Conference tourney betting guide

The conditions were perfect for Belmont to upset Ohio Valley Conference top seed Murray State. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

This file will be updated daily with plays from Dave Tuley and David Solar.

The madness has already begun.

While the vast majority of recreational college basketball bettors are waiting for Selection Sunday, sharp bettors already have been firing away because they know some of the best wagering opportunities of the year happen during the conference basketball tournaments in the two weeks prior to the Big Dance.

For one thing, with every league -- except the Ivy -- having a conference tournament, there are far more games than during the actual NCAA tournament. And it's harder for bookmakers to have sharp lines on every game, so there are some soft spots for bettors to exploit.

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I touched on some of the things I like to look for in conference tourney underdogs in my "Tuesdays With Tuley" column last week. To summarize, I like teams that are getting hot at the right time and making one last push for an NCAA bid. These can be "bubble teams," but also teams that are clearly also-rans.

Now don't get me wrong: I'm not saying you should play every team in a "must-win situation," because I've long said that quite often, teams like that aren't consistent enough to "flip the switch" when they need to. If they were, they would have started winning sooner and not be in their current situation. I usually like when I can find a spot when they're facing a team that could lack motivation, such as a team that's already locked up an NCAA bid or not likely to be able to improve its seed much.

We already saw some examples last week:

• Belmont made a run in the Ohio Valley Conference and was a 6-point underdog in the title game against Murray State, which most people saw as an NCAA lock with its 25-game winning streak (and their players must have been feeling the same, even though bracketologists such as Joe Lunardi warned that the Racers weren't a shoo-in). Belmont looked like the more motivated team in pulling off the 88-87 upset.