The major conference tournaments take center stage this week as teams look to find a good spot in the big dance. We will take a little glimpse at them to see if we can find another Wichita State.
Beginning Tuesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., the top seeds are North Carolina 1, Florida State 2, Notre Dame 3, Louisville 4 and Duke 5. Pitino and his boys from Louisville had to sit this tournament out last year due to Rick being a little too slick. The Cardinals have the guns and Pitino will have them ready to go far.
The team this bettor likes is Virginia, the leader in team defense. The Cavaliers are giving up an average of a little over 55 points a game and rarely turn the ball over, which is important in these tournaments. The Tar Heels will be a tough out but we think Virginia and Louisville are the best in the league.
Tourney play starts Wednesday at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama. Middle Tennessee is the top gun here and will be very difficult to knock off. Louisiana Tech is the 2 seed and made a big late run. They come into this tourney in high gear. We will also look to play on Western Kentucky, who has been a super dog going 12-0 ATS in that role. Talk about a hot team, UTEP with its 74-67 win this past Saturday vs. Charlotte ran its ATS record to 12-0 in the last 12 games.
This game also has a Wednesday start at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans. Top team is UT Arlington, who can score big and looks best here. Syl Friedman, our New Orleans scout, tells GamingToday we better look out for UL Lafayette who could surprise in the early games.
The Thomas & Mack Center hosts again. Go make a bet and take in a game but try and stay away from betting on the Rebels. Our other Nevada team in Reno looks best but Fresno State and Colorado State along with Boise will all be trying hard to punch a ticket to the Big Dance. Last year San Diego State was the top seed but lost in the championship game. Look for the Aztecs to surprise in the early games. They like to play under the total so we will be looking to play UNDER when they play.
Beautiful T-Mobile Arena is the host and if you have never been there, go park your car, make some bets, walk over and take in a game. It will be worth a day off. Oregon is the 1 seed and has played great all year along with UCLA who scores very high. Arizona makes this a three horse race but we will favor the Bruins, who have one of the top players in the nation with the great Lonzo Ball. He will be worth the admission ticket. We say UCLA all the way to the Final Four and a 1 in the West with a Pac-12 championship.
Host site is the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Wisconsin has five starters from last year’s team who were knocked out in their first game last year in this tournament. Not so this time around. Purdue has a great front court, can play with anyone and is well coached. The Boilermakers covered all three of their games in the event last year. Michigan just crushed Nebraska this past Sunday to make a statement. In last week’s GT, Dave Valento liked Minnesota and we agree. In a very important stat for tournament play, Minnie is the second best team with the fewest turnovers and first with blocked shots. I had them in this column last week and they got the win plus the cover for us. Minny is one hot team.
The site is PPG Arena in Pittsburgh. The main players are Rhode Island, Dayton and VCU. We don’t see the winner of this tournament going far in the Big Dance. Enough said.
Where else but Madison Square Garden! It’s all about Villanova as they look to repeat as the NCAA champion and we think they just well could. They very seldom foul and one stat that comes in very handy in tournament play is they make foul shots at a rate of almost 80%. The main danger will come from Butler. Yes, they did it to Nova twice this year. We would love to see these two in the championship game. Nova all the way!
The usual site at Sprint Center in Kansas City. Kansas will be the one to knock out but contending are West Virginia and Baylor, which was ranked No. 1 at one time this year. Look out for Oklahoma State who’s looking for some redemption from a home loss to Kansas this past Saturday, 90-85. Also look for Iowa State to be a tough out. We love the Cyclones getting points. This looks wide open.
This year’s home is Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. This looks like it will be either Kentucky or Florida. We also note John Calipari has gone 38-1 SU as a 1 seed in conference play. That’s some good ole opry if we’ve ever seen it. Our pick is Kentucky.
Have a great week of hoops and if you are in Vegas it’s a must to take in a game or two. You could be walking around lucky and not even know it.