Handicapping this week's mid-major conference tournaments

Mar 5, 2013 |
Handicapping this week's mid-major conference tournaments
Isaiah Canaan and Murray State are underdogs in the Ohio Valley tournament.
Photo By - USA Today Sports
Isaiah Canaan and Murray State are underdogs in the Ohio Valley tournament.
Photo By - USA Today Sports
For some, March Madness doesn’t begin until Selection Sunday. For others, it starts with the big conference tournaments. But for numerous mid-major leagues around the country, March Madness starts this week with conference tournaments kicking off.

Here’s what to watch for in the mid-major conference tournaments beginning this week:

America East – March 9-16

Favorite: Stony Brook (23-6 SU, 1-1 ATS) – The Seawolves have been the class of the America East since jumping to Div. I in 1999 but have never gone to the NCAA.

Upset watch: Vermont (19-10 SU, 3-0 ATS) – The Catamounts won the America East last year and split the season series with Stony Brook this season.

Atlantic Sun – March 6-9

Favorite: Mercer (21-10 SU, 0-3 ATS) – The Bears not only come into the A-Sun tournament as the top seed but are also playing hosts at the Hawkins Center.

Upset watch: Stetson (14-15 SU, 0-0 ATS) – The Hatters come in as a No. 3 seed and took a recent win over No. 2 Florida Gulf Coast. Stetson can run up the score in a hurry.

Big South – March 5-10

Favorite: Charleston Southern (17-11 SU, 0-1 ATS) – The Buccaneers have the offensive firepower to leave the other contenders in the dust. They caught a break with the injury to High Point’s John Brown.

Upset watch: Coastal Carolina (14-14 SU, 0-1 ATS) – The Chanticleers play host to the Big South tournament and were nearly unbeatable on their home court during conference play.

Colonial Athletic Association – March 9-11

Favorite: Northeastern +200 (19-11 SU, 13-12 ATS) – The Huskies clinched the No. 1 seed before last weekend’s loss to Old Dominion, however, their wheels have wobbled with a 2-3 record (1-4 ATS) in their last five.

Upset watch: Delaware +220 (18-13 SU, 13-13-1 ATS) – The Blue Hens enter the CAA tournament on fire, winning four straight and eight of their last 10 games.

Horizon League – March 5-12

Favorite: Valparaiso -200 (24-7 SU, 17-10-1 ATS) – The Crusaders took advantage of a down year and Butler’s defection this season. It’s them or Detroit +175.

Upset watch: Green Bay +350 (16-14, 16-12 ATS) – The Phoenix, the No. 4 seed, will turn to big man Alec Brown and Keifer Sykes to shake up the Horizon postseason.

MAAC – March 8-11

Favorite: Niagara +250 (18-12, 13-13 ATS) – The Purple Eagles enter as a slight favorite, having won the MAAC regular season title – just one game in front of Iona (+275).

Upset watch: Loyola-Maryland +275 (21-10 SU, 12-12-1 ATS) – The Greyhounds are kind of the odd man out when it comes to MAAC contenders. They defeated Niagara and were a solid 7-4-1 ATS on the road this season.

Missouri Valley Conference – March 7-10

Favorite: Creighton EVEN (24-7 SU, 15-13-1 ATS) – The Bluejays took their spot back atop the MVC with a dominant win over Wichita State last weekend.

Upset watch: Evansville +1,000 (18-13 SU, 17-11 ATS) – The Purple Aces could be a wildcard in the MVC tournament. Evansville has thrived as an underdog and has two wins over WSU.

Northeast Conference – March 6-12

Favorite: Robert Morris (22-9 SU, 2-1 ATS) – The Colonials ran away with the NEC regular season crown and are looking to get over the postseason hump after losing in the title game the past two years.

Upset watch: Bryant (19-10 SU, 0-1 ATS) – The Bulldogs nearly took both meetings with Robert Morris this season, winning back in January and losing by two points last week.

Ohio Valley Conference – March 6-9

Favorite: Belmont -300 (24-6 SU, 14-13 ATS) – The Bruins played a who’s-who of mid-major darlings as well as Kansas, Stanford and VCU in non-conference play before dominating the OVC.

Upset watch: Murray State +350 (20-9 SU, 11-15 ATS) – The Racers will need to win the OVC to get back into the NCAA, losing their last two games. That should be more than enough motivation for star guard Isaiah Canaan.

Patriot League – March 6-13

Favorite: Bucknell (25-5 SU, 2-1 ATS) – The Bison benefit from the injury to Lehigh star C.J. McCollum, who isn’t expect to play in the tournament.

Upset watch: Lafayette (17-14, 1-0 ATS) – The Leopards roll into the postseason on a five-game winning streak which started with an upset win over Bucknell – one of only two conference losses for the Bison.

Southern Conference – March 8-11

Favorite: Davidson -300 (23-7, 14-14-1 ATS) – The Wildcats remain the class of the SoCon and strut into the postseason on a 13-game winning streak.

Upset watch: Charleston +350 (22-9 SU, 11-15-1 ATS) – If momentum is the maker of upsets, the Cougars may present some upset value after winning four of their last five and eight of 10 to end the season.

Summit League – March 9-12

Favorite: North Dakota State +125 (22-8, 16-11 ATS) – The Bison boast the No. 8 defense in the country, limiting opponents to 55.4 points per game. They’re just ahead of rival South Dakota State at +140.

Upset watch: Oakland +400 (16-15 SU, 13-15 ATS) – The Grizzlies have wins over NDSU, SDSU and Western Illinois this year and have a potent offense that spreads the love around.

Sun Belt Conference – March 8-11

Favorite: Middle Tennessee State -375 (27-4 SU, 14-13 ATS) – The Blue Raiders are fueled by last year’s upset in the conference tournament and lost just one game in league play.

Upset watch: Arkansas Little Rock +1,500 (17-14 SU, 15-13 ATS) – The Trojans enter the postseason off a big win over Arkansas State. WKU’s run last year proves anything can happen in the Sun Belt tournament.

West Coast Conference – March 6-11

Favorite: Gonzaga -400 (29-2 SU, 16-11-2 ATS) – The new No. 1 team in the nation could get caught looking ahead to a top seed in the NCAA in the WCC tournament.

Upset watch: St. Mary’s +280 (26-5 SU, 15-12-1 ATS) – The Gaels come into the tournament on a five-game winning run, with their only loss in the past 10 outings coming to Gonzaga.

Odds courtesy of the LVH Superbook in Las Vegas.

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