March is finally here, which means spring and the best part of the college basketball season have nearly arrived.
Before March Madness tips off, each of the 32 conferences will hold tournaments to crown conference champions. These present a huge opportunity for bettors as each conference tournament has its own unique format.
While each is a single-elimination tournament (like March Madness) with seeding based on regular-season conference records, every conference is different.
Some conferences give top their top seeds byes or double byes into the quarterfinals. Some play at neutral venues, while others let the team with the better seed host.
Before simulating each conference tournament 100,000 times, I programmed each conference’s rules into my simulations.
Here’s what my model suggests are the best conference championship bets for each conference.
Please note that all college basketball odds are current as of 5:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 3.
Conference Tournament Betting Tips
Here is what you should keep in mind when coming up with bets for each conference tournament:
Every Futures Bet is a Parlay
To win a conference championship, a team must win several games in a row. Given that, every conference championship bet you make is essentially a moneyline parlay of those games.
Neutral or Home Court
Four of the 32 conference championships are played at the home court of the higher-seeded teams (No. 1 is highest seed). The other 28 are played in neutral venues.
With home-court advantage a bigger factor in college than the NBA, it is important to consider which teams were hurt or helped by home-court advantage during the regular season.
Generally, the highest-seeded teams in a conference will have a first-round bye. Playing fewer games is an advantage for the best teams as it reduces their chances of losing to a lesser team.
Rest Between Games
Basketball is an exhausting sport, and players need rest. Typically, there is a two or even three-day layoff between games. During the regular season, back-to-back games are rare, but they are commonplace during conference tournaments.
The trick is to look at each conference tournament’s schedule to see which play back-to-back games and then figure out which teams, namely those that lack depth, are hurt by this.
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Major Conference Tournament Best Bets
ACC Conference Best Bet
Duke (-125) at Caesars
I have been skeptical of Duke’s chances of winning the National Championship all season. The Blue Devils play in the weakest of the Power Six conferences, and they have failed to dominate many of their opponents.
Despite Duke not being as good of a National Championship bet as other teams like Gonzaga, Baylor, and Kentucky, they are easily the best team in the ACC.
The Blue Devils have the best adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies in the country. Most notably, they have the fifth-best adjusted offensive efficiency.
It may seem scary to back them as a -125 favorite, but who else will win the tournament? Their stiffest competition are North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest, teams that they should beat by ten or more points.
Duke wins the conference in 62 percent of my simulations, making -125 at Caesars a fantastic bet.
ACC BONUS LONG SHOT
Virginia Tech (+1200) at BetRivers
Duke is the best team in the ACC, but Virginia Tech won the conference tournament in 8.9 percent of my simulations, the second-most of any ACC team. This is astonishing, as the Hokies are the seven-seed in the tournament, as they had only an 11-9 regular-season conference record.
Since VT has a first-round bye, they only must win four games in a row with no days off in between. In the second round, they face either Clemson or NC State. After that, they are likely to face Notre Dame in the quarterfinals, and in the semi-finals, they are likely to face North Carolina.
Virginia Tech should be favored in the first two games, with the semi-final game against UNC as a tossup.
The toughest part for Virginia Tech will be beating Duke at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. But, at +1200, the Hokies is worth taking a flier on.
Big 12 Conference Best Bet
Baylor (+225) at BetRivers
According to KenPom, the Big 12 is the toughest conference in the country. In the Big 12, the debate is over which team is better, Kansas or Baylor? Both teams had 14-4 regular season conference records and split the season series 1-1.
In my opinion, Baylor has been the better team this season. They have beaten Villanova, Texas (twice), and Kansas. The Bears also are rated as the fourth-best team in the country by KenPom and are the No. 3 ranked team in the latest AP Top 25 poll.
After finishing the season with strong victories against Kansas and Texas, I believe the Bears are well-positioned to win the conference at +225.
BIG 12 BONUS LONG SHOT
Texas (+650) at FanDuel
Texas may have lost ten games this season, but they also played the 22nd toughest schedule in the country. To win the conference tournament, the Longhorns must beat TCU and probably will have to beat Baylor and Kansas.
While a daunting task, Texas has beaten Kansas before, and they nearly beat them this last weekend in an overtime game at Kansas. They have the 12th best adjusted defensive efficiency in the country and the 18th slowest adjusted tempo.
Betting on the Longhorns is tricky because their strong defense and slow tempo of play keep them within striking distance against tough opponents.
Most sportsbooks have appropriately priced UT’s chances of winning the conference tournament, but FanDuel at +650 is an outlier that is worth placing a bet on.
Big East Conference Best Bet
Villanova (+165) at FanDuel
This year, if the Big East didn’t have Villanova, it would have been like Kentucky without chickens or rice without beans. Despite not winning the conference during the regular season, the Wildcats were easily the best team.
Villanova has the 10th best-adjusted efficiency in the country and the 6th best adjusted offensive efficiency. Even though UConn, Providence, Creighton, Seton Hall, and Marquette have had good season’s this year, none can compete with Villanova.
The Wildcats win the conference tournament in most of my simulations, which at +165 makes them a steal at FanDuel.
Big Ten Conference Best Bet
Purdue (+220) at Betway
Purdue is the favorite to win the Big Ten conference tournament, but they should be at even a shorter price to win a wide-open conference tournament.
For most of the season, the Boilermakers were a top-five team in the country. They have arguably the best offense in the country and have impressive wins against Villanova, Illinois (twice), and Iowa. Unfortunately, they are now only the 13th best team in the country, according to KenPom’s rankings.
Despite being a three-seed in the conference tournament, they are clearly better than all the other teams in the conference except for arguably Iowa. At better than 2-1 odds at BetWay, Purdue is worth a bet to win the Big Ten Conference Tournament.
BIG 10 BONUS LONG SHOT
Iowa (+450) at PointsBet
One sportsbook to remain nameless had Iowa at +550 to win the conference tournament when everyone else had them appropriately priced between +350 and +400. While that sportsbook has corrected that price, PointsBet currently has the Hawkeyes at +450, which is a great price.
Quietly, Iowa has the fourth-best adjusted offensive efficiency in the country. Even though they are a five-seed, the Hawkeyes have a winnable path to winning the conference tournament as they wouldn’t face Purdue until the Conference Championship Final.
Outside of Purdue, Iowa has the best chance of winning the conference, and that is why they are worth making a bet on.
Pac-12 Conference Best Bet
UCLA (+280) at FanDuel
If a team other than UCLA or Arizona wins the Pac-12 Conference Tournament, I will spend the whole day in Times Square in a Chicken Costume, asking for tips from tourists. That is how strongly I feel about the other ten teams’ dismal chances of winning the conference tournament.
Even though USC is in the AP Top 25, in my opinion, only UCLA and Arizona should be there. With the conference tournament as a two-team race, which team is the better bet, the Bruins or the Wildcats?
Both teams split the season series 1-1, and both teams could easily make the Final Four. Last year, UCLA made the Final Four and almost beat Gonzaga. This year, they returned most of their core from the 2020-21 team and are one of the top ten teams in the country.
Arizona had a dominant season, as they were in 18-2 in conference play. The Wildcats play at the 7th fastest adjusted tempo in the country and have a top offense and defense. They are appropriately favored to win the tournament, but in my opinion, at +280, UCLA is the best bet.
SEC Conference Best Bet
Kentucky (+200) at FanDuel
The SEC has six teams that have been mainstays in the AP Top 25 ratings this year in Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, LSU, and Tennessee. Of those six teams, Auburn, Kentucky, and Tennessee have the best chance of winning the SEC Conference tournament.
Unfortunately, Auburn is not a good bet, and Tennessee is a borderline good bet. So that leaves Kentucky as the only team worth betting on.
Outside of their season-opening loss against Duke, all of Kentucky’s losses this season have been on the road. However, the SEC tournament and NCAA tournament games are neutral site games, so playing on the road won’t be an issue for UK.
Kentucky has one of the best offenses in the country, and they have beaten Kansas, Alabama (twice), LSU, and Tennessee. The Wildcats may be a short price at +200, but Kentucky is logically the only bet worth making in a competitive SEC conference tournament.
Mid-Major Conference Tournament Best Bets
American Athletic Conference Best Bet
Houston (-145) at FanDuel
There is only one team worth betting on to win the AAC, and that is Houston. Even at -145 in a moderately difficult conference, the Cougars are a great bet.
Not only does Houston have the best offense and defense in the conference, but they have the 14th best offensive efficiency and the 13th best defensive efficiency in the entire country. This is why it should be no surprise that they are the fifth-best team in the country, according to KenPom.
The Cougars had a 15-3 conference record during the regular season but have yet to beat a top 25 team. While the NCAA Tournament will be a test for Houston, they should be favored by at least eight points in every AAC tournament game.
Don’t overthink it, just bet on Houston to win the conference.
Atlantic 10 Conference Best Bet
Dayton (+300) at Betway
This season in the Atlantic 10, there was a three-way battle for the regular-season conference championship between Dayton, Davidson, and VCU. Davidson came out on top, but Dayton is the better team in my opinion.
Notably, the Flyers beat Davidson 82-76 last weekend to end the regular season.
In my opinion, the A10 championship is going to be a rematch as Davidson and Dayton meet in the final in 49.3 percent of my simulations.
Dayton had a 14-4 regular season conference record and defeated Kansas and Virginia Tech in their non-conference schedule. They have the second-best defense in the A-10, and the third-best offense.
The Flyers are a good bet to either win the conference tournament, or at least make the final game.
ATLANTIC 10 BONUS LONG SHOT
Davidson (+440) at FanDuel
Unsurprisingly, Davidson is my favorite longshot at +440 to win the Atlantic 10 tournament. Not only do the Wildcats have the best adjusted offensive efficiency in the conference, but they rank 10th in the country in that category.
On offense, Davidson is more efficient than UCLA, North Carolina, Auburn, or UConn even when you adjust for pace and quality of opponents. The Atlantic 10 may not be one of the stronger conferences in the country, but its top teams can hang against power conference squads across the country.
The Wildcats had an impressive 15-3 regular season conference record, earning them the No. 1 seed in the tournament.
As a slow-tempo, strong offensive team, I believe that Davidson win the A-10 tournament as a +440 underdog.
Big West Conference Best Bet
Long Beach State (+550) at BetRivers
With so much drama in the LBC, it’s kind of hard betting as Kevin D. But somehow, someway, my Monte Carlo model loves Long Beach State +550 to win the Big West every single day. Not only is Long Beach home to Snoop Dogg, but it is also home to my best bet to win the Big West tournament.
The Big West conference tournament is wide open, as six teams win the tournament in at least 10 percent of my simulations (Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton, Hawaii, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Riverside). Long Beach State wins the tournament in 18.9 percent of my simulations.
The Beach (yes, that is their team nickname) has the top seed in the conference tournament. That means they have arguably the easiest road to the championship.
They are likely to be favored by 10-16 points in the quarterfinals. Their toughest test will be the semi-finals against either UC Santa Barbara or UC Irvine, where I expect they will be two-to-three-point underdogs.
If the Beach make it to the final game, they are likely to be a slight favorite. At +550, the price is right on Long Beach State.
Big West BONUS LONG SHOT
Cal State Fullerton (+700) at BetMGM
Johnny Bananas from Real World Key West is from Fullerton, California. Speaking of bananas, it is bananas that Cal State Fullerton is a +700 underdog to win the Big West Tournament.
Based on seeding alone, the Titans avoid Long Beach State, UC Irvine, and UC Santa Barbara until the tournament’s final game.
In most of their potential quarterfinal and semi-final games, Cal State Fullerton should be favored by one to eleven points. Their toughest potential matchup could be a semi-final game against Hawaii, where they are likely to be a one-point underdog.
The Titans are likely to be underdogs in the tournament’s final game, but +700 underdogs are usually underdogs in conference tournament final games. With Cal State Fullerton winning the conference in 14.7 percent of my simulations, they are worth a bet.
C-USA Conference Best Bet
North Texas (+200) at BetMGM
Two Conference USA teams dominated this season - North Texas and UAB. Even though there are 14 teams in the conference, the conference championship is won by either the Mean Green or Blazers in 85.3 percent of my simulations.
UAB is the betting favorite to win the conference, but in my opinion, North Texas should be the favorite, and you can get them at +200. They had a 16-2 regular-season conference record, the 19th best adjusted defensive efficiency in the country, and they play at the 2nd slowest adjusted tempo in the country.
If the Mean Green jump to any early leads in the tournament games, they are likely to win, as they limit possessions based on their pace and stellar defense.
The Conference USA tournament final will likely be between UAB and North Texas. During the regular season, both teams split the season series 1-1. It will be a close game where UAB is likely to be a one to two-point favorite, but I believe North Texas will win.
MAC Conference Best Bet
Toledo (+135) at BetRivers
Toledo finished the regular season with a 17-3 conference record, while Kent State, Buffalo, Akron, and Ohio won at least 66 percent of their conference games. There is a large gap between the five teams in the conference with winning records and the other seven teams with losing records.
In my opinion, there is also a gap between Toledo and the rest of the top of the conference. The Rockets are clearly better than every other team. Outside of Kent State, Toledo swept the season series against every winning MAC team this season and did so comfortably.
The Rockets beat Buffalo and Ohio by double digits twice. In their one meeting against Akron, the Rockets won by eight points.
Anything can happen in March, but when you have a team that should be heavily favored priced at +135, you should take the opportunity to more than double your money.
Mountain West Conference Best Bet
Boise State (+300) at BetMGM
Boise State is not just a football school, but they are good at basketball as well. The Broncos won the regular-season Mountain West Conference title with a 15-3 regular season record.
In my opinion, Boise State is the best team in the MWC, even better than San Diego State. While San Diego State is rated higher than Boise State, according to KenPom’s ratings, Boise State beat San Diego State in both regular-season games this year.
Of the Broncos three regular-season conference losses, two of them came against Colorado State. Luckily for Boise State, Colorado State is on the other side of the bracket.
In a potential Mountain West championship game between CSU and BSU, I believe that Boise State will prevail as they lost both regular-season games by only one possession. Most impressively, the Broncos have the 17th-best adjusted defensive efficiency in the country.
Even at a relatively short +300 price in a competitive conference, Boise State is worth a look in the Mountain West.
Patriot League Conference Best Bet
Colgate (-175) at Caesars
Colgate is basically Gonzaga of the East.
It is a small private college that is clearly the best team in its conference, having won the Patriot League regular-season title with a 16-2 conference record.
Calling Colgate “Gonzaga of the East" might be a bridge too far as the Raiders are only the 133rd-best team in the country, according to KenPom. However, among their conference foes, they were a tough opponent.
The Patriot League plays conference tournament games at homesites, and the Raiders have the top seed and a home-court advantage worth 2.2 points.
Cotterell Court may fit only 1,750 fans, among the fewest of any NCAA Division I arena, but that doesn’t stop Colgate from winning the Patriot League in 69.1% of my simulations.
PATRIOT LEAGUE BONUS LONG SHOT
Navy (+500) at FanDuel
I grew up across the river from Army, so emotionally I am not a fan of Navy. Even though I am a firm believer in Go Army, Beat Navy, they are the No. 2 seed in the tournament and will have home-court advantage until a likely title game against Colgate.
As the best defensive team in the conference, the Midshipmen have a chance against the Raiders. In their last regular-season game against Colgate, Navy was tied or within striking distance for most of the game.
At +500 odds, Navy is a steal as they win the championship in 23.9% of my simulations.
Southern Conference Best Bet
Furman (+190) at FanDuel
This year, the Southern Conference Tournament is all about two teams, Furman and Chattanooga. In 84.9 percent of my 100,000 simulations, the conference tournament is won by either Furman or Chattanooga.
Not only is Furman a good bet, but by aggressively shopping for the best price, I was able to find them priced at +190 on FanDuel when they should be priced at about +130.
For KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings, the average team in the country has an adjusted efficiency of 0. The average Southern Conference team has an adjusted efficiency of +0.54.
Furman has an adjusted efficiency of +10.88. Even as the second seed in the conference tournament, Furman should still be a shorter favorite than their +190 odds suggest.
SOUTHERN CONFERENCE BONUS BET
Chattanooga (+250) at PointsBet
Furman is the best team in the Southern Conference, but the Chattanooga Mocs aren’t far off. Furman is the 74th best team in the country out of 358 teams, but Chattanooga is right next to them as the 75th best team, according to KenPom.
Most sites have appropriately priced Chattanooga, but PointsBet strongly disagrees with the consensus by putting the Mocs at +250 to win the conference tournament. Even with Furman’s dominance, Chattanooga is a good bet to add to your conference tournament futures portfolio.
WAC Conference Best Bet
Grand Canyon (+350 Bet Boost) at Caesars
The top two seeds in the WAC Conference Tournament are Stephen F. Austin and Seattle, but both teams only combine to win the tournament in 26.1 percent of my simulations. The three-seed, New Mexico State, wins 37.5 percent of the time, and the four-seed, Grand Canyon, wins the championship in 26.7 percent of my simulations.
New Mexico State at +150 just misses the cut as a good bet, but Grand Canyon is a steal at either the regular consensus price (+330) or the odds boost price at Caesars (+350), which has a $100 betting limit.
The Antelopes may be the fourth seed in the conference tournament, but they are the second-best team in the conference, according to KenPom. They had the best defense in the conference and had a 12-5 regular-season conference record.
My only concern about them is that they lost both games against New Mexico State during the regular season, and they are likely to play them in the semi-finals. Despite this, I believe that Grand Canyon at +350 is a fantastic bet to make, despite their seeding.