NCAA Conference Tournament Longshot Bets


With the college basketball season officially winding down, it’s conference tournament season, and here are my favorite conference tournament championship futures to bet. Building a futures portfolio is always fun and sportsbooks tend to offer some exploitable spots to attack.

Of course, value is super important and even though you may think team X has the best shot at winning the conference tournament, the price may not be worth it, especially when you bring potential hedging into the equation. There are really two main things to focus on when building your portfolio and that’s value and path, which I will get into below for each of the picks.


(All odds are from DraftKings Sportsbook.)

Xavier, Big East

+1700 (0.5 units)

Value: After a strong start to the year, the wheels fell completely off for the Musketeers during Big East play as they finished with an 8-11 conference record. Talent-wise, Xavier is up there with best of the Big East, behind veteran Paul Scruggs at the point and two dynamic bigs in Zach Freemantle and Jack Nunge, yet current form and coaching are quite poor landing Xavier on the 8-seed line in the conference tournament and on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. The value here lies in Xavier regaining their beginning of the year form and what their talent level indicates, which is a top three team in the conference.

Path: The path for Xavier is as good as you can draw it up. True, they don’t get an opening round bye, but they play a Butler team that they already have beaten twice and should be a favored by a few points. The icing on the cake is that they avoid both UConn and Villanova on their side of the bracket and will have to face off with the consensus most overrated team in the conference, Providence, in the second round, where they would only be dogs by a few points. The semifinal matchup would be either Creighton or Marquette, which should be around a pick ‘em. The path to the finals is more than attainable and possibly looking at +1700 against either UConn or Villanova in the final, you could lock in profit with hedging if you wanted to.

Virginia, ACC

+1800 (0.5 units)

Value: This hasn’t been the same kind of year we have been used to seeing out of Virginia the last eight years. Virginia’s typical immovable pack-line defense fell to a mere 81st nationally per KenPom after normally falling in the top 10, which has led them to a 12-8 conference record in a weak ACC. Yet, Tony Bennett is still the head coach, and Virginia’ methodical, grind-it-out pace is still a tough prep in a tournament setting. The Cavs do have potential to get hot offensively and if they can lock in defensively, they can compete with anyone.

Path: The path is decent for the Hoos as they do get a first-round bye and avoid Duke on their side of the bracket. Virginia should have a fairly easy time with the winner of Georgia Tech/Louisville and then will have to matchup against UNC, who is extremely volatile due to their inconsistent guard play. Notre Dame would be the likely semifinal matchup, where they played them tough earlier in the season on the road and should only be a dog by a point or two. If Duke survives their side of the bracket, UVA is actually Duke’s toughest matchup as both games this year were highly contested.


UTEP, Conference USA

+4500 (0.25 units)

Value: UTEP has had an up-and-down season, in large part due to various injuries, but the Miners are finally back healthy and are winners of two straight headed into the conference tournament. What I like most about this UTEP team is their talented backcourt behind Souley Boum, Keonte Kennedy and Jamal Bieniemy. UTEP has shown flashes of a high ceiling as they’ve strung together wins against Louisiana Tech, North Texas and played UAB down to the wire. I also tend to favor solid guard play in a tournament setting and UTEP has the horses to make a run at this wide price if they can figure out how to shore up their interior defense and rebounding.

Path: It’s a favorable path for UTEP as they get a very inefficient Old Dominion team in their first matchup and then an overachieving Middle Tennessee State team in the next round. Avoiding UAB, North Texas and Louisiana Tech until the semifinals is key, and their path sets them up for that. UAB would be a very tough matchup for UTEP due to their high turnover defensive rate and stout interior, but UTEP did just play them to a three-point game towards the end of the season and beat both North Texas and Louisiana Tech who would be possible finals matchups. Love the price for a team trending in the right direction.

Alabama, SEC

+1500 (0.5 units)

Value: The most polarizing team in America, Alabama lives and dies by the three-point ball, ranking 12th nationally in 3pt FGA per game. Alabama can lose to any team in the country if they are cold or beat any team in the country if they are hot. This is the exact type of team you do want to get behind at long odds in a tournament setting due to their ability to get hot from behind the arch make tough shots. Guard play is key in March and Alabama’s strength is certainly in their backcourt behind Jahvon Quinerly, Keon Ellis, Jaden Shackelford and JD Davison. Yet, where they have struggled all year is their interior defense, which they certainly need to improve on.

Path: The path honestly isn’t great for Alabama. Although they’ll have an easy second-round matchup against Georgia or Vanderbilt (still not easy for Alabama), they’ll have to go through Tennessee and Kentucky most likely to get to the finals. Both squads are juggernauts at the moment, although Alabama has played both tough, including holding a halftime lead at Kentucky and beating Tennessee at home. It would take a string of three tough wins for Alabama to pull it off, but their streakiness is something I can get behind at this price.


Florida State, ACC

+6000 (0.25 units)

Value: Florida State hit an extremely cold spell at the end of January where they were dealing with a ton of injuries and lost eight of nine games at one point. Since then, the Noles have gotten much healthier with Caleb Mills, Anthony Polite and RayQuan Evans back and are getting hot at the right time, winners of three straight. Furthermore, during their injury-laden stretch, the young Florida State freshman/sophomore core got valuable experience, which could pay dividends in March when they are called upon, including players such as Matthew Cleveland and Jalen Warley. We know the length of Leonard Hamilton’s squad is typically a nightmare to prep for in a tournament setting, so I love these long odds for a team trending in the right direction that has shown a high ceiling with wins over Duke and Notre Dame.

Path: The path is certainly difficult for FSU as they start out against a very poor-on-defense yet streaky Syracuse team that could get hot in a hurry and will force the Noles to take a ton of threes, which isn’t their strong suit. Then in the quarterfinals they would have to play Duke, which is the best team in the conference by a wide margin, yet they do match up well against them and have beaten them once this season. If they are able to get past Duke, the rest of the down ACC shouldn’t be as bad as Miami, Wake, UNC and Notre Dame should all only be a few-point favorites against Florida State in the semis and finals, which would also provide great hedging opportunities at such a long price.

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