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Throughout the college basketball regular season sports bettors and oddsmakers alike constantly keep up to date with what teams in the bigger conferences and primarily the top 25 to 40 teams in the country at any given time are doing. Often overlooked by all parties, small-conference teams can provide the most value for sports bettors come tournament time as most oddsmakers simply don’t have the time or bandwidth to keep up with teams in conferences such as the America East or Horizon League. Often times, the most shocking early-round upsets in the Big Dance come from some of those smaller conference teams that are under most sports bettor’s radars. In today’s piece, let’s take a look at how to find some of those under-the-radar small-conference teams to cash in on come the Madness that is March.
While regular-season games in most of the smaller-conferences aren’t even televised, most conference tournament games are which gives you as a bettor a great opportunity to watch some of the smaller teams when they actually playing their hardest as in most cases there is no tomorrow. With the emergence of streaming services such as ESPN+, many small-conference games that would’ve currently never been televised are now available to not only watch live but watch replays of. By watching some of the conference tournament games, you can find diamond-in-the-rough type teams that do things that may not show up on the box score such as move the ball with the efficiency and or have seven guys that can play the game productively.
One of the characteristics that I always look for in small-conference teams that I think can make a splash in the tournament is having at least one stud player that is the clear-cut best player on most courts he steps on. The name that comes to mind almost instantly is Steph Curry when he took Davidson on a run in the 2008 tournament, taking his small team out of the Southern Conference all the way to the Elite Eight of the biggest dances of them all. This season, one such player to keep an eye on is Eugene German out of Northern Illinois University. While his team is far from a sure thing to even make the tournament, a strong run in the MAC Conference tournament this week could not only have his Huskies dancing, but German, who is averaging a MAC high 20.5 points per game, is the caliber of player who when he gets hot, can take his team to the next level.
Another characteristic of small-conference teams who often get overlooked is those who get favorable bracket positioning when the brackets get set this coming Sunday. If a team can avoid a No. 1 or 2 seed in the early rounds, they can significantly increase their chances of moving on and at a minimum do some damage in their matchups against the spread (ATS). Keying in on one team who is potentially poised for such favorable positioning, Hofstra out of the Colonial Athletic Association enters their conference tournament this week as the No. 1 seed and is currently the No. 2 team in the country ATS with a record of 22-8-0.