NCAAB conference tournament sleepers
As college basketball’s conference tournaments get under way this week, there is good value if you can find quality, under-the-radar teams that can go on a run.
Here are our five best sleeper picks for you to bet this weekend, as March Madness gets underway!
Big Ten: Michigan State
Michigan State endured a rough middle of the season, which resulted in a losing record in Big Ten play. However, the Spartans enter the conference tournament with victories in five of their last seven games, including wins over Illinois, Ohio State, and Michigan — and all were ranked in the top five in the country at the time.
The one big concern for the Spartans is that all their big wins have come at home, and they had a 2-8 road record in Big Ten play. The two road victories came at Nebraska and Indiana, who went a combined 10-28 in the conference.
You can never rule out the Spartans, as long as head coach Tom Izzo is at the helm. His six Big Ten Tournament titles is the most in the history of the conference, and his teams are always a threat come March.
Big 12: West Virginia
The Mountaineers lost two of their last three regular-season games, but both defeats came to ranked opponents. One of those losses was to Baylor, a game that went to overtime and showed that West Virginia could hang with the Bears.
Ranked 11th in adjusted offensive efficiency, the Mountaineers play an aggressive defensive style and they keep games close, even when they lose. Seventeen of their 26 games this year were decided by single digits, and they won the majority of those contests. That should bode well for them come tournament time.
Look for guard Miles McBride to take over, as he leads the team in points and assists.
ACC: Georgia Tech
There may not be a hotter team in the ACC than Georgia Tech. Winners of six straight, the Yellow Jackets' last defeat came on the road to Clemson on Feb. 12.
Moses Wright is a dominant big man, who averages 18 points per game and shoots 54% from the floor, and was named the ACC Player of the Year.
The Yellow Jackets rank 31st in the KenPom ratings. They have wins this year against Florida State and Virginia Tech, and they were competitive in both losses to Virginia. They likely need to win at least two games to secure an NCAA Tournament bid.
Conference USA: Marshall
The Thundering Herd has won eight of its last 10 games, thanks to the stellar play of guard Taevion Kinsey. His 20 points per game leads Marshall, and he is shooting 54.2% from the floor. In his last nine games, he has failed to score at least 17 points just once.
To win the Conference USA Tournament, Marshall will likely need to defeat Western Kentucky, which swept the Herd in consecutive games earlier this season. However, both games were decided by single-digit margins, and the latter was a two-point game that went to the buzzer.
Marshall ranks 24th in the nation in points per game, and with Kinsey’s play, it could go on a run this week.
Big East: St. John’s
With nine wins in their last 12 games, the Red Storm is hitting its stride at just the right time.
The St. John’s offense is clicking, averages 79.3 points per game (40th in the nation), and ranks in the top 30 for assists (16.5 per game).
Guard Julian Champagnie can take over a game, averaging 19.9 points per contest while grabbing over seven rebounds.
Looking forward to getting a live look at 6-8 sophomore wing Julian Champagnie. The 19-year-old is averaging 19.8 PTS, 7.3 REBS, 1.4 STL and 1.1 BLK in 32.3 MIN through 22 games while shooting 47% from 2, 40% from 3 and 88% from the free throw line. pic.twitter.com/tNDi2MZ9Zi— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) March 6, 2021
The bright lights of Madison Square Garden have brought out the best in many guards over the years when the Big East Tournament rolls around. That could very well happen for freshman point guard Posh Alexander, who has emerged as a true playmaker. His performance against Villanova (16 points, six assists, three steals) was his coming-out party, and he defensively locked down Collin Gillespie. Alexander has missed the last few games with injury, but he should be ready to go for the conference tournament.
With Gillespie done for the season, Villanova is in danger of being upset in the Big East Tournament. The Red Storm has wins this season against Connecticut and Villanova and could make some noise in the Garden.