Thirteen conference tournaments get underway this week in college basketball and that means that the Month of Madness has arrived. Thirty-two conference tournaments give way to the NCAA Tournament, the NIT, CBI, and CIT and a month’s worth of betting opportunities. Motivation is a huge factor this week for the conferences still partaking in regular season play and motivation is always a factor in the three non-NCAA Tournament competitions.
With the other 19 conferences in tournament mode next week, this is the last of the situational articles for the season, but never fear, my friends. I’ll be writing up a conference preview for all 32 conference tournaments. The first round starts on Tuesday, so I’ll have plenty to write about at that time, including good futures bets for the tournament and some information on the venues.
Speaking of conference tournaments, pay attention to back-to-backs and short turnarounds that will create a lot of situational spots over the next two weeks.
For now, our focus is only on the 19 conferences finishing out the regular season. Be sure to note where teams are in the standings and what their conference tournament prospects look like for seeding or simply qualifying in general.
Here are the college basketball situational spots to consider for the week ending March 8:
Monday March 2
NC State at Duke – Always gracious in defeat, Coach K effectively told Kevin Keatts to go fornicate himself when the Wolfpack stomped the Blue Devils a few weeks back in Raleigh. Duke is out for revenge from that embarrassing loss, but the disrespect shown to Keatts is sure to keep NC State’s focus and energy levels high for this one. Many will bet Duke with the revenge factor, but I’m looking at NC State to come in with a Durham-sized chip on its shoulder.
North Carolina A&T at South Carolina State – NC A&T and NC Central are both in pretty bad spots on Monday, but I think A&T is in a worse spot. At least NC Central is at home. The two teams will face off on Thursday with a regular season championship on the line in all likelihood. A&T cannot afford a slip-up here in Orangeburg. I don’t think NC A&T will lose, but covering is an altogether different story and I’d be surprised about that.
Tuesday March 3
Duquesne at VCU – I am worried about VCU for the rest of the regular season. A rough stretch with losses to Richmond, Dayton, and Saint Louis seemed to signal that Mike Rhoades’s team is only worried about the A-10 Conference Tournament and some cracks at revenge. If that is the case, a team like Duquesne could very easily go into Richmond and pick up a victory. VCU has underperformed relative to expectations all season long and I don’t see that changing late in the regular season. If nothing else, I’d stay away from VCU. Whether you want to take Duquesne or not is up to you.
The MAC – We have a full slate of MAC games on the docket for Tuesday. The MAC is one of those conference tournaments with first-round games at home and then neutral-site games from there on out. Seeding is such a major consideration for a lot of these conferences, as we all know. The MAC is definitely one of them. With no great teams in the league this season, avoiding certain matchups and avoiding that first round could be critical. Rather than single out any specific game, look at how the standings are set up and see which games matter more and to which teams.
Texas State at South Alabama – There are quite a few teams in college basketball that have been playing a really high level for a while because they have had to. Texas State is one of those teams that was trying to make up some ground in the Sun Belt Conference. This could be a flat spot against a team like South Alabama on the road. The Jaguars aren’t very good and Texas State has been playing a lot of the conference’s top teams. I wouldn’t be keen on laying a road number of any magnitude with the Bobcats.
Stephen F. Austin at Abilene Christian – A team like Stephen F. Austin will never be under at-large consideration. The Lumberjacks have already locked up the Southland regular season title and the #1 seed in the conference tournament. Abilene Christian is in the race for second and there are definitely advantages to something like that with regards to tip-off times and whatnot. SFA plays rival Sam Houston State to finish up the regular season on Saturday. Do the Lumberjacks care enough to cover a road price here against the Wildcats? I don’t think so.
Purdue at Iowa – When these two teams met in West Lafayette, Iowa got embarrassed. Purdue scored 104 points and won the game running away in the first half. Here is the rematch in Iowa City. You have to think Iowa remembers that game. Purdue also has some stark contrasts between home and road performances. They’re vastly superior at home to on the road. It has to be Iowa in this spot in my estimation.
Wednesday March 4
Xavier at Providence – There are going to be a lot of games like this during the last week of the regular season. Providence could be in or could be out. Games like this will go a long way in determining the fate of the Friars. On the Xavier side, they are firmly in, but good wins like this can move them up as far as seed lines go, as in maybe avoiding a #1 seed in the second round. While it would seem that Providence has more motivation because they are likely going to the NIT without wins in games like this, don’t underestimate the motivation for Xavier. Also, teams are in must-win situations because they generally aren’t very good and have a lot more to worry about.
Central Arkansas at Southeastern Louisiana – Angles are not limited to teams that are going to the conference tournament or have other aspirations for the postseason. Teams that are not going to the conference tournament tend to play free and loose late in the year. That’s why you may want to look at overs with teams like Southeastern Louisiana. The Lions are not going to qualify for the Southland Conference Tournament. With that in mind, those guys will be looking to pad some of their own numbers. The less importance a game has, the more likely that game is to have a lot of points. Factor that into your handicapping at this time of the year.
Dayton at Rhode Island – Dayton answered the bell when Rhode Island went to the Buckeye State. Will they do the same now heading to Kingston? The Rams appear to be the second-best team in the A-10 this season and probably the team with the best chance to dethrone Dayton. We know we’ll get a full effort from both teams here. That is why my focus would be on fading Dayton on Saturday at home laying a big number against George Washington. Similarly, I would fade Rhode Island at UMass on Saturday.
CSU Northridge at UC Irvine – This game is a victory lap for UC Irvine. The Anteaters once again rolled to the Big West Conference title and have their sights set on the tournament. CSU Northridge got embarrassed at home in the first meeting, so they will be hoping for a better outcome. Irvine may let some young guys play or some seniors that don’t see the floor with Senior Day and bigger fish to fry. Be very wary of laying big numbers this week with teams that have questionable motivation.
Thursday March 5
NC A&T at NC Central – Keep a close eye on the race in the MEAC here as this one could be for the #1 seed and the conference regular season title. Those are two things that really matter to both teams. The MEAC is a one-bid league and the winner will be a 16 seed and probably have to go through the play-in game in Dayton. With a short stint in the NCAA Tournament on the way, the banner for the conference is what really matters.
Stanford at Oregon State – Road revenge tends to be a pretty popular angle at this time of the year. It tends to be pretty profitable year over year as well. Stanford is in a road revenge spot here after losing to Oregon State at home earlier this season. The Pac-12 Tournament looks wide open and even a team like Stanford has a chance at making a run. I’d have to give them a look here in Corvallis on Thursday.
Northern Colorado at Montana – Montana doesn’t lose much in Big Sky play. When the Grizzlies do come up short and have a chance at revenge, they usually get it as one of the perennial top teams in this conference. This is a revenge spot here against Northern Colorado. The Bears have been very good this season, but running into a Montana team out for revenge looks like a tricky situation.
Friday March 6
Georgia Tech at Clemson – This is the last game of the season for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are banned from postseason play because of some penalties imposed by the NCAA. That means that this is it. It is always a hard situation to gauge. Has the team gone ahead and checked out for the season or will they want to go out on top? After all, the only teams that end the season with a win do so in the NCAA Tournament, NIT, CBI, CIT, or because they are banned from the postseason. Get a read on GT and then decide what you want to do here.
Ivy League – These last two days in the Ivy League could be chaotic for the teams in the hunt. There are five teams up for four spots for the conference tournament, which will be held at Harvard. Will the bottom-feeders be interested in playing spoiler? Will the teams in must-win spots take care of their affairs? There is a lot to consider in the Ivy this week to say the least.
Saturday March 7
Baylor at West Virginia – Going to Morgantown to finish out the regular season seems pretty cruel. West Virginia has been really good this season, but does seem to be lacking some signature wins, namely in conference play. This is a chance to get one before going to Kansas City for the Big 12 Tournament. I’d be very careful laying a road price with Baylor here.
Kentucky at Florida – This is close enough in proximity to fall into the Rapid Revenge Theory as far as I’m concerned. Florida lost on the road a couple weeks ago to Kentucky. The Gators had such high hopes for the season, but have fallen well short of expectations. A win here could improve the Gators’ seeding for the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky is out for the same. I’m not sure there are any angles I love here, but these two teams have underachieved to say the least.
North Carolina at Duke – UNC has two goals – beat Duke and win the ACC Tournament. Otherwise, there will be no silver linings from what has been a lost season for the Tar Heels. This is that opportunity to get one of those things done. UNC gave it one hell of an effort at home in a 98-96 loss earlier this season. This is their Super Bowl. Duke, meanwhile, has some bigger concerns.
George Washington at Dayton – Senior Day at UD Arena and what looks like a real flat spot in my opinion for the Flyers. They’ve played a lot of emotional games with a bullseye on their backs throughout A-10 play. This won’t be one of them. This will be a celebration of the season and a look ahead to the NCAA Tournament. I’d be stunned if they covered a huge number here.
Rhode Island at UMass – We’ll see how Wednesday goes for Rhode Island, but I would be shocked if the Rams bring a full effort here. Whatever happens win or lose on Wednesday, I just don’t expect a full-fledged effort in this road spot in advance of the A-10 Tournament in Brooklyn. I just don’t. It would have to be the home pup in UMass.
Sunday March 8
Ohio State at Michigan State – The card will be full of conference tournament games and a few stragglers left to finish up the regular season on Sunday. Ohio State and Michigan State is a really interesting one. Ohio State has been rounding into form of late. Michigan State has not, but we all know about Tom Izzo in the month of March. I would expect Michigan State to be very much invested in this game. Ohio State should be as well, but I do think Sparty is the team that will be a little bit more focused here.
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading these spots throughout the season and have been able to pick up on some of your own. Enjoy the postseason play!