Best Bets: 2019 college basketball conference tournament betting odds, values, futures

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These tournaments have not yet released brackets since their regular season has not yet finished:

Big Sky, MAC, SWAC, MEAC, Sun Belt, WAC, Southland, Conference USA, Big West, Ivy

All odds listed are courtesy of DraftKings SportsBook.

The cheat sheet: Illinois State, Jacksonville State, Charleston and LIU-Brooklyn are my favorite futures bets this week. Read on to find out why.

CONFERENCE TOURNEYS: 21 Mid-Major Stars | Best Bets | Bid Thieves | Schedule


AMERICA EAST

FAVORITE: It’s VERMONT (-670). It’s always Vermont. John Becker is currently the caretaker of the best program in the America East, and for the third straight year, he’s led them to a conference regular season title and a spot in KenPom’s top 100. Anthony Lamb is an absolute monster, there are three brothers that all play major minutes and T.J. Sorrentine still hit that one from the parking lot. The value, however, is wildly thin. Take them in the Jerome. Don’t invest in a future.

SLEEPER: Jeff Boals has won a bunch of road games with STONY BROOK (+300) this year and John Gallagher has done well to turn HARTFORD (+1400) around, but the value bets I like are UMBC (+2000) and Albany (+15000). UVM has lost just two league games this year, and both of those losses came at the hands of UMBC. Ryan Odom had a lot of turnover to deal with this year, but he has done a good job keeping the Retrievers relevant. They are the No. 3 seed, however, so they would likely end up playing on the road against Stony Brook in the semis, assuming seeds hold.

Albany is interesting for two reasons: 1. The Great Danes are young this year but they’ve played their best basketball of late. After an 0-5 start to league play, they won seven of their last 11. They’ll have to win three road games to get it done, but Will Brown has been to the NCAA tournament before and, weirdly enough, they’re probably been better on the road than at home of late.

ATLANTIC SUN

FAVORITE: We are already in the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun tournament, so LIPSCOMB (-455) is the heavy favorite. They were the best team in the league for most of the year, although they shared a regular season title with LIBERTY (+230) after losing to FGCU unexpectedly. The Bisons are led by one of the best mid-major players you haven’t heard of in Garrison Matthews, and their head coach is a disciple of Belmont’s Rick Byrd. They have an outside shot of getting an at-large bid, but that seems unlikely.

At these odds, I like Liberty significantly more than Lipscomb. There’s just no value in betting the Bisons when it takes $45 to win $10.

SLEEPERS: I do think that NORTH FLORIDA (+4000) is interesting. It’s a big ask for the Ospreys to win two games in a row against teams that lost two league games not to each other, but two notes: UNF has now won seven straight after beating North Alabama in the quarterfinals, and just two weeks ago, they beat Liberty. At 40:1, that interests me.

CAA

FAVORITE: HOFSTRA (+105) won the CAA regular season title and counts the best player in the conference — Justin Wright-Foreman — on their roster. The Pride don’t really guard all that well, however, which is what makes NORTHEASTERN (+150) interesting as well.

SLEEPER: All that said, I think the best bet in this tournament is CHARLESTON (+340). The Cougars not only finished third in the league this year, they not only have a terrific young coach in Earl Grant to go along with arguably the best 1-2 punch in the league in Grant Riller and Jarrell Brantley, but they are coming off of a trip to the NCAA tournament last season.

The kicker?

The tournament is being played in Charleston. It won’t be in their home arena, but it sure will be a lot easier for Cougar fans to get there than it will be for Hofstra students on Long Island or Northeastern students in Boston.

MAAC

FAVORITE: That title probably has to be given to IONA (+230) seeing as they won the league regular season title and have won three straight MAAC tournament titles. That said, the Gaels finished the regular season at 12-6 and there were four teams tied for second at 11-7. It’s a down year in the MAAC with opens the door for a wild tournament.

SLEEPERS: It’s hard to call any of these teams sleepers given the fact that everyone in the top half of the conference is getting odds like they are a sleeper. I think my favorite bet here is SIENA (+265) simply because their head coach, Jamion Christian, has been to the NCAA tournament twice with Mount St. Mary’s despite being just 36 years old. They have the best young player in the league on their roster in Jalen Pickett as well.

I also think QUINNIPIAC (+260) is interesting, given the presence of Cameron Young, who had 55 points in a game this year. CANISIUS (+375) is also worth a look, but they are playing without the MAAC Preseason Player of the Year, who was dismissed in February. I’m probably staying away from this tournament.

MISSOURI VALLEY

FAVORITE: Are you ready for another year of Sister Jean? LOYOLA-CHICAGO (+160) won the Missouri Valley regular season title for the second straight season and will enter Arch Madness as the favorite to return to the dance out of the conference. They are a grind-it-out defensive team that returns three starters from last year’s Final Four team — Cameron Krutwig, Clayton Custer and MVC Player of the Year Marques Townes — and they also return Lucas Williamson, who was out with an injury for the better part of six weeks.

I don’t love the odds, but it’s hard to bet against the team that has been there before.

SLEEPER: Stay away from DRAKE (+350), as the Bulldogs finished tied for first in the league standings but have been decimated by injuries. There just isn’t enough value there. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (+400) entered the season as one of the favorites to win the league title, and the Salukis will enter Arch Madness having won three in a row.

But for my money, the best longshot bet here is ILLINOIS STATE (+1600). The Redbirds were picked second in the preseason poll but finished seventh in the league, meaning they get stuck in one of the MVC play-in games. No one has ever played in a play-in game in the MVC tournament and reached the final, and only one team has gone on to upset the No. 1 or No 2 seed in the quarterfinals. Those are long odds. But ISU is arguably the most talented team in the league this side of Loyola, headlined by the enigmatic Milik Yarbrough. They swept Evansville, who they played in the first round, and then they draw Drake — who just lost D.J. Wilkins to a broken ankle — in the quarters. They’ve played in the last two MVC title games.

If someone is going to snap that streak, this is the team to do it.

NEC

FAVORITE: ST.FRANCIS (PA) (+120) caught a break, winning a tiebreaker that gave them the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and thus homecourt advantage throughout. That said, the Red Flash have lost two of their last three games and currently rank 325th in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. I don’t love that value, but I do like the value for FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON (+220), the No. 2 seed, slightly more. FDU is the best shooting team in the league, which would create an interesting strength-on-weakness matchup if these two get to the title game.

FDU started league play 1-4, but they’ve won 11 of 13 since, including their last five games. They also won at St. Francis (PA).

SLEEPER: In a wide-open NEC, I like LIU-BROOKLYN (+1800). They have a veteran backcourt, led by senior guard Raiquan Clark, who might be the best player in the league. They’ve won three in a row and four of their last five — which includes a win over their first round opponent and a win at St. Francis (PA), who they would likely face in the semifinals if they advance.

OHIO VALLEY

FAVORITES: Both BELMONT (-112) and MURRAY STATE (+100) have to be considered heavy favorites for the OVC tournament title because of the way that the bracket is set up — the top two seeds get a bye all the way to the semifinals, and Belmont is the No. 1 seed while the Racers are the No. 2 seed.

Everyone should know about the Bruins at this point. Rick Byrd has built a mid-major powerhouse in the heart of Nashville, and this year’s team is about what you expect: They have a star with NBA potential in Dylan Windler, they are one of the most efficient offenses in the country and they haven’t lost in six weeks. If Belmont loses to Murray State and only Murray State in the title game, they’ll have an argument to be an at-large bid thanks to a sweep of Lipscomb and a win at UCLA.

The Racers, on the other hand, have a soon-to-be top three pick on their roster in Ja Morant, and he can take over any game against any opponent. He’s averaging 24.1 points and 10.4 assists. It’s worth noting that the only time these two teams played this season, Belmont won by double-figures in Murray, Ky., but that it came in a game where Morant rolled his ankle in the first two minutes of the game. I tend to lean towards Belmont here, but that has a lot to do with the team that the Racers seem destined to play in the semifinals.

SLEEPER: I think my favorite sleeper bet this week is JACKSONVILLE STATE (+900), who is currently getting 9:1 odds to win the automatic bid out of the OVC. The Gamecocks finished 15-3 in the OVC this season, one game behind both Belmont and Murray State, but they swept both of them during the regular season, going 3-0 with a win at Belmont and a 20 point win at home over the Racers.

The Gamecocks are also coached by Ray Harper, who is the best tournament coach you’ve never heard of. He won the OVC tournament in 2017 with a Jacksonville State team that went 9-7 in league play. He won the Sun Belt tournament in back-to-back seasons with Western Kentucky with teams that went a combined 17-19 in league play. He won back-to-back NAIA Division I national titles in 2007 and 2008 and has also won two NCAA Division II national titles. Is this the year he does it again?

PATRIOT LEAGUE

FAVORITE: The best team in the league is probably COLGATE (+100), who will have home court advantage throughout the tournament and has won their last eight games. If it’s not Colgate, then BUCKNELL (+160) is probably the team to keep an eye on, as they shared the regular season title and are coming off a trip to the NCAA tournament of their own. That said, in a league where the race is so wide open, it’s hard to justify such thin value on a futures bet.

SLEEPER: I think that the best value in the Patriot tournament is AMERICAN (+800). I don’t love it, because they lost four of their last six to close out the regular season, but they have Sa’eed Nelson — who KenPom rates as the Patriot Player of the Year — and of their 14 losses, six of them came by two points or less, two more came in overtime and a ninth came by four at Colgate. A loss is a loss is a loss, but they are a dozen or so possessions away from being a five-loss team.

SOCON

FAVORITE: There are just two teams in college basketball this season that ran through their league undefeated. One of them is Gonzaga. The other is WOFFORD (-167). The Terriers are very, very legit this year. They are top 15 in the NET. They are top 20 in KenPom. Fletcher Magee is probably going to end up setting the record for career three-pointers made, and he isn’t even the best player on the roster based on efficiency numbers. Big man Cameron Jackson is. Throw in the fact that their starting point guard is named Storm Murphy — seriously, Wofford starts Fletcher and Storm in their backcourt — and there’s no reason not to love this group.

I actually think this is pretty good value, maybe the best value bet in the field.

SLEEPERS: There are three that we are going to have to discuss: FURMAN (+300), UNC GREENSBORO (+575) and EAST TENNESSEE STATE (+450). I think they are the only three worth discussing because there was only one team that was not a part of the top four that landed a win over any of them in league play.

ETSU is the No. 4 seed, which means they draw Wofford in the semifinals, assuming they get there. That’s actually unlucky for the conference as a whole, because had either Furman or UNCG beaten Wofford in the semis and lost in the title game, they would have had a shot at getting an at-large bid. Of the three, Furman is the best defensively, ETSU is the best offensively and UNCG had the best league record, sweeping ETSU and splitting with Furman. Of the four, UNCG is the furthest away from Asheville, N.C. — almost a three hour drive vs. a roughly one hour drive for the other three schools. I’d probably lean UNCG because of the odds, but I think the best bet in this tournament is Wofford.

SUMMIT

FAVORITE: For the last three years, the Summit League tournament has produced the exact same thing: SOUTH DAKOTA STATE (-286) winning the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and Mike Daum winning tournament MOP. This year, the Jackrabbits enter March having won 13 of their last 14 games, the regular season champs and the No. 1 seed in the event. Take them in the Jerome. Fade the futures bet at thin value.

SLEEPERS: I like FORT WAYNE (+750) as they are one of the two teams to beat SDSU this season, but they have lost four straight games and play a true road game in the first round against No. 6 seed SOUTH DAKOTA (+1100). Hosting the event does make the Coyotes interesting, especially since the title game would be the final rivalry game they get against the Dauminator. I also like OMAHA (+525) as they are the only team to beat SDSU in the last two months, they finished second in the conference and they have won 16 of their last 19 games over all.

WCC

FAVORITE: It’s GONZAGA (-1250). Not only did they go undefeated in WCC play, they didn’t win a game by single digits.

SLEEPER: I think that SAINT MARY’S (+1100) is interesting because they have a future pro at the point in Jordan Ford and, like the OVC, they get a bye in to the semifinals as the No. 2 seed. The Gaels hung with the Zags in Moraga last weekend and don’t matchup terribly with Gonzaga. That said, I think I like SAN FRANCISCO (+2400) a little bit more. There’s an argument to be made that this is the second-best team in the conference, they have one of the best young coaches on the west coast in Kyle Smith and they are a veteran-laden team with a point guard named Frankie Ferrari that will be playing in a tournament in Vegas.

All the dots connect.