Two favorites, Two longshots: Betting college basketball conference tournaments

By Will Helms

March is nearly upon us, which means it’s nearly time for the NCAA tournament. Before the big tournament however, we have to set the field. With three conference tournaments kicking off on Tuesday, it’s a great time to look at some tournament outrights.

Here, I’ll look at two favorites and two longshots I’m backing in this week’s conference tournaments.


Gonzaga (-115)

Hop on this one quickly. The Zags technically grabbed a share of the regular season West Coast Conference title, but lost out on the top seed in the tournament due to NET rankings — the fourth tiebreaker.

I’m riding with Gonzaga until I’m proven wrong and while both teams will make the NCAA tournament, this is a 2-team race. DraftKings has Gonzaga and St. Mary’s as near co-favorites to win the title, so you’re essentially betting on the winner of the championship game between the two. Other books have list the Zags as shorter favorites, as low as -140 in some places, but we can grab them for -115 onn DK.

Gonzaga is playing its best after a rocky start to the year. After splitting the regular season series, I’m riding with the Zags in an inevitable Part 3 for the championship.

Charleston (-115)

Charleston is having its best season in years and only a previous loss to Hofstra has the odds near even money. Both teams have run through a weak Colonial Athletic Conference slate and don’t look like they’ll be challenged, so again, we’re essentially betting on the Cougars beating Hofstra in the championship.

Seeing as we’d likely see Charleston at a 6 or 7-point favorite in that game, we could either bet them at near-even money on the spread, or we could take them before the tournament to win straight-up.

When both teams run through a bad conference and meet in the championship, you’ll feel great that you can avoid betting that game and rely on your future to take home the money.


James Madison (+380)

The Sun Belt is as wide open as it gets for a mid-major conference. FanDuel has the Dukes as the second-most likely team to win at +310 while DraftKings gives us more favorable odds at +380.

The Dukes have the defense needed to slow Marshall’s frenetic pace and held the Thundering Herd to less than 70 points back in December, one of only three teams to do so in conference. The Dukes have picked up their offensive output recently and have been one of the least lucky teams in basketball this year.

They’ll need to go through top-seeded Southern Miss, but I like the Dukes this year.

Samford (+400)

When looking at longshots, we often like to find conferences with only a few likely winners. On paper, Furman is the Southern Conference favorite, followed by UNC Greensboro and our Samford Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs recently lost a second time to Furman, when the Paladins shot lights out from everywhere on the court. The Paladins got out to an early lead, finishing with 14 made threes and making 21 of 24 free throws, both well above their season averages.

Samford has played really well lately and I think that in a potential matchup with Furman, the Bulldogs will finally get a break or two. Because of this, I’m backing the Bulldogs at +400.

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