Best Bets for Teams to Debut in the NCAA Tournament in 2019

Best Bets for Teams to Debut in the NCAA Tournament in 2019

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The infamous asterisk next to a basketball program. The group you don’t want to be in. Everyone was there once:

The Never Made the Tournament Club (NMTC).

It’s a huge deal when a team can escape the NMTC, such as Northwestern famously escaping the club in 2017. It’s not uncommon for every team in the club to return the following season, especially because (important) most teams play in small enough conferences that the only path to the Big Dance is by winning the conference tournament.

That’s not the case this season. Gardner Webb escaped the club on Sunday afternoon, and several more teams that have put themselves in position to punch their first ticket. Let’s have some fun and see which members of the NMTC you should be betting on to win their conference and make history.

Betting Possible First-Time NCAA Tournament Teams

Summit League: Anyone except North Dakota State

Let’s start with mass chaos. The two Summit League semifinals feature three members of the NMTC: Omaha, Purdue Fort Wayne, and Western Illinois. By basic math, that means at least one of those will be in the final.

Let’s try to summarize this as best we can:

  • #2 seed Omaha Mavericks: the best choice on paper. Going 13-3 in conference, the only teams they lost to in the regular season are already eliminated from the conference tournament.
  • #3 seed Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons: probably not going to beat Omaha on Monday night, but they’ve notched wins over North Dakota State and Western Illinois (but lost both rematches).
  • #8 seed Western Illinois Leathernecks: South Dakota State has got to be feeling foolish. The top seed of the Summit League tournament was dumped out by Western Illinois, one week after blasting the Leathernecks by 20. Western Illinois isn’t even hot going into the conference tournament, going 4-12 in conference play.

If you think Western Illinois can pull two more upsets, their odds are a juicy +750. However, one game could be a fluke. Purdue Fort Wayne sits at +175, but lost twice to Omaha.

Omaha has been strong all season, and hasn’t lost to anyone left in the Summit League tournament. Omaha should be your bet at +150 at DraftKings.

Southland: Abilene Christian

The only other true favorite among the NMTC, Abilene Christian is the favorite to win the Southland at even odds.

They’re only the #2 seed in the Southland Conference tournament behind Sam Houston State, who beat Abilene Christian twice in the regular season. But the first game was decided by three, the second in overtime.

Yes, Abilene Christian has turned in a couple poor performances, but they’ve been able to ride a fairly stingy defense to the #2 seed in the conference tournament. Their 63.1 points allowed per game is good for #16 in the nation, and that’s something one can never discount. Take the Wildcats at even odds to win the Southland at PointsBet.

WAC: Utah Valley, Grand Canyon

This is a bit more of a stretch, and a lot more basketball to play. Utah Valley and Grand Canyon are the #2 and #3 seeds in the WAC tournament, respectively, in a three-round tournament.

Admittedly, this means that one could eliminate the other if they both win their first round games. The other half is that they’d have to knock off New Mexico State, who’s only been upset once in conference. There’s a reason that the Aggies have won the conference 7 times in 9 years.

Utah Valley and Grand Canyon split the season series, so you really need to pick who’s more likely to upset New Mexico State. That edge goes to Grand Canyon, who lost both games to the Aggies by a combined total of 5 points. Grand Canyon is your NMTC escapee bet at +300 with PointsBet to win the conference tournament and make the NCAA, Utah Valley at +350.

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