College Basketball Conference Tournament Notes
If you blinked, you missed it. The college basketball regular season ends for about half of the country this week. Most of the larger conferences still have two weeks left and will play into March, but several of the smaller conferences will wrap up this week and kick off conference tournaments next week. The Atlantic Sun, Big South, Horizon League, and Patriot League all start their conference tournaments on Tuesday, March 3. The Mountain West, Northeast, and Ohio Valley all start on Wednesday the 4th.
Let’s take a look at some of the remaining games in those conferences and see what kind of implications are out there. Keep an eye on WagerTalk’s Live Odds page for updated numbers from a variety of offshore and Las Vegas sports books.
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Atlantic Sun – Looks like it will be a fairly uneventful week at the top of the conference. Liberty beat North Florida last week to earn a one-game lead over the Ospreys in the standings. North Florida only has one game remaining, which is at Stetson on Thursday. Liberty has to travel to Kennesaw State (0-14 in conference) and Lipscomb. If the Flames hold serve, they’ll be the No. 1 seed and the A-Sun’s tournament bid will go through Lynchburg, Virginia. The bottom of the conference is a little more interesting. Seeds 5-8 are all separated by one game, and most of them play one another this week. There should be some spirited contests between teams like North Alabama, Florida Gulf Coast and NJIT as those teams look to stay out of the seventh and eighth seeds to avoid Liberty and North Florida in the first round of the tournament.
Big South – Should be an entertaining week for the top two seeds. Radford has a one-game lead over Winthrop in the race for the No. 1 seed (and home court advantage through the conference tournament), but Radford has a much tougher slate this week. The Highlanders have to play at No. 3 Hampton and host No. 4 Gardner Webb to close the season. Winthrop plays USC-Upstate (No. 326 in KenPom) and High Point (No. 342 in KenPom) to close the season. Hampton and Gardner Webb will be on the court tonight…for 20 minutes. They met on January 20, but clock malfunctions in the arena forced the game to be suspended at halftime. They will finish that game tonight with all stats and fouls carrying over. Gardner Webb leads 39-31 and Hampton’s star guard Jermaine Marrow has three fouls.
Horizon League – Whoever did the Horizon League schedule this year probably thought they were creating a juicy matchup between Wright State and Northern Kentucky to close the regular season. The Norse and Raiders will meet on Friday night, but there will be absolutely nothing on the line aside from regular season bragging rights. Wright State and Northern Kentucky have clinched the top two seeds, and they have automatically qualified for the conference tournament semifinals. It’s a neutral site tournament at Indianapolis, and the other ten teams in the league get re-seeded as they progress through the tournament. So there is absolutely no advantage to being No. 1 vs. No. 2. It will be interesting to see how these two teams handle Friday’s contest, knowing that they’re lined up for a much bigger collision a week later.
Patriot League – The magic number is six. The top six teams get a first round bye, while the bottom four have to play an extra game. Only once in the history of the Patriot League tournament has a team won the tournament after playing in the opening round. With two regular season games remaining, Bucknell, Loyola (MD) and Navy are all tied for that No. 6 seed. Loyola and Navy play each other on Wednesday night in a battle of the league’s fastest team against the slowest. In addition to avoiding the opening round, the No. 6 seed also avoids league-best Colgate for as long as possible.
Northeast – Who woulda thought that the Northeast Conference would bring one of the most controversial storylines into March Madness. In their first year of Division 1 basketball, the Merrimack Warriors have taken the league by storm, and a win over 3-13 Central Connecticut this week would clinch at least a share of the regular season title. Great story, right?! Thanks to the NCAA’s transition rules, Merrimack isn’t eligible for the conference tournament. Without Merrimack in the mix, this could get blown wide open. If the tournament started today, St. Francis (NY) would be the No. 8 seed. They’ve already beaten the potential No. 1 (St. Francis PA), No. 2 (Robert Morris) and No. 4 (Mt. Saint Mary’s) seeds in the regular season. Anyone’s ballgame.
Ohio Valley – Arguably the most intriguing regular season race this week. Only eight teams make the conference tournament in this 12-team league, so you’ve got battles at the top and bottom of the conference. The top two seeds get automatically placed in the semi-finals, and at the moment, there’s a three-way tie at the top of the league between Belmont, Murray State and Austin Peay. Murray State and Austin Peay will play each other on Saturday, so that will be a huge contest with the winner earning an extra bye and the loser being forced to play an additional game. In the middle of the table, teams five through nine are all separated by two games and one of those teams will be left out of the mix.
Don’t wait until March Madness to brush up on your college basketball betting strategy. Direct from the WagerTalk TV Studios in Las Vegas, host Kelly Stewart talks with sports betting experts Marco D’Angelo and Dave Cokin about some of their personal college basketball betting tips.
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