5 lessons from conference tourneys

Plenty of sports fans get into college basketball when the NCAA tournament bracket is revealed.

[Join the Yahoo Fantasy Tourney Pick’Em $25K Best Bracket Contest]

That’s common, but plenty of hoops heads use the conference tournament week as a cram session for the March Madness exam. Every team that will play in the 68-team field was on stage last week in conference tournament play, and there are five key lessons from those games to take away before making NCAA tournament bets at BetMGM.

Betting Duke might be dangerous

Here was Duke’s finish to the season: Get embarrassed on their home court by North Carolina, barely beat (and not cover against) a Syracuse team without leading scorer Buddy Boeheim in the ACC quarterfinals, barely beat (and not cover against) Miami in the semifinals, lose to Virginia Tech handily in the final. Duke clearly has the talent to make a long run. But there have been too many times this season when the Blue Devils don’t look like a title team. They should not have been a No. 2 seed, especially over Tennessee. Blindly betting the brand name might not work out well. There’s just something off about this Duke team that is not short on NBA talent.

Duke Blue Devils forward Paolo Banchero (5) reacts during a loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC tournament. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Injuries to Wisconsin and Baylor matter

Baylor and Wisconsin lost their first conference tournament games, with good reason. Baylor was without LJ Cryer, its leading scorer, due to a foot injury. The Bears also are without leading rebounder Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, who is done for the season after a knee injury. Baylor went 8-4 down the stretch, lost to Oklahoma in its Big 12 tournament opener and seems vulnerable if Cryer doesn’t come back.

Wisconsin had guard Johnny Davis, a national player of the year candidate, for its loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament. But Davis, who left the regular-season finale with an ankle injury, went 3-of-19 from the field. Maybe an ankle injury didn’t have anything to do with it, but it seems more like coincidence that Davis had his worst game of the season a few days after the injury. Davis might be back to full strength by Friday when the Badgers play, but it’s something worth considering.

Tennessee took a big step forward

Tennessee came into conference championship week looking like a good team but not a title favorite. Then in the SEC tournament, it looked like a title contender. Tennessee beat Mississippi State by 13, upset Kentucky and then throttled a hot Texas A&M team by 15 in the title game. The Volunteers, who have a fantastic defensive team, have won 12 of 13, and after their SEC tourney title there should be a lot more faith in them making a deep run.

Iowa is coming on strong

Like Tennessee, Iowa’s resume looks different after the Big Ten tournament. Iowa was on a nice run late, but didn’t have a lot of quality wins. A win over Purdue in the title game helps resolve that issue. And now the Hawkeyes have won nine of 10 with the only loss coming by two points at Illinois. Keegan Murray, while not exactly an unknown to college hoops fans, looked like a player who can carry his team through a tournament. Indiana got itself in the field and looks a lot more viable to win a game or two after a good showing in Indianapolis, but the story of the Big Ten tournament was Iowa going from a flawed middle seed (its defense is still suspect) to one that looks like it’s peaking coming in to the Big Dance.

Three mid-majors that impressed

There are always a few teams from one-bid leagues that need to win their conference tournaments to make the Big Dance, but once they get the auto bid they become serious threats to win some bets and make a run. Three mid-majors punched their ticket and looked the part of a first-round winner. Colgate, South Dakota State and Vermont were as good as advertised. Colgate and South Dakota State are the only teams in the nation shooting over 40 percent from behind the 3-point line. That gives them a shot to win at least one game this week. Vermont isn’t quite that good from 3, but the Catamounts are really good on offense and have won 22 of 23. They were favored to win the America East and won the title game by 39 points. There could be a few double-digit seeds to win, and at least cover, in the first round, led by these three.

Leave a Comment