Betting tips for college basketball conference tournaments and March Madness
The final week of the college basketball regular season has arrived with the major conferences playing key games over the final two weekends. We're just two weeks from Selection Sunday and the tournament teams and brackets release for the 2023 NCAA Tournament. For the first time, Las Vegas will host a NCAA Tournament regional on March 23 and 25 for the West Region Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight. Ahead of the big conference tournaments and March Madness, I'm chipping in some defensive stats for teams and other information you can bet on and use as you prepare for all the tournament action ahead.
I outlined the conference races and key games to watch down the stretch in last week's college basketball coverage here at OSGA. And leading online sportsbooks are ramping up for the barrage of betting during the college conference tournaments and March Madness.
As I covered in Forbes last week, the NCAA Tournament selection committee's initial release of projected No. 1 top seeds included:
Recall in my coverage for OSGA ahead of the 2021 NCAA Tournament that Gonzaga and Baylor were No. 1 seeds and played for the National Championship with Baylor beating undefeated Gonzaga. I plan on continuing my annual coverage and Countdown to the NCAA Tournament with top seeds by region along with 3-4-5 seeds by region to give you added information on the top tournament teams.
Odds to Win College Basketball National Championship
The Big 12 (+250) is the favorite to have a team win the 2023 NCAA Tournament, according to top online sportsbook BetOnline and affiliate Sportsbetting.ag odds. The AAC (+350) with top team Houston is next despite the strength and depth of the SEC (+400) and Big Ten (+450). The Pac 12 (+500) may only have a few teams, and the ACC (+1000) is getting little respect this year.
Futures odds will continue to adjust for top payouts as the NCAA tournament approaches and seeds are determined. I've also added Final Four odds.
|+3500||Virginia, St. Mary's, TCU|
|+4000||Indiana, Arkansas, Kansas State|
|+5500||Kentucky, Iowa State|
|+6000||Duke, Texas A&M|
|+7500||Illinois, North Carolina, San Diego State|
Teams 100/1 or greater include Maryland, Auburn, Michigan State, Providence, Northwestern, West Virginia, Iowa, West Virginia, Memphis, NC State, Missouri, Oklahoma State
Final Four Odds for top teams: Houston (+130), Kansas (+175), Alabama (+175), Purdue (+200), UCLA (+275), Arizona (+350), UCONN (+400), Baylor (+400), Texas (+500), Tennessee (+500)
High Scoring Teams
Scoring continues to make headlines, and top tournament teams like Gonzaga (86.6), Alabama (83.3) and Arizona (83.2) top the nation in scoring offense. Top teams to watch from smaller conferences looking to win their conference tournaments and make the Big Dance who are scoring at a high rate include Toledo (84.0), Oral Roberts (82.6) and Marshall (82.1) while Xavier (81.9) and Marquette (80.5) out of the Big East add to the teams averaging at least 80 points per game scoring.
But when it comes to tournament time, look towards teams that also play solid defense with more intensity. Getting key stops and rebounds can help in transition offense, and more importantly limit and even frustrate a team's ability to create options on offense.
Utilizing a site like KenPom.com can provide you key stats, adjusted numbers, efficiency and tempo ratings along with match-up analysis. ShotQuality.com and BartTorvik.com add more stats and advanced metrics. However, I also go to conference web pages and review stats and specifically at this time of year conference only statistics for teams and players. With so many stats and situations to evaluate, a good indicator of a team's success and ability to compete consistently can be gauged in opponent's field goal percentage.
Field goal percentage defense is more important than points allowed, because an opponent's points can be determined to a degree by the number of possessions they have, which in turn can be influenced by an offensive pace that creates lower overall possessions in a game.
Top scoring defenses ahead of the final week of the regular season and NCAA Tournament include:
- Houston (55.9)
- Tennessee (57.1)
- North Texas (57.1)
- St. Mary's (58.5)
- UCLA (59.8)
Isolating a team's overall defensive field goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage defense remain key indicators when judging a team's defensive ability. These must work in tandem to be efficient since a team can pack the paint defensively to minimize higher percentage two-point shots while sacrificing defense outside the arc. Conversely, too much attention to perimeter defense can sacrifice a team's ability to defend the paint. When a team combines solid defensive play with rebounding strength and the ability to block or alter shots, you have a team that is capable of competing most any night against any team.
Yet, while strong defensive play is often key to winning more basketball games, successful teams also take care of the basketball, minimize turnovers and have a solid assist/turnover ratio. This is where a strong point guard and leader, along with perimeter defense plays a key part. The ability to create steals and take good shots while controlling the boards inside creates more opportunities, possessions and shots. Thus, look at rebounding rate and margin as another key indicator when evaluating match-ups and working in tandem with defensive shooting percentage and efficiency. Deficient defensive teams often struggle, and many of those teams are in the bottom half of the standings for a reason.
College Basketball Top Defensive Teams
Through games on Feb. 23, 2023 here are the top defensive teams in college basketball.
KenPom's top adjusted defensive efficiency teams and effective FG% defense rank for projected NCAA Tournament Teams ( ):
|Top Adj Defense Efficiency||Effective FG% Rank|
Using the following parameters, I've also noted how these defensive dominators do in rebounding the basketball and provided their Adjusted Defensive Efficiency Ranking from KenPom (363 teams). I've included top teams Alabama, Arizona and Kansas, despite higher points per game defense as other defensive statistics, schedules and adjusted efficiency rankings make them worthy of inclusion.
- Allow 42% or less field goal percentage
- Allow 33% or less shooting from behind the 3-point arc
- Allow 66 points or less per game
|Teams||Conference||FG% Def||3-pt % Def||PPG Def||Reb Margin||Adj Def Rank|
|Oklahoma State||Big 12||40.1||30.8||66.3||2.6||14|
|St. Mary's||West Coast||40.3||32.3||58.5||8.1||6|
|Michigan State||Big Ten||41.0||29.3||65.3||3.3||26|
|Boise State||Mountain West||41.0||30.2||63.0||4.5||10|
|North Texas||Conf USA||41.0||31.1||57.1||4.7||41|
|San Diego State||Mountain West||42.3||28.6||64.9||4.7||16|
Other defensive teams to watch and note for NCAA Tourney:
Kansas State, TCU, USC and Northwestern
With these concepts in mind it's up to the handicapper and savvy sports bettor who can also adjust to live betting to determine a team's motivation level, how they match-up with each opponent and how these statistics can be used and adjusted throughout the season and upcoming postseason based on quality of opponent faced. Coaching of course plays a pivotal role in college basketball, but not included in evaluation.
Use some of these stat profiles as a guide when handicapping and betting the rest of the college basketball season and post season tournaments including March Madness.
FairwayJay is a proven sports handicapper and insightful analyst. He chips in additional sports betting coverage and reporting on industry news and events. Read more great insights from FairwayJay and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay