As the coronavirus begins to spread throughout several metropolitan areas in the United States the likelihood that there will be games with no fan attendance is growing meaningfully. So, how do you handicap a conference tournament game with no fan base support for either squad? First, excuse me for not mentioning that the health of all of us far outweighs the benefit of going to see any of these games and after all they are exactly that – games that we are privileged to enjoy and played by teenagers and 20 somethings.
There has already been one game in Division-3 basketball that allowed no spectators when Worcester Polytechnic Institute took on Yeshiva College in Baltimore, MD. No fans allowed in the arena is a ‘worst case scenario and that players would be examined and screened for the virus’ stated by the NCAA chief medical director last week. I am going to choose the optimistic approach and that the games will take place with the fans in attendance because I cannot even get my hands around the possibility of watching a game, especially a conference championship game, with none of the high-intensity and high-decibel volume brought to them by the fans.
Can the Conference Tournament Mirror the B1G regular season?
I cannot remember a more enjoyable and exciting regular season that what I have enjoyed in both the B1G and Big East Conference. The main reason is that there has not been a dominant team or a transcendent player in the conferences. Players like Myles Powell of Seton Hall and Iowa’s big man Luca Garza have risen to the top and their hard work and season-long work ethic is so more refreshing than the ‘one-and done’ players of seasons past.
The regular season saw all of the teams go through win streaks and losing streaks that included being ranked in the Top-10 and then completely falling out of the Top-25 standings. So, the competitiveness of the B1G among their fourteen teams will rollover into the Tournament to make for some incredibly great games filed with drama and of course, in-game betting that I will be tweeting.
Last week saw the B1G teams claiming eight spots in the AP Top-25 poll while this week that number dropped to six teams. The reason is because each game and each week in the B1G provides intense drama-filled games where the teams have become more than battle tested and it will show when they get into the NCAA Tournament.
Maryland was the only team in the B1G conference to be ranked in every week of the 19-week regular season. The preseason No. 1 ranked Michigan State Spartans fell out of the Top-25 pools in weeks 15 and 16, but regrouped and now rank no. 9 in the country. The Ohio State Buckeyes, who are currently ranked 19th were as high as No. 3 in Week 6, then dropped out of the ranks during a four-week stretch from week 12 through week 15. Purdue was ranked 23rd in Week 1 and then fell out of the ranks for the remainder of the season, but have played very well down the stretch. Only four teams in the Minnesota Gophers, the Northwestern Wildcats, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and Indiana Hoosiers did not appear in at least one week of the Top-25 poll this season.
How Does the Tournament Begin?
The first game will see Northwestern taking on Minnesota starting at 6:00 PM EST, March 11. Minnesota will be priced as 12-point favorites in this matchup and will win the game and then advance to take on the 5-seed Iowa Hawkeyes, who will be favored by 3.5-points over Minnesota. It is March Madness so, if Northwestern, who did defeat the 6-seed PSU Nittany Lions in the regular season finale, defeats Minnesota, Iowa would then be priced as 10-point favorites.
The second game pits the 11-seed Indiana Hoosiers against the 14-seed Nebraska Cornhuskers, who will be 12.5-underdogs in this matchup. The winner will advance to take on the 6-seed Lions, who will be favored by 4-points over the Hoosiers and 14-points over the Cornhuskers.
Then on Thursday March 12 the 8-seed Rutgers Scarlet Knights will take on the 9-seed Michigan Wolverines, who will be skinny favorites and possibly even lined at ‘pick’. In the next game March 12, the 7-seed Buckeyes will take on the 10-seed Boilermakers in an intriguing matchup. I expect the Buckeyes to be favored by 4.5 points in this matchup and will have their hands full against a surging Boilermaker squad.
What Are Some of the Cool Trends that I Can Bet?
Since 2010 the ‘UNDER’ bets have been good solid profit generators in the B1G Tournament. Specifically, betting the ‘UNDER’ that had at least the first-round bye and favored by 4 to 9.5-points has earned a 22-13 ‘under’ mark good for 63% winning bets.
In the B1G conference tournament double-digit favorites and a game total of not higher than 140 points have gone 17-2 straight-up, a decent 12-7 ATS, and 14-5 ‘OVER’ for 74% winning bets since 2010 including 7-1 ATS for 88% winning bets over the last three conference tournaments.
The ‘OVER’ is 20-12 for 63% winners when one of the teams is coming off back-to-back against-the-spread (ATS) losses and has a posted total of 140 or lower in games played since 2010.
Who is the Best Team Entering the Tournament?
Michigan State is the best team in the conference right now, but that does not mean they are a lock to win the Tournament. They rank second-best in overall offensive and defensive rating and trail Iowa for the top offensive rating and Rutgers for the top defensive rating.
The Spartans are averaging 75.9 points-per-game (PPG) and allowing 64.7 PPG for a conference-leading 11.2 PPG and a conference-leading 6.8-point scoring differential in conference games. Wisconsin ranks second-best in conference scoring differential at 2.85 PPG with Maryland, Ohio State, Maryland, Minnesota, and Michigan all I the low 2.0’s for scoring differential. So, you can see that the Spartans are ahead of the pack right now and given that only three teams have negative scoring differentials reflects how tough and competitive this conference has been this season.
And the Tournament will be even better.