NCAAB Betting: 5 Top Seeds That Won’t Win Their Conference Tournaments

The regular season is officially over, which means it is now tournament time for NCAA Men’s College Basketball! But before the Big Dance kicks off, we must first play the conference tournaments. A couple of the smaller conferences have actually already crowned their tournament champions and the ticket to the NCAA tournament that goes with it, as Murray State, Longwood, and Loyola-Chicago have all already punched their dance cards to the madness.

Several other league tournaments are well underway, but with the power conferences getting in on the action later in the week, that is when the real madness starts. While I am personally a huge fan of small conference college basketball, I can appreciate that most people would rather see teams like Auburn, Kentucky, and Kansas play than teams like Bellarmine, South Dakota State, and Vermont.

That makes these power conference tournaments must-see TV, as we are going to see tons of blockbuster matchups between elite teams as they battle it out for their respective league tournament titles. The best part about March Madness for most casual fans are the upsets, as everyone loves to see Cinderella’s dance their way into the tournament.

This year, we have the most wide-open field that I can ever remember, and when I look at all of the top-seeded teams in these conference tournaments, I see several teams that I think are going to be on upset alert. In this article, we are going to take a look at the NCAAB betting odds for these top-seeded teams to win their league tournaments and tell you why they won’t win next week, despite being the favorites. With that, we will jump right into it as we head to the SEC to take a look at the top-seeded Auburn Tigers.

Auburn Tigers – SEC (+260)

We can argue back and forth all day long on which conference is the best in the nation, top to bottom. But when I look at the top leagues in the country, conferences like the Big 12, SEC, Big 10, and Big East, what separates the SEC from the rest of the pack for me, is how many teams that call the SEC home that can win the national title.

Technically every team that gets into the field of 68 can win the national championship, but in reality, only a small handful of teams actually have a realistic chance of cutting down the nets at the Final Four. In my opinion, no league has more teams that can win it all than the SEC, as I see Kentucky, Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Alabama all as teams that could take home the national title this year. With the league so loaded with elite teams, I can’t justify taking any single team over the rest of the field.

It is easy to say that Auburn isn’t going to win the SEC tournament just based on the overall strength of the field, but when I take a closer look at the full body of work for the Tigers and how they have played recently, this is a team that has been shaky down the stretch and has been downright awful away from home.

In early February, Auburn was sitting at 22-1, with an undefeated record in the SEC at 10-0. Their lone loss came to a solid UCONN Huskies team in double overtime in the non-conference, and they were deservingly the number 1 team in the nation in all of the major polls.

But since that excellent start, the Tigers are just 5-3, with all 5 of those wins coming against teams that won’t be hearing their names called on Selection Sunday. In fact, the last time that the Tigers beat a team that will be playing meaningful games in March, came all of the way back on February 1st when they beat Alabama.

It has been a rough finish to the season for Auburn, but not one that was all that difficult to see coming. The Tigers have not played well on the road all season long, as even when they were winning nearly every game that they played, they consistently played with fire away from home.

Auburn barely snuck past South Florida, Saint Louis, Alabama, Missouri, Georgia, and Mississippi State in true road games, with none of those winning coming by more than 6 points. All 4 of Auburn’s losses have come away from home, and with the SEC tournament set to be played at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, I would expect those struggles to continue.

In order to win the SEC tournament, you have to be able to win in hostile territory. We already talked about how the casual fans love the upsets, and with the Tigers as the top seed, they are going to take every team’s best punch, and the fans in the stands are going to be rooting for them to lose. Nothing about how Auburn has been able to play this season tells me that they are going to be able to handle all of that, and that is why I will look further down the board to find my SEC tournament champion.

Duke Blue Devils – ACC (-130)

It is fairly rare that we see a team that is so far ahead of the rest of their league that they are actually laying odds to win their conference tournament before a single game is even played. It is exceedingly rare that we see that in a power conference like the ACC, but with the ACC way down this season, Duke has emerged as the massive favorite to win the league title.

If I were to view the Blue Devil’s chances of winning the ACC title through the lens of betting value, they clearly show very little value at this price, as the prohibitive favorites. But even when I take away the betting odds and only look at the Blue Devils chances of winning outright, I just don’t see them winning this conference tournament.

I am a huge Coach K fan, but the spectacle that was made out of his final game coaching at Cameron Indoor Stadium earlier this week was clearly a massive distraction for his team. In 20 years, when we all look back at his Hall of Fame career at Duke, where he has led the Blue Devils for 42 years, nobody is going to care about them losing at home to their biggest rivals in his last home game. But it was evident that his impending departure from Durham has taken a toll on his team, and they have not handled it well.

The rivalry between Duke and North Carolina has been an epic one, and when these teams first met up in Chapel Hill earlier this season, the beating that the Blue Devils put on the Tar Heels was the most lopsided beat downs I have ever seen in a game between these Blue Blood programs. Duke ran North Carolina off of their own floor in that game, which makes the fact that they lost by double digits in the rematch earlier this week, a clear sign that the distractions have taken their toll.

And even if the Blue Devils didn’t have to deal with the face of the program leaving, with every game that they play the rest of the way out as being about the coach and not the team on the floor, I have plenty of reasons as to why the Blue Devils aren’t going to win the ACC tournament. A quick glance at the ACC bracket shows me that despite the Blue Devils dominating the league much of the season, the bracket lays out poorly for them.

Assuming the seeds hold out, Duke’s first game will come against Florida State. They lost to the Seminoles in January and having to face a team that already beat them in their opening game is a tough draw for sure. If the Blue Devils get past the ‘Noles, they will likely match up with 4-seed Miami.

Duke played Miami only once this season, and they lost to them as well, at home, no less! When you only have 4 losses in league play and draw a couple of them in your side of the bracket back-to-back, it might feel like the universe is plotting against your success if you are a Duke fan!

Let’s say that Duke finds a way to beat Florida State and Miami and gets all of the way to the tournament finals. Who are they most likely to draw in that game? You guessed it, the North Carolina Tar Heels, a team that just spanked them in a game that they badly wanted to win.

While the Heels are the 3-seed, they are the 2nd betting favorite to win this tourney as they have caught fire as of late, with wins in 11 of their last 13 games. The distractions are too much, and the brackets lays out too poorly, to want to have any action on the Blue Devils right now, and I see them coming up short of winning one last ACC tournament title for Coach K.

Houston Cougars– AAC (+250)

I am going to get this out of the way right up front. I think the Houston Cougars are absolute frauds this season. Everyone likes to trash talk the Gonzaga Bulldogs about their weak conference and strength of schedule, but for whatever reason, the Cougars seem to be immune to the same treatment, despite a similar SOS and significantly worse results in quad 1 games.

The Zags are 8-3 in quad 1 games and 2-0 in quad 2 games. Houston? They are an abysmal 1-3 in quad 1 games, and of their 26 wins, 18 of them have come in quad 3 or quad 4 games. That lone quad 1 win for Houston came all of the way back in December, in a neutral floor game against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys just finished their season at 15-15, and even if they were eligible to make the NCAA tournament (they aren’t as they are on probation) they wouldn’t be getting a bid anyway, as they just haven’t been good enough.

The Cougars have done an excellent job of beating up on bad teams, but I just can’t understand why people are looking at Houston as a team that could actually win the national title. To make matters worse for Houston, they are going to have to contend with an all of the sudden red-hot Memphis Tigers team that is finally playing up to their lofty preseason expectations with a 10-1 record down the stretch.

That run includes a pair of wins over Houston, and neither of those games were overly competitive as the Tigers won both games by double digits with an average margin of victory of 12 points per game. Memphis has had more than their fair share of ups and downs this season, but Penny Hardaway has things moving in the right direction at just the right time, and I would much rather make a bet on the Tigers than the Cougars at this point, no matter what the seeds tell me.

Illinois Illini – Big 10 (+600)

The Big 10 tournament looks a lot like the SEC tournament, as this bracket is chalked full of quality teams. Even the bad teams in the Big 10 are pretty good, and in a league where we regularly see top teams get upset by bottom-tiered teams, I think Illinois is going to have a tough time next week in Indianapolis.

The Illini are only the top seed because of an absurd upset earlier today, where the Wisconsin Badgers somehow lost at home to last place Nebraska. I do have to give Illinois some credit, though, as they had to take care of business at home against Iowa, beating the streaking Hawkeyes in a thriller this evening to snatch that 1-seed, but Illinois just isn’t the best team in the Big 10 right now, despite their seeding saying otherwise.

If you ask Kenpom, Purdue is the best team in the Big 10, with Iowa next, and then the Illini, closely followed by Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The NET rankings also have Purdue as the top team in the Big 10, with the Boilermakers ranked 13th, Illinois coming in at 14th, and Iowa at 15th. Wisconsin and Ohio state come in at 20th and 21st, respectively, in the NET rankings.

If the analytics aren’t your favorite way to measure teams, let’s consult the AP poll instead. While the win over Iowa tonight is probably going to boost their rankings some when the new rankings come out on Monday, in the most recent AP poll, Illinois came in at 20th, just 2 spots ahead of Ohio State, 3 spots ahead of Iowa, and trailing both Wisconsin and Purdue who were both in the top-10. No matter how you slice it, Illinois isn’t the best team in the Big 10, which certainly makes it tough to expect them to win the Big 10 tournament that is filled with land mines.

The books seem to agree with that assessment as well, as they have Purdue as the betting favorites to win the Big 10 tournament as the 3-seed, not the top-seeded Illini. This one almost seems unfair compared to the rest of the teams in this article, as at least the rest of these teams all have compelling cases as being the best team in their conference, whereas there really isn’t anybody outside of Champaign that thinks Illinois is the best the Big 10 has to offer.

Could Illinois win the Big 10 tournament? Of course, they could. But so could Purdue, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Rutgers, and Indiana, all teams that currently project to be playing in the NCAA tournament. Who knows how the Big 10 tournament will play out, but there are several teams that Illinois could lose to that wouldn’t remotely be considered an upset, and I won’t be wasting any money on a play on the Illini.

Kansas Jayhawks– Big 12 (+200)

The Kansas Jayhawks have been on my radar as a national title threat since the preseason, and I would include KU in that group of teams that I feel can win it all as we gear up for the madness. But I haven’t liked what I have seen for Kansas in the last two weeks, as they look like a team that has run out of gas. Momentum is huge in March, and Kansas just doesn’t have it right now.

The Jayhawks lost back-to-back games against Baylor and TCU in late February and early March, with both games being ones where they had a shot at locking up the Big 12 regular season title with a win. Kansas really wanted to win both of those games and they couldn’t get it done.

In the final 2 games of the regular season, they hosted TCU and Texas and nearly lost both games, as the TCU game came down to the final possession to be decided and the Texas game went into overtime before the Jayhawks won to snag a share of the Big 12 title and the top overall seed in the Big 12 tournament.

If you want to win your league tournament in a league as loaded as the Big 12, you have to be playing your best basketball of the season, and that isn’t the case for KU. We just talked about how Kansas split the late-season series with TCU and needed overtime to beat Texas, and who is Kansas going to draw in the 2nd round of the Big 12 tournament? The winner of the 1st round game between Texas and TCU. Similar to Duke, the bracket lays out as the worst possible scenario for the Jayhawks and almost feels unfair for a 1 seed.

Kansas gets a double-bye as the 1-seed, which is a big advantage, as they start the tournament out in the semifinals and only need to win 1 game to get into the Big 12 finals. They have had recent struggles against both TCU and Texas, and they absolutely could lose in that opening game.

And while that could happen, I do see them getting to the finals, albeit with a tough path to get there despite the double-bye. Who will be waiting for Kansas in the finals? The winner of the 2/3 matchup between Baylor and Texas Tech.

The Red Raiders and Bears join the Jayhawks as teams that could win it all, and they also both just happen to have wins over Kansas this year. You are never going to win the Big 12 tournament by beating all soft teams, but when a team has just 4 losses in league play, and they will have to play some combinations of each of those teams in their only games in the conference tournament, it is a really tough draw.

Kansas hasn’t been at their best recently, and they have a murderer’s row of teams to face to win this tournament, and I don’t see it happening. I will gladly take the field that includes strong teams like Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, and TCU, over the rock chalk Jayhawks.

Wrap up

And there you have it, folks, my picks for 5 top seeds that won’t win their conference tournaments! The madness has just kicked off, so now is not the time to take your eye off the ball, as the action is heating up as we get closer to Selection Sunday next weekend.

Thank you for reading, and make sure that you stay tuned to TheSportsGeek all March long, where our team of experts break down all of the NCAA betting odds for you and give you all of the high value college basketball odds and predictions that you need to make money betting on college hoops!

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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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