There is still nearly a full month of action remaining in major conferences and you can still wager on the six leagues at some of our favorite betting sites. There are odds available on four mid-majors that we’ll look at later this week, but we’re going to look at the big boys first.
Let’s handicap how things stand with college basketball conference championship odds in a season that has thus far been filled with parity.
ACC championship odds: Title goes through Tobacco Road
Favorite: North Carolina ( ) enters the week with a one-game edge over the competition, having dropped only tight games to Georgia Tech and Clemson. The Tar Heels are the league’s top-scoring team (82.5) and boast the top scorer in National Player of the Year candidate R.J. Davis (21.5 ppg) and top rebounder in senior Armando Bacot (10.2 rpg). Although Hubert Davis has the Heels humming, they’re no lock, particularly at this price, since trips to Virginia and Duke remain.
Running Second: Virginia ( ) controls its own destiny in the ACC race since UNC has to come into Charlottesville on Feb. 24. The Cavaliers enter Tuesday’s home date with Pitt a perfect 13-0 at John Paul Jones Arena, and has a pair of pro level perimeter defenders on the roster in likely first-round pick Ryan Dunn, the league’s blocks leader (2.1) and senior Reece Beekman, who also leads the ACC in assists (6.1) and steals (2.4). UVA has a grueling schedule ahead, but owns an eight-game win streak and is playing elite-level defense under Tony Bennett.
Top Longshot: Wake Forest ( ) has 3-point shooter Damari Monsanto back in the fold, doesn’t play UNC again and can really put itself in play for an ACC title with an upset at Virginia this weekend, albeit with little room for error following its Monday night loss at Duke. If the Deacs fail there, this is essentially a three-team race between UNC, UVA and Duke the rest of the way. 7-foot Gonzaga transfer Efton Reid has been a game-changer.
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Big East championship odds: UConn a massive favorite for good reason
Favorite: Defending champion UConn ( ) has earned the nation’s No. 1 ranking back and takes a 12-game win streak into a Valentine’s Day date at DePaul in which it will be heavily favored. Even having lost a trio of leaders to the NBA, Dan Hurley’s Huskies look pretty formidable, although the team isn’t as deep as last year’s. Still, Cam Spencer is probably the fifth-best player on the roster and leads the Big East in 3-point shooting (45.2 percent). If you’re looking for a weakness, both of this season’s losses have come on the road.
Running Second: Marquette ( ) has the most realistic opportunity to chase down UConn since it plays them twice, visiting the XL Center this weekend. If the Golden Eagles can pull off that upset, they can control their own destiny since the Huskies have to come into Milwaukee on March 6. Tyler Kolek leads the conference in assists (7.5) and is an All-America candidate.
Top Longshot: Although this is realistically a two-horse race, the one with an outside chance worth putting pizza money on is Creighton ( ). Three of its Big East losses have come by either one point or in OT, UConn has to come in through Omaha on Feb. 20 and Marquette arrives on March 2, so while there’s no real room for error, there is a window. The 3-point shot will tell the tale for the Blue Jays. No one in the league shoots (29) or makes more (10.4).
Big Ten championship odds: No one likely to catch Purdue, but race isn’t over yet
Favorite: Zach Edey looks like he’ll win another National Player of the Year award, and Purdue ( ) is likely to capture the regular-season Big Ten title. Entering the week, the Boilermakers are on an eight-game win streak and has seen guys increase their level of play around Edey, the league leader in points (23.2) and rebounds (11.7). Point guard Braden Smith is tops in total assists and SIU transfer Lance Jones continues to excel.
Running Second: Illinois ( ) remains within striking distance of Purdue, although blowing a lead in East Lansing with a meltdown at Michigan State over the weekend didn’t aid the cause and could linger. However, the Illini do have the Big Ten’s second-most talented roster, lost only 83-78 at Mackey in the first meeting with the Boilers and welcome them to town on March 5, so that game could be extremely meaningful. Outside of a March 2 visit to Wisconsin, Illinois’ schedule is pretty light, so if they use the awful loss at Sparty in a positive manner, a run is coming.
Top Longshot: Wisconsin ( ) is the lone team that can crash the party, which sounds strange to say since it has hit the skids, opening the week on a four-game losing streak after being routed at Rutgers on Saturday. In order to realistically have a chance at winning the Big Ten, the Badgers have to win all of their remaining games entering the regular season finale at Purdue on March 10 and would obviously have to pull off an upset there too.
More Big Ten: Minnesota is nation’s top team against the spread
Big 12 championship odds: Race remains wide open with newcomer Houston at the helm
Favorite: Houston ( ) recovered from a rare blowout loss at Kansas by posting wins over Oklahoma State and at Cincinnati. Kelvin Sampson also has an opportunity to coach his team up all week since the Cougars don’t play again until Saturday at Texas. Although it’s often difficult to see where scoring will come if guards Jamal Shead and LJ Cryer are struggling, UH still dominates games via lockdown defense and will be a No. 1 seed if they take care of business the rest of the way and in the Big 12 Touranment.
Running Second: Iowa State ( ) is right there with Houston in the loss column entering the week and has again made Hilton Coliseum a fortress, posting wins in all 14 outings, taking down Houston and Kansas there. However, the Cyclones only have four home dates left, and their toughest remaining game will be at Houston on Feb. 19.
Bill Self showed off his brilliance again this past weekend, defeating Baylor without top wing Kevin McCullar, the Big 12’s leading scorer (19.5), although a blowout loss at Texas Tech Monday put a dent in the Jayhawks’ chances. Depth is going to be an issue the rest of the way for Kansas (
) but it closes the season at Houston on March 9, so if you want to ride with KU – historically, that’s been a winning ticket – no one would blame you.
Top Longshot: Baylor ( ) squandered a golden opportunity in Lawrence over the weekend, but remains a player. In freshmen JaKobe Walter and Yves Missi, the Bears have future NBA first-round picks. Guard RayJ Dennis is a legitimate closer, and there’s adequate depth around that trio for Scott Drew to work with. Best of all, Houston, Kansas and Texas all come through Waco in the coming weeks.
Pac-12 championship odds: Arizona in control
Favorite: Arizona ( ) sent the Pac-12 a huge message this past weekend, blowing out Colorado as a slight underdog in a game it controlled from start to finish. The Wildcats rolled on the heels of surviving a triple-overtime affair at Utah, so you have to admire that head coach Tommy Lloyd has his team thriving in the face of adversity. I don’t love the odds here since the race is so tight – bet UConn if you’re willing to swallow that type of juice – but Arizona has indeed survived the toughest stretch on its schedule.
Running Second: Washington State ( ) is only one game behind the ‘Cats, and defeated them 73-70 in Pullman on Jan. 13, so it controls its destiny to win the Pac-12. If the Cougars win in Tucson on Feb. 22, they’ll be favored in their remaining games and Kyle Smith would rightfully earn National Coach of the Year consideration if he pulls off capturing the final regular-season title before the Conference of Champions disintegrates. WSU owns a five-game win streak hosts Cal and Stanford this week, so it will be challenged before its summit meeting at Arizona.
Top Longshot: UCLA ( ) started Pac-12 play 1-4, so the fact it has any realistic chance of winning a league title is a testament to head coach Mick Cronin’s brilliance. His team is the youngest he’s had in years, but survived at Cal on Saturday to win a season-best fifth straight game. Five of the Bruins’ final seven games will be played at Pauley Pavilion, including a March 7 date with Arizona. Pro prospect Adem Bona is blossoming into one of the conference’s top centers, while freshman guard Sebastian Mack continues to improve.
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SEC championship odds: Tide slight favorite in nation’s most competitive league
Favorite: Alabama ( ) is basically even money to win the SEC, where a team as loaded as Mississippi State enters the week under .500 in league play. The Crimson Tide own the nation’s highest scoring average (90.3) and cracked the century mark for the seventh time in Saturday’s win over LSU, rebounding from getting thoroughly thumped by Auburn. Road games have been rough, and tough trips to Kentucky, Ole Miss and Florida remain. On the plus side, the Tide own the tie-breaker against co-leaders South Carolina, having beaten them 74-47 on Jan. 9. Mark Sears leads the SEC in scoring (20.5).
Running Second: Odds-wise, Tennessee ( ) and Auburn ( ) fit the category, even though both were crushed on the road this past weekend. The Vols host the Tigers on Feb. 28 before opening March with visits to ‘Bama and South Carolina, so I don’t like their chances of surviving that stretch unscathed. Auburn would have to pull off a win in Knoxville and has struggled away from the Plains, but it does have the lighter schedule going forward and the SEC’s top big man in Johni Broome, so I’d favor backing Bruce Pearl’s team.
Top Longshot: South Carolina ( ) has been one of the nation’s biggest surprises, nevermind the SEC’s, since it lost 20 games in Lamont Paris’ first season. Oddsmakers are expecting the Gamecocks to stumble at some point, but two of their top catalysts are new in Wofford transfer B.J. Mack, a burly forward, and freshman forward Collin Murray-Broyles, who has been brilliant of late. If South Carolina pulls off a Valentine’s Day upset at Auburn, hop on board for value’s sake.