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Mid-major conference tournament betting guide: Odds, picks, gambling commandments and more

Here are Austin Montgomery’s picks for this weekend’s conference tournaments

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Rice Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Conference championship week may be the most exciting week of sports. On Tuesday night we will have college basketball playing from noon Eastern to way past midnight in the Pacific time zone. We get to live, drink, breath, and inject college basketball into our veins through Saturday.

With so much basketball to consume also means many opportunities to bet and wager money for us degenerates out there. Conference tournaments give bettors one last chance to get a final analysis on teams and provides an opportunity for one to build their bankroll before the NCAA Tournament. However, if executed poorly it is easy for bettors to lose their rent money while betting on close to 100 do-or-die games in one week. So follow these conference tourney guidelines to make sure you are netting a profit heading into Selection Sunday.

1. Ride the hot team

Most sharp bettors and the Vegas wise guys don’t believe in “hot streaks.” However, this changes when it comes time to the conference tournament. An excellent example for this would be the Bradley Braves, who just won the MVC Valley tournament. Bradley went into #ARCHMadness winning six out of their last eight. Both WAC favorites NMSU and A-10 favorite VCU are currently riding 12-game winning streaks heading into their conference tournaments. If there is a hot team, make sure you are giving them a fair look when betting.

2. Revenge game narratives are real

Everyone loves an excellent revenge narrative, and this turns out to have an outcome in conference tourneys. According to Bet Labs, teams that have gone 0-2 against a previous team are 55.6% against the spread over the last five years in conference tourneys. Bitter rivals will battle it out with the highest stakes on the line. All coaches will make significant adjustments after losing two results to a specific team. It’s hard to sweep a team three times in one season. Don’t put too much emphasis on box scores of past games.

3. Both heavy favorites and heavy underdogs can have value

Betting value arrives in various shapes and sizes. Don’t bet a team just because they are a trendy favorite or underdog. Bettors have to handicap games on their own merits. Even though underdog is typically undervalued, it is not smart to pick an underdog for the sake of pulling an upset or banking against the public. In other cases there is value in merely betting the better team. Stick to your own guidelines, look at trends, use the eye test and find the best value when you see it.

4. Smash first half unders during day games

First half unders cash during day games: It’s simply science.


Future Odds for Each Mid-Major Conference Tournament (via Westgate Sportsbook unless marked otherwise)

Atlantic 10

VCU -120
Dayton 3/1
Davidson 4/1
St. Bonaventure 10/1
Saint Louis 15/1
George Mason 25/1
Rhode Island 40/1
Duquesne 80/1
Saint Joseph’s 80/
La Salle100/1
Field 125/1

The pick: Dayton +400

It is tough to pick against VCU and its suffocating defense. If the Rams fail to secure an automatic berth, I believe they deserve an at-large bid. But I love Dayton because they are top 30 in offensive efficiency and had a lot of success against VCU in their first two matchups. Josh Cunningham and Obi Toppin can give VCU trouble inside. VCU’s inability to shoot the three (30.6 percent, or No. 329 in the nation) scares me to death.

Sleeper/Value pick: Rhode Island 40/1

I was leaning Saint Louis in this spot, but they can’t hit free throws. So if you give me Fatts Russell at 40/1 odds in March, I will take it.

Conference USA

Old Dominion: 7/2
Southern Miss: 3/1
Western Kentucky: 4/1UTSA: 5/1
UAB: 10/1Louisiana Tech: 12/1
North Texas: 12/1
Marshall: 15/1
Florida Atlantic: 20/1
Florida International: 30/1
Middle Tennessee State: 75/1
Rice: 75/1

The pick: Western Kentucky +400: The field is an absolute crapshoot without a clear favorite. I’ll take the team with the most explosive athletes.

Sleeper/Value pick: Marshall +1500:

Jon Elmore. If he gets hot, Marshall will run away with the whole damn thing. Betting trend to watch: The under is 13-5 in FAU’s conference games.

Big Sky (odds via MyBookie)

Montana +130
Northern Colorado +210
Weber State +500
Eastern Washington +900
Montana State +1100
Portland State +1800
Southern Utah +3700
Sacramento State +3700
Northern Arizona +5100
Idaho State +6500
Idaho +9800

The pick: Montana +130

The Grizzlies are going for their second consecutive Big Sky championship. They are heavy favorites for a reason, and they shouldn’t get much resistance.

Sleeper/Value pick: Portland St +1800

The Vikings swept the Grizzlies this year, and sophomore point guard Holland Woods has the potential to take over any game. The Vikings have a realistic shot to go dancing and are the most enticing underdog on the board.

Big West

UC Irvine: -175
UC Santa Barbara: 4/1
Cal State Fullerton: 6/1
Hawaii: 8/1
Long Beach State: 12/1
Cal State Northridge: 15/1
UC Davis: 15/1
UC Riverside: 75/1

The pick: UC Irvine

This is Russell Turner’s best UC Irvine team. The Anteaters played a tough non-conference schedule, and the Anteaters are rolling having won 13 straight.

Sleeper: CSUN +1500:

There are many distractions going on with head coach Mark Gottfried’s name in the middle of the FBI’s NCAA investigation. However the Matadors are young, talented and streaky with a slight chance to pull off a miracle NCAA berth. CSUN has quietly been one of the more profitable team to bet on. The Matadors are 8-3-1 against the spread in their last 11 conference games and are 4-1-1 ATS as a double-digit underdog. Not only that, the Matadors have Big West Player and Freshman of the Year Lamine Diane, who is averaging 24 points and 11 rebounds this season.

Mountain West

Nevada -160
Utah State 2/1
Fresno State 5/1
San Diego State 15/1
UNLV 25/1
Boise State 50/1
Colorado State 100/1
Air Force 100/1
New Mexico 100/1
Wyoming 500/1
San Jose State 1000/1

The pick: Nevada

This is truly a toss up between the Wolf Pack and Aggies. Nevada needs to show why they were a preseason top 10 team. Nevada has been lackadaisical during conference play and only loss three times. Look for Eric Musselman to turn up a sense of urgency and we will see Nevada’s best basketball during this tournament. Nevada has the best team in the conference by far, and -160 is a good price.

Sleeper/value pick: San Diego State +1500

Due to Nevada’s inconsistency, San Diego State has the potential to beat the Wolf Pack on an off-night like they did a year ago. SDSU is lead by talented seniors in Watson and Hensley. SDSU will dominate UNLV in their first round contest. The question is if SDSU can beat Nevada once again.

WAC Tournament

New Mexico State -175
Utah Valley +350
Grand Canyon 4/1
UTRGV 15/1
Seattle 20/1
Cal State Bakersfield 30/1
UMKC 60/1
Chicago State 1000/1

The pick NMSU: The Aggies have won 12 in a row, and they go 13 deep off the bench. Aggies fans will travel, and they have dominated the WAC for decades. Hard to bet against them here.

Sleeper/value pick: Grand Canyon +400

Dan Majerle’s team has struggled over the past month, but they have the talent to win the tournament and punch GCU’s ticket to the dance for the first time in school history. They played two close games against NMSU, but the worry is if the Lopes will have the mental toughness to get past a hot Seattle team and a very good Utah Valley squad.

Sun Belt

Georgia Southern: 5/2
Georgia State: 11/4
Texas State: 4/1
Texas Arlington: 5/1
Coastal Carolina: 8/1
Louisiana Lafayette: 10/1
Louisiana Monroe: 10/1
South Alabama: 25/1
Appalachian State: 30/1
Arkansas State: 50/1

The pick: Georgia State

Who doesn’t want to see Ron Hunter in the tournament again? Georgia State is looking to make the NCAA tournament for the second straight year. Although they’re solid team that’s swept challenger Georgia Southern twice, the Panthers haves shown inconsistencies and are susceptible to upsets. I’ll take GSU over Georgia Southern final but they’re gonna have to sweat to get there.

Sleeper/Value pick: UT Arlington

Everyone thought it was mistake for UTA to fire coach Scott Cross. However, former Tech assistant has the Mavericks on the rise. They have won their last four games and have big shot maker Brain Warren. UTA is a scrappy team that could steal a tourney bid in the Sun Belt.

Ivy League Tournament

Yale: -150
Penn: 7/2
Havard: 7/2
Princeton: 10/1

The pick: Harvard

It’s only a four horse race. I like Tommy Amaker’s team. The Crimson struggled down the stretch but they still came away with the number one seed and a regular season championship. Harvard has an arsenal of shooters their 8.7 threes per game rank No. 75 in the country. They have multiple ball handlers and guard the perimeter well. They rebound incredibly well for an undersized team only surrendering 5.8 offensive rebounds per game. Harvard at +350 is a tremendous value and if they can fix some of their defensive woes they should punch win the Ivy League tourney.

SWAC Conference Tournament

Texas Southern: +125
Prairie View: 3/2
Grambling: 4/1
Jackson State: 8/1
Arkansas Pine Bluff: 20/1
Alabama State: 20/1
Southern: 30/1
Alcorn State: 60/1

The pick: Texas Southern

They have made the dance in five out of the last six years. Remember this team beat Baylor, Oregon and Texas A&M during non-conference play. They are the class of the conference and should not have trouble cutting down the nets once again.