Three more conference tournaments will tip off today, one of which being the Sun Belt Conference. We’ll preview the tournament that holds some of the best mid-major teams in the country before going over my best plays to win the tournament.
Despite being the number three seed in the tournament, the Marshall Thundering Herd currently have the best odds to win the tournament at (+200). The Thundering Herd finished the regular season with a 13-5 conference record and won five of their last six games heading into the tournament. Marshall's fast-paced tempo and scoring ability make them a very tough out in the tournament, as they finished the regular season ranked 8th in the country in average points per game.
One of the Thundering Herds conference losses this season was handed to them by the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana Lafayette, who will enter this week with the second-best odds to win the tournament at (+360). ULL also finished conference play with a 13-5 record and currently ranks 33rd in the country in shooting percentage, led by leading scorer Jordan Brown. Defense is the one area that could hurt ULL, as they allowed an average effective field goal percentage of 51.3%.
The team with the third-best odds, James Madison (+380), has a much more well-rounded playing style than the Ragin’ Cajuns, as they rely primarily on their defense to win games. The Dukes rank 67th in the country in defensive efficiency rating, according to KenPom, and rank 18th in turnovers forced per game.
Interestingly, the number one seed and regular season champion Southern Mississippi currently has the fourth-best odds to win at (+450). The Golden Eagles had a 14-4 conference record, and they finished with a 1-1 record against ULL while losing their only game against Marshall. Offensively, the Golden Eagles will come into this week with three players averaging more than 13.2 PPG, and on the defensive end, they rank 38th in average steals per game.
Southern Miss (+450): Getting a number one seed in the tournament at odds like this is hard to pass up on, especially since they finished a combined 2-1 against their two possible quarter-finals opponents. The Golden Eagles know how to win close games, which is vital in a tournament setting, and adding in the fact that opponents shot an average of just 41.2% from the field and 32% from three is an additional bonus when playing a lot of games in only a few days.
Additionally, the scoring trio of Felipe Haase, Austin Crowley, and Deandre Pinckney make it difficult for opposing defenses to keep them at bay for an entire game. Haase, especially since he has been averaging 16.7 PPG over his past ten games.
Troy (+1600): After the Troy Trojans, the odds for this tournament fall slightly, with the next best odds going to Old Dominion at (+3000). The Trojans went 11-7 in conference play but finished the season winning six of their last seven games. Entering the tournament, the Trojans will have five players averaging in double figures, which is a level of depth that is important in a tournament setting and sets them apart from most teams. Additionally, they are ranked 98th in defensive efficiency rating, according to KenPom.