College Basketball Best Bets: 6 Top Picks for Evening Conference Tournament Games
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While an automatic bid will be handed out in the OVC tonight, that doesn’t mean we can ignore the other conference tournament matchups, especially when there is value from a betting perspective.
Below, we spotlight six games featured on the Saturday night slate, including three semifinal affairs, a big matchup for a bubble team in the WCC and a duel featuring the No. 1 seed in the Summit League.
Saturday Evening Conference Tournament Best Bets
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college basketball staff is targeting from today’s slate of games. Click the team logos for one the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.
|Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.|
Drake vs. Missouri State (MVC Semifinal)
I’ve been eyeing this potential matchup between Missouri State and Drake since before the tournament started.
Missouri State can’t defend ball-screens. The Bears rank sub-240 in both pick-and-roll defensive efficiency and off-screen defensive efficiency, per ShotQuality.
Meanwhile, Darian DeVries runs one of the heavier ball-screen offenses in college hoops. With Roman Penn as the main ball-handler, the Bulldogs are top-90 in pick-and-roll frequency and top-80 in pick-and-roll efficiency.
But I am definitely not trusting Drake’s defense against Missouri State’s offense.
There’s nothing specifically wrong with Drake’s defense, but the Bulldogs aren’t strong in any one area and have a problem fouling — Drake is dead-last in the MVC in opponent free-throw rate.
Behind Isiaih Mosley and Gaige Prim, the Bears have the deadliest offense in the MVC, leading the conference in offensive efficiency and points per game. And with those two attacking the rim constantly, you must think the Bears will rack up more than a few free throws.
This is shaping up to be a high-scoring MVC affair. I’m willing to play this all the way up to 146.
Pick: Over 146 or better
Jacksonville vs. Jacksonville State (ASUN Semifinal)
No team in the ASUN has been better covering the number than Jacksonville. In fact, only two teams in all of college basketball have been better against the spread.
The Dolphins match up extremely well with the Gamecocks, and should be able to limit them on the offensive end. Jacksonville ranks 10th in the country when it comes to defending 3s. On the season, Jacksonville is holding opponents to just 60.8 points per game, which puts it at 13th in the nation.
In their first meeting earlier this season, Jacksonville limited Jacksonville State to just 64 points.
I think the Gamecocks will struggle to find a rhythm on offense against the Dolphins.
For that reason, I’m backing Jacksonville at +5 or better.
Pick: Jacksonville +6.5 (Play to +5)
Omaha vs. South Dakota State (Summit Quarterfinal)
By Matt Cox
Summit League overs are a cash cow. And this mutual fund isn’t done paying dividends yet.
This regular season, Summit overs hit at a 56.7% clip, covering by an average of nearly five points a game. Yes, this matchup features the league’s top defensive unit, South Dakota State, but don’t let that scare you away.
For starters, the total in the first two meetings between these two closed at 166 and 163, respectively, both higher than the current price.
The first game was an easy-breezy over. The second game, however, sailed under the number, but context is critical there. Both squads were on the last leg of a tightly condensed part of the schedule, and simply ran out of steam in the second half.
That won’t be the case tonight. Both teams should be rejuvenated after a week off to rest, recoup and reload for an impending scoring barrage. The Pentagon is a shooter’s paradise, so look for triples to be raining from the skies.
Last year, five of the seven Summit League Tournament games went over the total.
Pick: Over 160 (Play to 162)
LIU vs. Wagner (NEC Semifinal)
Long Island travels to Wagner on Saturday for a chance to make it to the NEC title game.
Wagner limped its way into the conference tournament, going just 3-3 down the stretch, including two outright losses as double-digit favorites. The struggles were directly attributed to the loss of Elijah Ford, who is out for the season.
The Seahawks were unconscious in the first round against St. Francis (PA), though. The group hit 13-of-24 (54%) from 3-point territory. Alex Morales recorded 11 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the first triple-double in a Northeast Conference Tournament game since 1983.
The hot shooting was a complete anomaly, as the Seahawks rank 351st in 3-point percentage, hitting just 28% from deep. In the six games without Ford in the lineup, Wagner has converted on just 23-of-103 (22%) of its attempts from 3-point territory.
Now, Wagner matches up against the hottest team in the conference.
Long Island has won seven games in a row behind its top-10 tempo. The Sharks’ lineup features two all-conference first-team players in Ty Flowers and Eral Penn. The duo combine for 36 points and 15 rebounds per contest.
With Ford out of the lineup, we should see that dynamic duo have a huge game today. The Wagner shooting should come back to earth, which will lead to LIU finding many transition opportunities.
LIU is a live road dog today, and it may very well be playing in the NEC Championship on Tuesday.
Pick: Long Island University +6.5 (Play +5)
UNC Greensboro vs. Samford (SoCon Quarterfinal)
By Ky McKeon
Samford is the 3-seed in the SoCon Tournament, but it’s UNCG that finds itself as the favorite tonight. The Bulldogs’ value has been skyrocketing the past two months, moving all the way up from 244th in KenPom at the start of January to 186th as of today.
Samford holds the distinction of beating every single team in the SoCon this year. That includes UNCG, which it split a series with during the regular season.
In the first matchup, Samford lost by three on the road. A major reason why was the absence of key starter Jermaine Marshall. The Dogs handled UNCG easily in the rematch, leading by as many as 14 and ultimately winning by six.
While I lean on the dog for a side play, the real value is on the total. The under is the play in this game.
Both prior matchups were super slow affairs, going 60 and 66 possessions, respectively. Both prior matchups soared below the oddsmakers’ total line, ending in 119 and 104 points, respectively.
UNCG is awful on offense. The Spartans rank 238th nationally in offensive efficiency and play at the nation’s ninth-slowest pace on that end. Samford cannot score on UNCG’s defense.
The Spartans protect the paint better than anyone in the conference, allowing 49% from 2P range in league play (first). Samford needs to get inside the arc and to the rim to score. It’s strength versus greater strength.
UNCG is weak on the perimeter — it has surrendered the highest percentage of points from beyond the arc in the SoCon this season. Samford is not a threat to score from there, shooting just 32% from deep in league play.
Expect another slog, and another low-scoring contest. The oddsmakers gave us plenty of leeway with a friendly 134-point total.
Pick: Under 134 (Play to 132)
BYU vs. San Francisco (WCC Quarterfinal)
By D.J. James
I have harped on this for the latter half of the West Coast Conference season: BYU has fallen off. Yes, it just beat Loyola Marymount, but now it has to face arguably the second-best team in the WCC in San Francisco.
The Dons are an elite 3-point defending team. BYU relies heavily on outside shooting from Alex Barcello and Trevin Knell. On the season, San Francisco has held opponents to less than 30% from deep. BYU will need to focus on getting the ball into Fousseyni Traore now that he has returned.
San Francisco relies heavily on the 3 on offense, as well, and BYU is holding opponents to 30.4% from outside this season. But the San Francisco offensive attack is strong from inside, as well. Yauhen Massalski can keep up with Traore, so it will be an interesting offensive battle between the bigs.
Still, per ShotQuality, BYU ranks 253rd in Open 3 Rate, so Khalil Shabazz and Jamaree Bouyea will have opportunities outside
Seneca Knight is still questionable for the Cougars, so this is something to be cognizant of because it definitely shortens the BYU bench.