College Basketball Betting: Conference-USA Tournament Preview
The unique aspect of this year’s Conference-USA tournament is that there are two courts in the Ford Center at the Star in Frisco, Texas. First round games will begin only 30 minutes apart so two games will be going on at once. All four first round games and through the quarterfinals will use this format meaning no team will have a rest advantage. The semifinals and finals will be played one game at a time.
Favorite – North Texas was the top seed going into Bonus Play and held its position by winning an overtime war against second seed Western Kentucky. They stubbed their toe in a loss at Charlotte to end the season but are deserving of being co-betting favorites with Louisiana Tech. UNT head coach Grant McCasland has done an amazing job (63-41 over three years) but the one thing missing is a tournament championship and a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Louisiana Tech was the strongest statistical team, ranking first in offensive efficiency and second in defensive efficiency. The Bulldogs split with UNT and WKU and three of their five league losses came by a point or in overtime. In previous years, the road record of Louisiana Tech scared me away from touting the Bulldogs as a contender. Over the past two conference seasons, Eric Konkol’s team struggled on the road going 2-16. This season was completely different. The Techsters finished with a winning road record away from home at 5-4. Winning away from Ruston, Louisiana is very important if you’re planning on having success in the postseason. The strength of this team is experience. Eight of 10 rotation players are juniors or seniors. This bodes well for tournament play in high-pressure situations.
Darkhorse – UAB hit stride to end the season, finishing 4-2 with one “false” loss. Freshmen guards Jalen Benjamin and Jordan Brinson are the future of the program. Ron Ehsan’s squad plays a slow, deliberate pace that can be tough to handle if they have a lead. They also feature two experienced post scorers to compliment their young backcourt. They turn the ball over way too much but improved on that to close out the regular season. UAB has a favorable draw with a disappointing UTSA team that plays zero defense followed by a vulnerable Western Kentucky bunch that played three overtime games the last two weeks of the season. The Blazers are a generous 40-1 at some sportsbooks.
What to Bet – As mentioned, UAB has quietly rounded into form while UTSA, who was pegged by some to win the conference, finished a disappointing 7-11. The Roadrunners won only one of their six games that had less than 70 possessions. Pace isn’t UAB’s deal as the Blazers finished 10th in the league in tempo and 304th nationally. One of UTSA’s below 70-possession losses came at the hands of UAB and I expect another to occur on Wednesday.
Odds to Win Tournament
Louisiana Tech +175
North Texas +175
Western Kentucky +350
Old Dominion +2500
Florida Atlantic +6000
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