College Basketball Betting: Big Ten Tournament Preview
To explain the depth of the Big Ten conference this season, there is no need to look any further than the fact that the number one seed (Wisconsin) is the ninth most probable team to win the end of season tournament (sitting at around 10-1, depending on the sportsbook). A conference that will likely place 10 teams in the NCAA Tournament, Big Ten schools will spend the next five days in Indianapolis battling each other in an effort to improve their seeding for the NCAA Tournament starting next week after already doing enough to guarantee themselves an at-large bid.
Favorite – The potential winner in this field is as wide open as anyone can remember. However, Tom Izzo and his Spartans are the narrow favorite, largely due to their current form (winners of five straight) and leadership of senior Cassius Winston along with Xavier Tillman down low. Meanwhile, Maryland is one of the most balanced teams in the conference, but many of their key wins have come at home, as all but one of their seven conference losses were on the road. The way the bracket is set up, the Terps would square off against Michigan State in the semifinals, as Maryland will likely play a Penn State team in the quarterfinals that is trending in the wrong direction and playing their worst basketball of the season. It’s laughable that the Nittany Lions are the third favorite to win this tournament after losing five of their past six games and being placed in the bottom half of the bracket with Maryland and Michigan State. I do not envision Penn State advancing beyond the quarterfinal or semifinal at the very most.
Darkhorse – Illinois offers good value at +850. That number seems off, particularly when you consider the Illini have beaten each team they will potentially play in their half of the bracket (Wisconsin, Michigan twice, and Iowa last weekend). Winners of five of their past six games, Illinois is as dangerous as any team in the tournament.
What to Bet – I expect for this tournament to be filled with hard-fought close games throughout, particularly during the last three days of the tournament. That being said, the quarterfinal round should have an opportunity or two to get a decent number of points with the lower seeded teams playing the top four schools on byes. I will be looking long and hard at the Michigan vs. Rutgers winner against Wisconsin catching points as a live underdog. With all but two Big Ten teams currently in KenPom’s top 40, expect to see plenty of small upsets.
Odds to Win Tournament
Michigan State +250
Penn State +450
Ohio State +800
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