5 Longshots That Could Win NCAA Men’s Basketball Conference Titles

While The Big Dance always takes top billing in March when it comes to the Madness, for me, the real start of the Madness are the conference tournaments. For some smaller leagues, teams winning their conference tournament is the only way they are going to get into the NCAA tournament, while for the power conferences, it is more about seeding than it is about locking up an automatic qualifier spot.

That is not always the case as we do occasionally see small conference teams like Loyola-Chicago or Murray State contend for at-large bids, and occasionally we see power conference teams that weren’t going to get a bid steal one by winning their conference tournament, last year’s Georgetown team was a great example of this. In this article, we are going to focus on teams that, while their NCAA tournament status has yet to be decided, are, for whatever reason, longshots to win their conference tournament.

These plays are going to be high risk and high reward, but also high value. With that, let’s jump right into 5 longshots that could win their NCAA Men’s Basketball Conference titles. Let’s get started by heading to the ACC to check in on the Miami Hurricanes!

Miami Hurricanes – ACC (9.5-1)

In reality, I am only including the Miami Hurricanes on this list because of the price, as in my eyes, they really aren’t much of a longshot at all, but at nearly double-digit odds, they pay out like one, which means they deserve a mention. The ‘Canes are just a game back of Duke and Notre Dame, who are tied atop the standings in the ACC, and when I look at how the Hurricane’s schedule lays out, a play on Miami shows outrageous value.

Miami has won 3 straight games, including a huge road win at Wake Forrest and if it weren’t for a pair of fluky 1-point losses to Florida State, Miami would be sitting all alone in 1st place right now. They beat Duke earlier this year at Cameron Indoor, and they wish they could have their home loss to Notre Dame from a couple of weeks ago back, but with 5 games left on their regular season schedule, they have a very real shot at running the table, which would put them in fantastic shape to at least pick up a share of the ACC title.

Miami has tough but very winnable home games against Virginia and Virginia Tech and road games at Pittsburgh, Boston College, and Syracuse. They should be favored in each of those games, and when you compare what Miami has left to what Notre Dame and Duke have yet to play, you can see why I love a play on Miami so much.

Duke has a road trip to Charlottesville still left to play, and while the Hoos aren’t as good as they usually are this year, that is still one of the toughest places in the nation for opposing teams to win. The Blue Devils finish up their regular season with a home game against their arch-rivals, the Tar Heels of North Carolina, and with the Heels getting demolished in the first meeting between those teams earlier this year, they would love nothing else than to knock off Duke and cost them the outright ACC title. Remember, Duke only has to lose 1 of these games to leave the door open for Miami, and that absolutely could happen.

The team that nobody is talking about right now, that they should be, is Notre Dame, as the Irish are on fire, having won 8 of their last 9 league games and 15 of 17 overall. But, just like Duke, all Notre Dame has to do is lose 1 of their final 5 games to allow Miami the chance to catch up. Most of the remaining schedule for Notre Dame lays out fairly well for the Irish, but their next game is a potential landmine, as they have to play at Wake Forrest against a 20-win Demon Deacons team.

All of the teams we are going to talk about today are going to need help, but none of these teams have as clear of a path as Miami does. Miami could easily go 5-0, and if Duke and Notre dame slip up, they are going to be right there to snag a piece of the ACC title and get us paid.

Oregon Ducks – PAC-12 (30-1)

Last year, all we heard about the PAC-12 during the regular season was how bad the conference of champions was and how the once-mighty league had fallen apart. But by the 2nd weekend of March madness, all we were hearing about the PAC-12 is how we all got it wrong, as the league dominated the tournament, sending 5 teams to the Sweet 16. This year, the league is getting a lot more love, with teams like Arizona, USC, and UCLA all spending time in the top-10 nationally.

One team that started out the season getting some attention before falling off most people’s radars with a slow start are the Oregon Ducks. Oregon played a tough non-conference schedule, and it led to several early season losses, and when they finished their non-conference schedule, they were a disappointing 7-6. But since then, the Ducks have looked a lot like the team everyone thought they were coming into this season, as they have won 10 of their last 12 games, including big road wins over UCLA and USC.

What has to be frustrating for Duck’s fans is their habit of playing down to weak opposition. The PAC-12 has some great teams, but those aren’t the teams that Oregon has lost to this season. The Duck’s 4 losses have come to Arizona State, Colorado, Cal, and Stanford, all in games where they were betting favorites.

The recent strong run for Oregon has the Ducks moved all of the way up to a 2nd place tie in the league standings, 3-games back of Arizona, and I think they are firmly a tournament-level team at this point. But when I see that they pay out a whopping 30-1 to win the PAC-12 title, I think they are worth a speculative play at a jumbo price.

Why? Because they are red hot, and they will have to play many of the other contenders for the league title down the stretch. When you are chasing teams, you want to play them, as a win for you is also a loss for them, which makes games against Arizona, USC, and UCLA games where the Ducks can continue to make up ground. The only problem for Oregon is that even if they beat Arizona, they are still going to need to run the table and have the Wildcats lose at least 2 more games.

Will that happen? It is highly unlikely. But the Wildcats do have 3 straight road games after their game with Oregon, so it certainly could happen. And at this type of price, we don’t need to win this bet very often for it to show long-term value.

When you are making bets with odds like 30-1, it is much less about whether or not your bet will win and more about could your bet win, and in this case, it could happen. Win, lose or draw in the PAC-12, the Ducks have officially played themselves into a position where no team is going to want to see them in their bracket come March.

Tennessee Volunteers – SEC (12-1)

This week, the Tennessee Volunteers reminded everyone that they are the real deal when they handed the Kentucky Wildcats a rare loss. That win pulled them into a tie with the Wildcats for 2nd place in the SEC standings, with both teams chasing the first place Auburn Tigers.

The Vols are 2 games back of Auburn, but they host the Tigers in Knoxville in a couple of weeks, and I am not sure there is a team in the nation that has a better homecourt resume than Tennessee does, as the Volunteers are undefeated at home with wins over Kentucky, Arizona, and LSU amongst a host of other quality top-100 wins.

Tennessee has a home and home with Arkansas still left on their schedule, and those are certainly not going to be easy wins, but their other games are against Missouri and Georgia, in games where they are going to be heavy betting favorites. For argument’s sake, let’s say that Tennessee stays hot and runs the table, including beating Auburn, where does that put them?

The Vols would need the Tigers to lose at least 1 more game to catch them, and when I look at how Auburn has played on the road in the last several weeks, I wouldn’t at all be shocked if that indeed is the case. Auburn is a very good basketball team, potentially the best team in the nation if I am being honest, but on the road, they beat Georgie by just 2, Missouri by 1, and wins over Alabama, South Florida, and Saint Louis all came by 6 points or fewer.

There is something to be said for teams that win all of their close games, but the Tigers might be running out of gas after playing one of the toughest schedules in the country this year, and when you play with fire as much as the Tigers have this season, eventually you get burned. 3 of the Tiger’s final 5 games come on the road, with the trip to Knoxville, as well as road games at Florida and Mississippi State.

Both of those games are top-50 types of games against quality teams, and a loss wouldn’t at all be shocking. You hate to be on the other side of what might be the nation’s best team, but at this price, and with the fact that Tennessee has won 8 of their last 9 games as they streak towards the end of the regular season, a play on the Vols is one that shows plenty of value.

Saint Bonaventure Bonnies – A-10 (100-1)

We have talked about some teams that are technically longshots, based on their current betting odds, but for our last 2 plays, we are going to truly swing for the fences with a couple of plays that will get you rich if they end up coming in. Our first lottery pick play will come to us from the A-10, on the Bonnies of St. Bonaventure. I am high on the A-10 this year, as there are 6 top-100 teams playing in the league, and while some of the so-called experts out there only have this as being a 1-bid league, I think you can make a case for 3 or even 4 teams dancing from the A-10 this year.

Davidson has led the way most of the year, with the Wildcats even breaking into the top-25 nationally last week. But I guess the Wildcats started listening to their own hype a little too much, as they followed up that national ranking by promptly losing to Rhode Island against a Rams squad that entered play riding a 6-game losing streak. That loss opened the door for the rest of the league to catch Davidson from behind, and while there are teams that are positioned a little better than St Bonaventure, none of them pay out triple-digit odds like the Bonnies!

St. Bonaventure picked up a huge sweep over Saint Louis, taking the home and home series in back-to-back games against the Billikens, and all told, the Bonnies have won 4 games in a row as they try to play themselves onto the right side of the bubble. Technically the Bonnies are in 5th place in the A-10 standings, but they are just 2 games back of 1st place, so they are well within striking distance, and similar to Oregon, they have the advantage of getting to play some of those teams down the stretch.

The next 3 games are very winnable for St. Bonaventure as they play Duquesne, Rhode Island, and Saint Josephs, with none of those teams inside the national top-100. The Bonnies finish the regular season against VCU and Richmond, teams that they are fighting with for the league title.

We won’t spend too much time focusing on the teams ahead of the Bonnies with the exception of 1st place Davidson, and when I see that Davidson has top-50 games still on their slate against Saint Louis and Dayton, the Wildcats could absolutely drop a couple of games in the next couple of weeks, which would leave this A-10 title up for grabs for several teams. This one probably won’t happen, but at 100-1, it COULD happen, and that alone makes it well worthy of a play.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights – Big 10 (160-1)

My jaw dropped when I saw these odds as there might not be a hotter team in the country right now than the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Rutgers has won 4 straight games, with all 4 wins coming over nationally ranked teams. That is an absurd run against brutal competition, and the Scarlet Knights have quickly gone from bubble team to a dark horse Big 10 champion team in a hurry.

Looking back on the full resume for Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights have impressed with wins over Purdue, Michigan, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Illinois. I’m not sure there is a team in the nation that wouldn’t trade quality wins with Rutgers, and with how they have played in the last 2 weeks, the sky is the limit. Rutgers is in 5th place in the Big 10, but the league is jammed at the top, as 1 game in the loss column separates 1st place from 6th place, making the Big 10 the most wide-open of any league in the country.

In a conference where so many teams have a shot at winning, how can you not love a bet on the hottest team of them all? And at this price? Forget about it, I am unloading my bank account on this one as if this hot streak hasn’t shown you that Rutgers can beat the best teams the league has to offer, you are out of your mind!

Is the path for Rutgers a tough one? Absolutely. But it isn’t any tougher than what they have had to deal with all season long, and we have seen what they have been able to do against the top teams in the conference. If Rutgers can somehow find a way to go into West Lafayette and beat the Purdue Boilermakers for the 2nd time this season, watch out, as the Scarlet Knights are going to quickly become one of the betting favorites in the Big 10.

Instead of waiting to see if that happens, I am going to fire hard on Rutgers now and lock in these odds while I still can. If you haven’t watched Ron Harper Jr and his Scarlet Knights play a game yet this season, you are truly missing out and you need to tune in on Sunday as they try and do something that I have personally never seen, and that is win 5 in a row against nationally ranked opponents.

Wrap Up

And there you have it folks, my picks for 5 longshots that could win their conference titles this season. Based on these odds, if you make plays on all of these teams, only 1 of them has to come in for you to show profit! Will it be Tennessee, Miami, or Oregon? Or will it be one of the huge longshots like the Bonnies or Scarlet Knights? Thanks for reading and make sure that you stay tuned to TheSportsGeek all season long, where our team of expert handicappers bring you all of the high value betting advice that you need to make money betting on NCAA Men’s College Basketball!

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Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL

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