It’s March. Need I say more? The most exciting tournament in sports happens this month, but leading up to it, there are 32 automatic bids that need to be handed out and some of those tournaments kicked off yesterday and some start over the next couple days. Starting with the conferences starting their tourneys between 2/28 and 3/2, I will give a little blurb on every team I think will win their conference tournament as the brackets get released. I’ll also be giving some value picks if you’d like to throw a couple dollars on the longshots because, of course, it’s March.
Atlantic Sun- Jacksonville St +165
First in the ASUN West, second overall technically only to Liberty. Jacksonville State has been a great team all season finishing 13-3 in conference play and is on the longest win streak going into the conference tournament. They are coming in looking to end Liberty’s reign as they have won the last 3 bids from this conference but JState is not a regular. They have spent the last 18 years in the Ohio Valley Conference and have already beaten Liberty on the road this season. Behind good guard play and a consistent defense, I expect the Gamecocks to get it done.
Big South- Winthrop +220
Winthrop is the most fun team in the conference, they score a lot and have a very fast paced offense. Longwood is having an incredible year and are the favorite going in. However, the Eagles have 3 players averaging in double figures, all with end of year experiencing clinching this title the last 2 years. They have also rattled off 8 straight victories heading into this and are surely looking to show the Big South that this is still their conference.
Horizon- Northern Kentucky University +400 (Oakland +650)
If you like Mid-Major basketball you should tune into this tournament. It’s a homer pick for me but the NKU Norse are heating up at the right time and there is great value in the Norse. Anyone could win this tournament, as Cleveland State is the odds on favorite, Purdue Fort Wayne has 9 straight wins, NKU is the 3 seed with 12 wins in their last 14, only losing to Detroit in those 14. Behind tremendous backcourt talent and depth plus experience up front with smaller forwards Adrian Nelson and Trevon Faulkner, the Norse will fight. Oakland I still think is the most talented and streakiest team in the conference and as the 5 seed at +650 I think those are great odds as well.
Northeast- Bryant -105
Bryant or Wagner, flip a coin. Wagner is +210 if that’s where you want to fly, they have lost 3 of their last 5, one of those to Bryant. Bryant is 11-1 at home and as long as they are in the tournament as the #1, it will run through their building. I also tend to gravitate towards mid-major teams that have played high level talent regardless of losing to them and Bryant has played Clemson, Rhode Island, UC, and Houston this season and know what these teams bring to the table.
OVC- Murray State -175 (Morehead +900)
It’s hard to put your money anywhere else. Murray State has won 18 games in a row and has not lost a game in this conference. They are ranked 22 in the AP Polls right now and people expect them to be a fun team in the Big Dance. If you insist on putting your money elsewhere, I think Morehead is the bet. 3rd in the conference at +900 is great value, one of the only teams in the conference to have a .500+ away record and was also the only team to scare Murray State where they had a tie ball game with 36 seconds to play.
Patriot- Colgate -210 (Navy +500)
Colgate is the odds on favorite and the best team in this conference. They are 17th in assists per game in the country and therefore score a lot and have a highly efficient offense, they were a popular upset favorite last year in the big dance and they return a lot of those players. They have won 12 straight and play on their home court where they have lost 1 game all season. Again, if you insist on going elsewhere, Navy is the clear #2 in the conference. They have an 11-4 away record and are a consistently good defensive team allowing only 58.8 PPG.