’t give the proper coverage a book needs.
The conference tournaments expose a lot of teams without their comfortable surroundings of home and puts them into a near equal situation – minus talent – with everyone. Home teams usually have a massive edge in college basketball, especially the really good teams, but on the road, it’s a different story.
While these aren’t technically road games, it still takes away a lot of what makes some teams so good. The dilemma for the odds makers is determining a rating for each team in every game on a neutral court. This is where the bettor has an edge because they only have to pick on a few of the perceived mistakes while the book has to decide on a number for every game.
This same process goes on next week as well, but at a much more difficult degree for the sports books. This week, they’re making a line for neutral games with teams that have faced each other at least once in conference play and against opponents that have played the same level of competition over the last 10 weeks.
Next week, it’s a mix-and-match with every team from different conferences going head-to-head. But don’t feel too sorry about the sports books because March is generally one their most consistent high percentage holds of the year.
Here’s some thoughts in each of the conference tournaments this week:
North Carolina has now won seven straight and covered in six. They might be playing the best basketball in the nation and are peaking at the right time. It would be surprising not to see the top three seeds make the semi-finals in this weaker than usual conference.
We all want to see Duke play North Carolina play again for the Championship game, but Florida State could upset Duke in the semis. Carolina will beat whoever they play.
A-10 (Atlantic City)
This one is up for grabs. The team I look to do some damage is one that could very well lose in the first round. Dayton can beat anyone in this tournament, but will have to get past George Washington. The Flyers did beat GW by 16 last Saturday. Another victory gives Dayton a great shot at beating Xavier in the next round.
It’s likely that Saint Louis will be there in the semis. I like the winner of that game to win the championship.
BIG-12 (Kansas City)
This is a top heavy tournament with Kansas and Missouri looking so dominant all season. Kansas State and Iowa State are going to give them both some trouble, but Missouri should come out on top.
Michigan State has now lost two in a row and Ohio State finally won a big game on the road to end its February hiccup. After watching all these teams in conference play, I didn’t like anyone but Michigan State away from their home. But now they’re coming in with a little swagger gone.
The team that currently stands out with great play home and away over the last four weeks is Michigan.
BIG EAST (New York)
Syracuse doesn’t cover the spread too much, but puts games away and will be very difficult for any of these teams to beat. If it had been three weeks ago, I might have said Louisville, but they’ve lost three of their last four.
Marquette or Cincinnati would be the only team I could see knocking off the Orange, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
MWC (at UNLV)
We’ve seen enough out of UNLV to know they should be in good shape playing at home this week. They come in as a No. 3 seed and should be able to dispose of everyone. If they’re real lucky, San Diego State will get knocked out by either Colorado State or TCU in the semis so they can avoid that thorn.
PAC-12 (Los Angeles)
UCLA comes off an impressive win over the conference’s best team, Washington, and could make things interesting with somewhat of a home crowd edge at the Staples Center. Arizona is lifeless and Cal has lost two in a row. The winner of the Colorado-Oregon game should beat Cal, but really can’t see any of them beating Washington.
SEC (New Orleans)
This is the biggest laugher of them all. Kentucky has been the Harlem Globetrotters against the Generals in this conference all season, home and away. They should roll through this tourney with ease
Whether they cover the large number or not is another story. Consider it a gift if getting to lay less than double-digits because the Wildcats have covered their last four in that situation.