No one would trust Michael Jordan to display Obama-level orator skills at a motivational seminar. But if your pick-up hoops team was down 10-9, is there anybody you’d trust more than MJ to get hit three straight mid-range jumpers to seal the win?
Rick Pitino cannot be trusted alone in a restaurant with your wife for 15 seconds, but he can be counted on during conference tournament week.
The 64-year-old bench boss pushes his teams to outperform in conference tournaments like few other coaches can. He owns 11 conference tournament championships in four different leagues since 1992 and that’s even more impressive considering his four-year hiatus from college ball during his time with the Boston Celtics.
The Louisville Cardinals, Pitino’s current team, are 12-2 SU and ATS in conference tournaments since 2011. The Cards look to improve on the mark after sitting out last postseason because of their self-imposed ban.
Thanks to its top-four finish in the ACC, Louisville gets a double bye in the conference tournament and won’t play until Thursday in the tournament quarterfinals. Duke will likely be the Cardinals’ Thursday opponent, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. Despite an impressive collection of pro prospects, the Blue Devils have underwhelmed all season.
Louisville is set at +350 to win the ACC tournament.
Here are two other teams to keep an eye on during conference championship week.
Arizona Wildcats (27-4 SU, 15-14-2 ATS)
Sean Miller can’t get over the Elite Eight hump in the NCAA tournament and he’s not much better during Championship Week.
Despite routinely recruiting as good as or better than any other Pac-12 team, Arizona owns just one Pac-12 conference tournament wins since Miller took over the program in 2009.
The Wildcats own a share of the Pac-12 regular season title, but are the third overall faves to win the conference tournament title. Oregon (+140) and UCLA (+160) both have shorter odds than Arizona at +375. Arizona spanked the little brothers of the Pac-12 but went 1-2 SU and ATS versus the Ducks and the Bruins.
Lauri Marrkenan, the team’s long-distance sniper and large part of the offense, enters the postseason ice cold from distance. He’s just 4 for 28 from 3-point range over the last eight games – a huge dip from a month ago when the big Finn was hitting at a 50 percent clip from beyond the arc.
Maryland Terrapins (24-7 SU, 15-11-3 ATS)
The Big Ten tournament has been dominated by Michigan State and Ohio State this decade. The Spartans and Buckeyes have combined to win six of the last seven conference titles, but both programs are experiencing a dip in performance this season which leaves the door open for fresh blood.
Maryland (+1,000) is a sneaky value play with a much more attractive payout than its conference rivals Purdue (+160) and Wisconsin (+225).
Maryland was enjoying its finest season in eons until the calendar flipped to February and the team dropped five out of eight games.
Still there are many reasons to like the Terps heading into the Big Ten tourney:
• They own the No. 3 seed which means a double bye into the quarterfinals
• Their best player, Melo Trimble, is an upperclassman guard who has a talent for getting to the charity stripe in big games
• The Big Ten tournament is being hosted at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. – a mere 12.1 miles from the University of Maryland.
Good luck this week everyone. And remember – the ceiling is the roof.