The men's bracket officially has four names on it already. Over the next week, 29 more automatic bids will be earned.
It's "Championship Week," as ESPN expertly termed it many years ago, when men's college basketball junkies can gorge on conference tournament play before Selection Sunday. The NCAA tournament gets all the attention, but the sheer volume of this week in hoops is hard to beat. It's a great way to cram for your bracket and March Madness bets. The future NCAA tournament Cinderellas are on display this week, winning their conference tournaments — UNC Asheville perhaps? — or they will at least be the teams you're betting at +15.5 against some No. 2 seed in 10 days.
Two more bids are awarded on Monday night. In the Southern Conference, Furman faces Chattanooga, and in the Sun Belt we get South Alabama vs. Louisiana. Furman is favored by 5.5 at BetMGM in the SoCon game, and Louisiana is a small 1.5-point favorite in the Sun Belt final.
Among those four teams, South Alabama might have the best profile for a potential NCAA tournament upset pick (or a first-round cover). They hung fairly close in early-season losses to New Mexico, Alabama, Oklahoma and UAB. The Jaguars have won 11 of 13. They play slow, don't turn it over and have a lot of experience. But they need to get past Louisiana before you worry about them in your bracket.
This is one of the most exciting weeks of the sports calendar. The madness of March is already here.
Here is the first look at the sports betting calendar on Monday:
NBA has 6 games
The NBA had an awesome Sunday with multiple great games, and perhaps some of the six games on Monday night deliver too.
Among the highlights are the Boston Celtics, off a tough double overtime loss to the New York Knicks on Sunday, at the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are a 5.5-point favorite. Another interesting matchup is the Toronto Raptors at the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets, a ridiculous 29-4 at home this season, are 6.5-point favorites.
NHL also has 6 games
The best of the six-pack of games the NHL offers on Monday is probably the Edmonton Oilers at the Buffalo Sabres. Edmonton is a -145 favorite. The Oilers are a pretty good road team and probably the right side on Monday, even as a favorite.
What's the best bet?
There are plenty of good mid-major conference tournament semifinals on Monday, and in the West Coast Conference it seems like a Gonzaga-St. Mary's final on Tuesday night is fait accompli. It might be, but Gonzaga laying 14.5 points against San Francisco on Monday feels steep. Gonzaga isn't going to worry about blowing out USF, just advancing to Tuesday night. San Francisco is a solid team that lost to Gonzaga by just two points at home in the first meeting this season, and asking the Dons to cover 14.5 isn't too much.