March Madness betting: Best bets, teams to fade in ACC, Big 12, Big East tournaments
Welcome to championship week.
While a few bids to the NCAA men's tournament have already been handed out, the rest of the automatic qualifiers will be decided in the next seven days via conference tournaments before the full bracket is unveiled on Selection Sunday.
[Free bracket contests for men's & women's tourneys for shot at $25K]
That includes the tournaments for the top six conferences in the country — the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC. To get you prepared for the action, Yahoo Sports’ Nick Bromberg, Sam Cooper and Frank Schwab have combed through the odds and chosen teams to fade, sleepers and their best bets for each of those conferences.
Let’s start with the ACC, Big 12 and Big East.
Team to fade
Nick Bromberg: This one is easy. Stay away from North Carolina. The Tar Heels finished seventh in the conference and are the No. 4 favorite to win the conference tournament at +650. UNC has to play one more game to win the tournament than any of the top four seeds and posted just one four-game win streak in the ACC all season long.
Sam Cooper: Pitt nearly won a share of the ACC regular season title on Saturday and has been one of the best ATS teams in the country. Despite that, the oddsmakers have the Panthers among the middle of the pack here to win the conference tournament at +1200. That says a lot to me. This team just isn’t that talented. The Panthers were predicted to be one of the ACC’s worst teams, so this has been a surprising season already. But this team just doesn’t have enough to make a run in Greensboro. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised by an upset loss to Georgia Tech in the second round.
Frank Schwab: Since beating Duke and covering in OT on Feb. 11, Virginia is 0-5-1 against the spread, according to Covers.com. Maybe it’s just Virginia being a bit unexciting as usual, but I’m not feeling how one of the tourney favorites (+350) has been playing lately.
Nick Bromberg: Pitt slipped to the No. 5 seed thanks to a 78-76 road loss to Miami in the final game of the season. The Panthers should have a manageable first game before a matchup with Duke on Thursday. The Blue Devils beat the Panthers earlier in the season, but that was before Pitt’s six-game win streak in the middle of the conference season. A flier on Pitt at +1200 may be worth the risk.
Sam Cooper: NC State (+1200) has four really good guards, including Terquavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner, and an imposing post presence in D.J. Burns. Most of the Wolfpack’s key contributors are veteran, experienced players. Kevin Keatts’ team got smacked at home by Clemson last Saturday before turning in a strong road performance vs. Duke, albeit in a loss. I think the Clemson loss refocused the Wolfpack, and there’s a very good chance for a revenge opportunity vs. the Tigers in the ACC quarterfinals. I think NC State can make a run here.
Frank Schwab: I’m going to avoid calling North Carolina, somehow the ACC’s No. 7 seed, a sleeper. But yeah, we know they can make a run. Instead I’ll also go with NC State here. Jarkel Joiner is capable of some monster games and can carry the Wolfpack to a run in the conference tourney.
Nick Bromberg: Virginia is the No. 2 favorite at +350 behind Duke and I like their side of the draw. The Cavaliers beat Clemson by seven last week and could play the Tigers in the semifinals. The Cavaliers lost at Miami by two earlier this season and also beat Duke in the regular season.
Sam Cooper: I love watching this Miami team. The Hurricanes (+350) have old guards who fit really well together and a double-double machine in the post in Norchad Omier. This group can beat you in a multitude of ways and I like the way the Hurricanes match up with Duke in a potential tournament semifinal. Miami shot just 34.9% from the field in its two-point loss at Duke back in January. When the two teams met again in February, Miami blasted the Blue Devils, 81-59. The Hurricanes have won eight of nine entering postseason play and I think they end up cutting down the nets in Greensboro.
Frank Schwab: The ACC is really down this season. There’s no ACC team in the top 30 of the KenPom rankings. For my brackets next week I hope Duke doesn’t win the ACC tournament, because that would bring more attention to the fact that a really young and talented team is playing its best ball lately. But I think Duke (+275) is the best bet to win this ragged bracket.
Team to fade
Nick Bromberg: Iowa State closed the regular season with a road win over Baylor to finish 9-9 in the conference but the Cyclones had lost eight of their previous 10 games before that victory over the Bears. ISU is still likely to be a top-six seed in the NCAA tournament thanks to their earlier-season achievements, but I’m not sold on its ability to beat Kansas State and (potentially) Texas to get to a possible final matchup with Kansas. Pass on the Cyclones at +800.
Sam Cooper: This should be pretty obvious but I’ll say it anyway: avoid Texas Tech. Even though +4000 feels like value on a team that has played so many close games in conference, the situation with head coach Mark Adams’ suspension is not a good one. There’s been rumored turmoil surrounding this program throughout the season, and I would not be surprised if this is a team that’s just ready to throw in the towel and get to the offseason.
Frank Schwab: I like Baylor (+425) and they can win this tournament, and maybe make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. But I don’t love what we saw lately. The Bears lost three of five to end the regular season, including a strange 15-point loss to Iowa State at home on Saturday. The defense isn’t good. It’s a great league and hard to pick against anyone, but I won’t be taking Baylor.
Nick Bromberg: It’s hard to pick a sleeper in a conference where six of the 10 teams have a +800 of better shot to win the tournament. But I'll roll with TCU at +700. The Horned Frogs have proven capable of beating anyone in the league outside of Iowa State and likely won’t have to play the Cyclones. TCU draws Kansas State on Thursday before a potential matchup with Texas ahead of the final. And if TCU does get to a final against Kansas, the Horned Frogs can think back to their 83-60 win over KU at Allen Fieldhouse.
Sam Cooper: I think West Virginia is worth a look at +1600. All of the teams in the Big 12 are battle-tested and WVU is no different. The Mountaineers have won three of their last four with the only loss in that stretch a two-point defeat at Kansas. Erik Stevenson has been shooting the lights out lately for WVU and the Mountaineers have a favorable first-round matchup Wednesday against a reeling Texas Tech team. That would set up a meeting with Kansas in the quarterfinals. The Jayhawks quietly haven’t been playing that well down the stretch. I think WVU could pull off an upset there.
Frank Schwab: It’s not like any of the top six teams are really sleepers. But to pick one down the odds a bit, I’ll also go with TCU at +700. The Horned Frogs have been very good at times this season. There is top talent on the roster. It has been spotty at best since the start of January, in part because of injuries, but the Horned Frogs can get it going again. Maybe.
Nick Bromberg: I cannot ever pick against Kansas (+275) in the Big 12. The Jayhawks are going to have a home-court advantage over every team not named Kansas State in Kansas City over the weekend and have proven to be the best team in the conference. Kansas should take care of West Virginia or Texas Tech in the first game of the tournament before beating Baylor or Iowa State on Friday to get to the final.
Sam Cooper: I’ll take Texas at +350. This conference is so competitive but I think the Longhorns got a somewhat favorable draw in the Big 12 bracket by drawing the Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State winner in the quarterfinals. From there, UT will meet either Kansas State or TCU. Those are tough teams, but I think Texas’ overall talent advantage should be the difference on a neutral court. Because I like UT’s path to the title game, I’ll go with the Longhorns as the best bet.
Frank Schwab: I’m with Nick here. It’s not often you’re getting Kansas as a top seed in this tournament with some decent odds. Texas is perfectly capable of winning it too and that would be a great final on Saturday night, but I’ll be boring and take KU.
Team to fade
Nick Bromberg: Villanova is getting the benefit of name recognition at +900 to win the tournament. The Wildcats are the fifth favorite despite finishing in the bottom half of the league and going 10-10 in the Big East regular season. And Villanova only finished 10-10 thanks to a 6-2 run to end the season. Don’t fall victim to big-name bias.
Sam Cooper: Providence has lost three of its last four and got blasted on its home court by Seton Hall on Saturday. I expect the Friars to come out with an inspired effort in the Big East Tournament. But the bad news is Providence drew UConn in its quarterfinal matchup. UConn has been playing at an elite level over the last month or so, and I don’t think Providence will be able to get past the Huskies. I’d stay away from the Friars even though +1600 is pretty good value for a team that has a first-round bye.
Frank Schwab: I like UConn, but not as the favorite (+220). Maybe I’m hanging on to their awful January too long. From Dec. 31 to Jan. 25 UConn had a 2-6 stretch. The Huskies have gotten back on track since then, but there’s something about the them that makes me wary.
Nick Bromberg: There’s a big jump in the odds from the top six favorites to the rest of the conference. None of the bottom five teams on the board look likely to make a run in the tournament so I'm going with Providence at +1600. Yeah, the Friars lost three of their last four regular-season games, but split with UConn, Creighton and Marquette. They were swept by Xavier but wouldn’t play the Musketeers until the tournament final.
Sam Cooper: The pickings are slim for a potential sleeper in this tournament, but I’ll go with Villanova. I’m not crazy about the value at +900 considering the Wildcats would have to win four games in four days. But this is a program that is used to having success in March. The Cats play at a slow tempo and have the ability to grind out wins, especially now that Justin Moore is back on the court. The Cats also have a potential lottery pick in freshman Cam Whitmore.
Frank Schwab: Villanova’s first season after Jay Wright’s retirement wasn’t a good one. However, with Justin Moore coming back from injury and looking like himself late in the season, the Wildcats won six of their last eight. They know the only way to the NCAA tournament is to win the conference tournament. Nick could be right and this is giving the Wildcats too much credit for their program pedigree, but they’re easily the most dangerous team that will play in Wednesday’s first round.
Nick Bromberg: Xavier is worth a look at +500. The Musketeers have the fourth-best odds to win the tournament despite finishing second in the conference. Xavier has learned how to play without forward Zach Freemantle over the past six weeks and has wins over the three other top teams in the conference. If you don’t have a strong lean toward a team, finding the best value is never a bad play.
Sam Cooper: The top four teams in the Big East are great, but I think UConn (+220) should be a bit bigger of a favorite. If UConn gets past Providence, it will likely face No. 1 seed Marquette in the semifinals. I think UConn has a size advantage and matches up well with Marquette. The Huskies have been playing incredibly well and have the most talent, so I’m leaning toward Dan Hurley’s team.
Frank Schwab: Creighton (+300) is balanced and experienced. The Bluejays were the offseason darling after a good 2022 NCAA tournament and didn’t live up to that (injuries played a big part in a six-game losing streak early in the season), but it’s still a quality team that can fulfill that summer hype by having a hot March.