Do conference tournament champs have a betting edge in March Madness?

Things weren’t looking good for Kemba Walker and the Connecticut Huskies on March 5, 2011. UConn closed its regular season by falling to Notre Dame and picked up its fourth loss in five games.

The Huskies nabbed the No. 8 seed in the Big East tournament and hoped to make a good showing to secure a decent seeding in the upcoming NCAA field. The rest of the story is well known, thanks to numerous retellings by bettors who backed UConn through its magical run.

Walker morphed to Super Saiyan 3 and Connecticut won its final 11 games and went 10-1 against the spread along the way. 

Of course, things don’t always play out with a Hollywood ending like they did for UConn – just ask Denzel Valentine.

The former Big Ten Player of the Year carried a mediocre Michigan State team to the Big Ten tournament title in 2016. But he and Sparty couldn’t maintain the momentum in the Big Dance and they got bounced by Middle Tennessee State in the Round of 64.

So the question needs to be asked: are conference tournament winners more likely to blowout and cover the spread during the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament or does the momentum “stop short” like Frank Costanza reaching for second base?

We crunched the numbers to see how all the tourney winners from the big-boy conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big East, Pac-12, Big Ten and the SEC) fared in the NCAA from 2000 to 2016 and the data told us a few different things:

• Ten of the last 17 national championship teams won their conference tournament (Villanova 2015, Louisville 2013, UConn 2011, Duke 2010, Kansas 2008, Florida 2007, Florida 2006, UConn 2004, Duke 2001 and MSU 2000).

• Since its creation in 2002, no Pac-12 (formerly Pac-10) tournament winner has gone on to win the national title and only one (UCLA 2006) made it to the championship game.

• Tournament winners from the Power 6 conferences are 49-50-1 ATS in the Round of 64 since 2000 (yeah, oddsmakers are good at their jobs).

• ACC tournament winners have gone 17-0 straight up in the Round of 64 and 15-2 in the Round of 32 over the last 17 years.

• Big 12 title winners have the worst mark among the Power 6 at 6-11 ATS in the Round of 64.

• Pac-12 winners have the best record at 9-6 ATS in Round of 64.

Big East tournament winners have gone 39-18 ATS overall in the NCAA tournament since 2002, but we’ll have to take that with a grain of salt. Only Taylor Swift has lost more partners than the Big East this decade.

Identifying teams hitting their stride is always a good move for sharp bettors but it’s important to remember oddsmakers heavily factor recent results when constructing their pre-tournament numbers.

Here’s a reminder of the major conference tournament winners from last week:















Conference

Winner

 Tournament Odds

Round 64 vs.

Spread

ACC

Duke

+600

Troy

-19

Big East

Villanova

+800

TBD

NA

Big 12

Iowa State

+6600

Nevada

-6

Big 10

Michigan

+2500

Oklahoma State

-2.5

Pac-12

Arizona

+1300

North Dakota

-16.5

SEC

Kentucky

+1000

N. Kentucky

-19

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