The article originally appeared in Fox Sports.
Professional bettors have varying approaches to the madness when it comes to wagering on conference basketball tournaments.
I know some pros that’ll make a few bets here and there while others go hog wild and aim to pick off the best underdogs. Some people put way too much stock in rankings and seeds when a pro could really care less. If anything, they’ll take the extra couple of points against the top teams.
“Unders” and “Underdogs” usually shine brightest for the wise guys.
“We bet the ‘Under’ in every single Missouri Valley tournament game this year,” one professional told FOX Sports. “We’ve been doing it for years. Seven of the nine games stayed ‘Under’ the total. But that’s a rarity these days. It’s very, very tough to blindly blanket anything because the books catch up so quickly. That hasn’t been the case in the Valley, though.”
When it comes to this year’s Big Ten tournament, one team leaps off the page for a gentleman that wants a significant return on his investment.
“I have some good action on Michigan (+1100 at FOX Bet) to cut down the nets,” the bettor said. “That’s a team that has so much potential and talent, and assuming they get by Indiana on Thursday as a two-point favorite, they can give Illinois a game. Hunter Dickinson is a solid post-up player, and that’s the type of guy that can get Kofi Coburn in foul trouble.”
The bet basically pays for itself if the Wolverines can pull off the upset against Illinois. They would be one game away from the title game, and at that point, Michigan would likely be just a four-point pup against either Rutgers or Iowa.
“That’s exactly what I’m getting at,” the bettor said. “Win two games, and then you can hedge out the rest of the way. It’s essentially [an 11-to-1 bet] to get by Illinois, and then you’re freerolling.
“If Michigan reaches the semifinals, you can’t lose.”
ODDS TO WIN BIG TEN TOURNAMENT (via FOX Bet)*
Purdue +220 (bet $10 to win $32)
Illinois +350 (bet $10 to win $45)
Iowa +400 (bet $10 to win $50)
Wisconsin +700 (bet $10 to win $80)
Ohio State +900 (bet $10 to win $100)
Michigan +1100 (bet $10 to win $120)
Michigan State +2500 (bet $10 to win $260)
Indiana +2500 (bet $10 to win $260)
Northwestern +10000 (bet $10 to win $1,010)
Maryland +10000 (bet $10 to win $1,010)
Penn State +20000 (bet $10 to win $2,010)
Nebraska +30000 (bet $10 to win $3,010)
Minnesota +50000 (bet $10 to win $5,010)
*Odds as of 3/9/2022
The Big Ten has such an interestingly structured tournament schedule, where the top-four teams all receive double byes. That’s great for Illinois, Wisconsin, Purdue and Rutgers because it allows them to conserve energy for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
However, we’ve seen some of the top seeds sleepwalk through a Friday game against an opponent playing for its season with momentum from the day before. Odds are good one of the top four teams will fall in the quarters.
That’s because rust can be worse than rest in the right situation.
“There are some good basketball teams down the sheet in the Big Ten,” the bettor explained. “Ohio State (+900 at FOX Bet) is a six seed, which is insane when you think about it. The Buckeyes are a top-30 team in the nation with a very good offense, and they could easily get by Purdue and Wisconsin.
“Iowa (+400 at FOX Bet) has the third-best odds to win the tournament, but the Hawkeyes are the five seed. The five! Ken Pomeroy has them as the 14th-best team in the country. The only teams with shorter odds are Purdue and Illinois, and it’s more proof that seeds don’t matter.
“Find a team with the right price and the right path.”
Sam Panayotovich is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and NESN. He previously worked for WGN Radio, NBC Sports and VSiN. He’ll probably pick against your favorite team. Follow him on Twitter @spshoot.