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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

5 lessons from conference tournaments

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Many sports fans enter college basketball when the NCAA tournament bracket is revealed.

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That’s common, but many basketball heads use the week of the conference tournament as an intensive session for the March Madness exam. Every team that will play in the 68-team field was on stage last week in conference tournament play, and there are five key lessons from those games to learn before placing NCAA tournament betting at BetMGM.

Betting on Duke could be dangerous

This was the end of the season for Duke: embarrassed on their home court by North Carolina, barely beating (and not covering) a Syracuse team without leading scorer Buddy Boeheim in the ACC quarterfinals, barely beating (and didn’t cover) Miami in the semis, loses handily to Virginia Tech in the final. Duke clearly has the talent to make a long run. But there have been too many times this season when the Blue Devils didn’t look like a starting team. They shouldn’t have been the No. 2 seed, especially over Tennessee. Blindly betting on the brand name might not work well. There’s something odd about this Duke team that isn’t lacking in NBA talent.

Duke Blue Devils forward Paolo Banchero (5) reacts during a loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC tournament. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Injuries in Wisconsin and Baylor Matter

Baylor and Wisconsin lost their first conference tournament games, for good reason. Baylor was without LJ Cryer, its leading scorer, with a foot injury. The Bears are also without rebounding leader Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, who is out for the season after a knee injury. Baylor went 8-4 down the stretch, lost to Oklahoma in its Big 12 tournament opener and looks vulnerable if Cryer doesn’t return.

Wisconsin had shooting guard Johnny Davis, a national player of the year candidate, for his loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament. But Davis, who left the final game of the regular season with an ankle injury, was 3-of-19 from the field. Maybe an ankle injury had nothing to do with it, but it seems more than a coincidence that Davis had his worst game of the season a few days after the injury. Davis could get his full strength back on Friday when the Badgers play, but it’s something worth considering.

Tennessee took a big step forward

Tennessee entered conference championship week looking like a good team but not a title favorite. Then, in the SEC tournament, he looked like a title contender. Tennessee beat Mississippi State by 13, defeated Kentucky and then crushed a Texas A&M team by 15 in the title game. The Volunteers, who have a fantastic defensive team, have won 12 of 13, and after their SEC tournament title, there should be a lot more faith that they’ll put together a deep run.

Iowa is coming strong

Like Tennessee, Iowa’s resume looks different after the Big Ten tournament. Iowa had a hot streak late, but didn’t have many quality wins. A victory over Purdue in the title game helps solve that problem. And now the Hawkeyes have won nine of 10 with the only two-point loss coming to Illinois. Keegan Murray, while not exactly an unknown to college basketball fans, looked like a player who can carry his team through a tournament. Indiana got into the field and looks much more likely to win a game or two after a strong showing in Indianapolis, but the story of the Big Ten tournament was that Iowa went from a flawed middle seed (their defense is still suspect) to one looks like she’s reaching her peak as she reaches the Grand Ball.

Three mid-majors who impressed

There are always some teams from single bid leagues that need to win their conference tournaments to make the Big Dance, but once they get the auto bid they become serious threats to win some bets and run. Three mid-majors ticketed and looked like part of a first-round winner. Colgate, South Dakota, and Vermont were as good as advertised. Colgate and South Dakota State are the only teams in the nation shooting more than 40 percent from behind the 3-point line. That gives them a chance to win at least one game this week. Vermont hasn’t been that good since 3, but the Catamounts are really good offensively and have won 22 of 23. They were favorites to win the America East and won the title game by 39 points. There could be a few double-digit seeds to win, and at least cover, in the first round, led by these three.

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