A quick look at the Sun Belt Conference Tournament odds shows a wide-open field with a number of legitimate contenders. Three teams have odds lower than +400 and five teams are at +900 or lower. Somebody has to be the be the favorite and that falls to Marshall.
The Thundering Herd are the No. 3 seed in the tournament after losing their final NCAAB regular season game. The tournament will be played at Pensacola Bay Center in Pensacola, Florida. All games will be televised on ESPN+ with the championship game being aired on ESPN2 on Monday, March 6 at 6 p.m. ET.
Southern Miss claimed the No. 1 seed by winning the regular season title outright. The Eagles earned at least an NIT invitation by taking the regular season title but are aiming a bit higher than that. Louisiana is the No. 2 seed. In the preseason poll, Marshall was picked No. 6 and Southern Miss was picked last.
Marshall Thundering Herd (+210)
The Thundering Herd are slight favorites to win the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, although there are a number of teams capable of pulling off the feat. Marshall had a golden opportunity to claim the regular season conference title and the top seed, but lost to Old Dominion on the road.
Still, Marshall has a bye until the quarterfinals of the tournament. Both Jeff Sagarin and Ken Pomeroy have Marshall ranked several points higher than the other conference teams, despite its second-place tie in the Sun Belt’s ncaab standings.
Marshall is going to push the pace on the court, ranking No. 8 in the nation in adjusted tempo and its 14.9 seconds per possession is the shortest of any NCAA basketball team. Marshall is solid offensively and the defense is pretty good.
The Thundering Herd plays the way it should considering they usually have the edge offensively and defensively against conference foes. Still, if Marshall wins the tournament, it isn’t a team you want to have going far in your March Madness contest bracket.
Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (+330)
Louisiana tied with Marshall at 13-5 in the Sun Belt but claimed the No. 2 seed after defeating Marshall in the regular season. The Ragin’ Cajuns are a much better offensive team than they are defensively. Louisiana has one of the worst 3-point defenses in the country, allowing 37.4%.
The Cajuns’ foul shooting leaves a bit to be desired, which isn’t ideal when you can expect several close games. After a stretch of 10 straight conference wins, the Cajuns finished on a 3-3 run in Sun Belt play.
James Madison Dukes (+380)
James Madison is No. 4 seed in the tournament after going 12-6 in conference play. The James Madison Dukes are going to win on the basis of their defense. The offense is a little better than average, but nothing special. JMU didn’t have a huge home court advantage, losing three conference games at home. Being the No. 4 seed, the Dukes would have a semifinal matchup with Southern Miss provided both teams win in the quarterfinals.
Southern Miss Golden Eagles (+500)
It’s not often that you see the regular season conference champion as the fourth betting choice. But Southern Miss hasn’t gotten much respect this season. And that’s the case once again. The Eagles are good, not great, on offense and defense but did what they needed to do during the season.
Southern Miss doesn’t shoot the 3-pointer very well, so they’re not a team who can climb out a big hole easily. The Golden Eagles did lose to Marshall and split with Louisiana during the regular season. If the Eagles can reach the finals, they would likely be an underdog in the college basketball betting lines.
South Alabama Jaguars (+900)
The Jaguars are the No. 8 seed and meet No. 9 seed Appalachian State in the second round. A win would set up a quarterfinal game against Southern Miss. The Sagarin and Pomeroy ratings have South Alabama about 3.5 to 4 points worse than Marshall.
So there isn’t a huge difference between the top team and the rest of the field. The Jaguars are playing their best basketball of the season. After a 2-7 start in the Sun Belt, South Alabama finished 7-2 to end up 9-9. The Jaguars have a big-time player in Isaiah Moore.
Troy Trojans (+1500)
The Trojans are the No. 5 seed and are intriguing with Sun Belt Conference Tournament odds of +1500. The Trojans ended the season on a 6-1 run in Sun Belt games. Troy will face James Madison in the quarterfinals, provided it defeats the winner of the No. 12/No. 13 game.
James Madison won at Troy in overtime during the regular season. The Trojans are No. 97 in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing too many offensive rebounds. Troy’s offense is pretty average and it struggles from 3-point range.
Projected Championship Matchup
The Thundering Herd looks to be the team most likely to come out of the bottom half of the bracket. Marshall could very well face Louisiana in the semifinals. The Cajuns won the first meeting at home, but Marshall should be able to turn the tables on a neutral court.
The top half of the bracket isn’t quite so easy with James Madison and Southern Miss, along with South Alabama and Troy. JMU gets a slight power rating edge, so will take a shot on the Dukes advancing to face Marshall. The Thundering Herd would be favored by close to three points on the college basketball betting lines but James Madison’s defense can get the job done. With the Sun Belt Conference Tournament odds at +380, there’s a bit of value on James Madison.Follow us on Twitter
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