College Basketball Futures Betting: Back Maryland to Win the Big Ten Tournament
This week's conference tournaments are an appetizer to next week's main course, and this is a great time to check out the college basketball odds on FanDuel Sportsbook, specifically the conference tournament futures bets.
Let's dive into one such conference -- the Big Ten, whose tourney starts Wednesday night -- and check out two futures bets I'm into.
Maryland (+900) and Illinois (+1000) to Win the Big Ten Tournament
In the Big 10, it's Purdue in its own tier and then a bunch of teams that aren't separated by much.
The way the bracket shapes up in the Big 10 Tournament creates some value for those in the bottom half of the tournament -- the side opposite Purdue -- and that puts me on Maryland (+900) and Illinois (+1000) to win it.
Here's the bracket:
Anything can happen in a one-and-done setting, but Purdue (+185) is priced as the clear runaway favorite to win the tourney, and that makes sense as they're the lone Big 10 team in the top 25 on Barttorvik and the top 19 on KenPom, sitting in the top seven in each.
After the Boilers, things are wide open.
My guess is no team in the bottom half is complaining about their draw, and I really like the outlook for the Terps and Illini -- especially Maryland, a team that KenPom, Barttorvik and our nERD metric all rate as the best squad in the bottom half of the bracket.
Barttorvik and nERD rank Maryland as the second-best team in the Big 10 while KenPom has them third-best, just one spot behind Michigan State. They're a good team, and they were a tad unlucky not to have a better campaign, with four of their past five losses coming by five or fewer points.
Maryland should -- emphasis on should -- take care of business against either Minnesota (222nd on KenPom) or Nebraska (93rd), and then come the real tests.
By seed, Northwestern and Indiana are the biggest hurdles in the bottom half; the Terps might be favored over both. At worst, the spreads would be tight. KenPom has the Terrapins 10 spots in front of IU and 23 places ahead of Northwestern. Maryland played the Hoosiers and Wildcats once apiece and beat both (by 11 and 16, respectively), although both games were at Maryland.
If Maryland gets to the title game, they'd likely see Purdue, and while that'll be a stiff challenge, the Terps played the Boilers tough twice this year -- losing to Purdue by three at Mackey and beating them by 12 at home. If Purdue slips up before then, it would result in an easier on-paper matchup no matter who else emerges from the top half.
I love Maryland at this +900 price at FanDuel Sportsbook, and it's a longer number than what most books are offering on the Terps.
The argument for Illinois is very similar to the case for Maryland, although the Illini's path is tougher and they aren't as good as the Terps are.
Illinois will likely be only a small favorite over Penn State in their first game, so a one-and-done appearance is fully on the table. But going by the metrics, the Illini won't be a sizable 'dog against anyone in the bottom half of the bracket despite going a combined 1-4 versus Northwestern, Maryland, and Indiana this year. The clash with Northwestern would probably be close to a pick'em while Illinois would likely be a minor underdog versus Maryland or Indiana.
Illinois ended the season 3-3 over their last six, but two of those losses were tight defeats at Purdue (by five) and at IU (by three) -- two of the toughest road venues in the league.
I like sprinkling some coin on both Illinois and Maryland to win it and then rooting for them to play each other in the semis. That's the ideal scenario. If one of them gets to the title game against Purdue, you could cashout if you don't want to take your chances versus the Boilers, but they'd have a fighting chance to pull the upset.
While we're at it, throwing a dart at Penn State at their +2500 price isn't a horrible idea. The Nittany Lions are a notch below everyone they'd probably have to run through in the bottom half (read: everyone other than Minnesota and Nebraska), but they wouldn't be an overwhelming underdog to any of Indiana, Illinois, Northwestern or Maryland.