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Best Bets For College Basketball Champ Week
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Best Bets For College Basketball Champ Week

by Daniel BenjaminMarch 8, 2023

March is college basketball’s time to shine. The season’s final week, adequately known as Champ Week, is just as exciting as the NCAA Tournament, with every conference playing or crowning a champion this week.

Seventeen conferences have started or will start their tournament Tuesday through Saturday, including the Big East, Big 12, ACC, SEC, American Athletic, and Pac-12. Predicting conference winners is a challenging task in most leagues; however, there is a lot of potential value in placing these bets.

The following are my best bets, based on champ week, for the conferences whose tournament finals are on the weekend. The odds are from DraftKings Sportsbooks as of Tuesday night.

Ivy League

The Ivy League runs its conference tournament differently than the other 31 tournament teams, as they invite just the top four finishers during regular season play. Yale (+115), Princeton (+!55), Penn (+600), and Cornell (+1000) will converge on Jadwin Gymnasium in Princeton (N.J.) this weekend. Yale, the No. 1 seed, opens play against No. 4 Cornell and No. 2 Princeton and takes on No. 3 Penn.

The conference tournament is relatively new for the Ivy League, as this year is the fifth rendition. Before 2017, the league awarded its automatic bid to the regular season winner. The tournament rotates between league schools every year.

Yale is the two-time reigning tournament champs, defeating Princeton 66-64 a season ago. Penn and Princeton have also claimed tourney titles. In addition, the Ivy League crown has been won by either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the last four years. The host school has won the tournament twice, with Penn and Yale each winning once.

Pick: Yale Bulldogs ( +115)

Yale is the best team in the league, granted, not by a lot, and the Bulldogs are playing the best basketball of the four remaining teams. The Bulldogs are the conference’s second most efficient offensive team though they are by far and away the league’s best shooting team. They shoot the ball from the three-point line, get to the foul line often, and don’t turn it over a lot.

While Yale is solid and well-rounded on the offensive end, with all five starters averaging double-figures, the Bulldogs thrive on the defensive end. The Bulldogs are not only the best defensive team in the league; they are also one of the best in the nation. They were the top-scoring defense in the league, allowing 68.5 points a game while limiting their opponents to 41.5% shooting from the floor.

Yale is the only conference team ranked in the top 25 nationally in both offensive and defensive ranking. They are led by Ivy League Defensive POY Bez Mbeng and all-league selections Matt Knowling and Ed Jarvis.

Yale went 4-2 against Cornell, Penn, and Princeton during the regular season. The Bulldogs split with the Big Red and Quakers, losing to both teams on the road. They swept the Tigers.

2-leg Parlay (-104): Houston Cougars to win American Athletic Conference and Vermont Catamounts to win America East

I am parlaying Houston (-300) and Vermont (-210) together as they are the two likeliest teams to win their conference tournaments and have the lowest odds among the championship contenders this week. Both teams dominated their leagues this regular season.

Houston (29-2) is one of the nation’s best teams and is a national tournament contender this year. The Cougars, who rank third in the country in offensive and defensive efficiency, get after it on the defensive end. NBA prospects Marcus Sasser and Jarace Walker lead the way offensively.

Houston has dominated the AAC over the last five years, winning at least a share of the regular season for the fourth time this year. They have claimed the conference tournament crown the previous two years and are 46-6 against conference opponents since the start of the 2020 campaign.

Vermont (21-10) has been playing some of the best basketball in the nation since Dec. 1. The Catamounts are 17-3 during this 20-game after beginning the campaign losing seven of their first 11 contests.

The Cats, whose two conference losses were on the road, have reeled off 14 consecutive victories. They are also 11-1 at home, with the lone loss coming to Toledo, where they will spend the entire America East Tournament.

Vermont is a veteran high-powered offensive team that is the America East’s best shooting squad. The Catamounts are also the league’s best defensive squad. Vermont hosts UMass-Lowell in the conference finals on Saturday.

Other Best Bets

The rest are my best bets, not necessarily predictions, as it is difficult to project the winner in most cases. As a result, I will provide two or three options.

Big 12: Kansas (+240), Texas (+360); Longshot: TCU (+750)
The Big 12 is unquestionably the best conference in the nation. While the conference has several strong squads, there is not a great team – as is the case throughout college basketball. As a result, the Big 12 provides great betting opportunities as every squad is plus-money.

Kansas is playing the best basketball in the conference. The Jayhawks, who are 8-2 in their last 10 contests, have won 12 of 25 Big 12 titles.

I like the Longhorns the best here as they are a veteran team and are the only squad that ranks in the top four of the conference in offensive and defensive rating. They also shoot the ball exceptionally well and don’t turn it over.

ACC: Duke (+290), North Carolina State (+1200)
Duke is very talented, healthy, and playing its best basketball of the season. While the Blue Devils are the slight favorite, they are the conference’s fourth seed.

The ACC Tournament has a recent history of many upsets, except for the last year when the top-seeded Blue Devils claimed the drown. This is why No. 6 NC State is in play here. The Wolf Pack have a dynamic backcourt, don’t turn the ball over, and defends the 3-point line well.

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About The Author
Daniel Benjamin