College Basketball Best Bets: 6 Top Picks for Sunday’s Conference Tournament Games
Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Duke Deen (Troy)
On Saturday, Murray State earned the first automatic bid of the 2022 NCAA Tournament. On Sunday, two more teams will be gifted a chance to compete in college basketball’s most coveted event.
Note: If you’re looking for best bets for the final day of the regular season, we have that too!
Sunday’s 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.|
UMass Lowell vs. UMBC (America East Quarterfinal)
Among America East teams, nobody is due for more positive regression than the River Hawks. ShotQuality projects UMass Lowell’s conference record at 10-7 based on the quality of shots taken and allowed, as opposed to its 6-11 actual record.
Opponents shot 39.1% against MALO in conference play this season. But considering the River Hawks paced the AE in 2-point defense (44.3%), that number seems very unsustainable. MALO also led the conference in block rate behind a trio of athletic forwards.
The Hawks’ interior defense should pose problems for an undersized UMBC team. The Retrievers run just 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-9 at center, and point guard Darnell Rogers is only 5-foot-2. Rogers is literally the shortest person to ever play D-I hoops.
UMBC has the advantage offensively, but I’m looking for MALO to rely on its defense while sophomore forward Max Brooks shoulders the scoring load. In two games against UMBC this season, Brooks scored 30 points on 14-for-17 shooting (82%).
UMass also won both of those games, winning by 17 at home and two on the road. And the two-point road win undervalues how well MALO played, as ShotQuality projects that should’ve been a 12-point win based on the quality of shots taken and allowed.
Head coach Pat Duquette led the River Hawks to the AE title game last season. And while he doesn’t have Obadiah Noel or Connor Withers, why can’t he do it again with this squad?
Pick: UMass Lowell +2.5 (Play to +2)
Delaware vs. Drexel (CAA Quarterfinal)
By Doug Ziefel
This is effectively the rubber match between these two programs, as the Blue Hens and the Dragons split their season series. If the first two meetings are telling, this will be a very tightly contested contest.
However, Drexel is more equipped to handle Delaware on both ends of the floor when it comes down to it.
This season, the Dragons were one of the more well-rounded teams in conference play. They were fifth in the conference in adjusted offensive efficiency and third in adjusted defensive efficiency.
Meanwhile, the Blue Hens relied on their stellar offense, which was third, but they lagged defensively, ranking seventh.
The key for Drexel here will be to close out and contest every attempt in the barrage of shots that Delaware will put up. Delaware was terrific in conference play offensively, ranking first in effective field goal percentage and second in both 2- and 3-point percentage.
However, Drexel did an equally good job defending in those areas, as it was third in effective field goal percentage allowed.
Overall, Drexel will have a solid advantage, and should be well prepared to stifle the Blue Hens.
Take Drexel to advance.
Pick: Drexel ML -120 (Play to -130)
Boston University vs. Navy (Patriot League Semifinal)
These teams met twice this year and the Midshipmen won both games, so the real best bet is hammering the over on “how many times will the broadcast say, ‘It’s hard to beat the same team three times in a year.’”
That old adage has proven pesky in conference tournaments before, though it shouldn’t be a concern today in Annapolis.
The Midshipmen are the better basketball team, built upon a top-50 defense in the nation, per KenPom’s defensive efficiency metrics. Just for context: the second-best defense in the Patriot League — No. 1 seed Colgate — is ranked 210th nationally.
Navy’s athleticism, versatility and communication on that end of the floor gives it an upper hand in every conference game.
The analytical models from the current holy trinity of college hoops data — KenPom, BartTorvik, and EvanMiya — all set a line of at least four on this game. I trust this Navy team to win at home and put itself one step closer to being the first service academy in the Big Dance since Air Force in 2004.
Pick: Navy -2.5
Wofford vs. Chattanooga (SoCon Semifinal)
By Ky McKeon
Wofford comes into this game off of a quarterfinal scare against VMI.
Meanwhile, the Mocs come in significantly less stressed after leading The Citadel for the final 38 minutes of their quarterfinal matchup.
Chattanooga should be around a 3-point favorite, in my opinion, so we’re getting a bargain with the Mocs at -1.
Nooga is the better team, as it has proven twice this season when it beat Wofford by 11 and eight points. In those two matchups, Chattanooga’s defense was stellar, holding the Terriers to 0.97 PPP in both contests.
The Mocs’ athleticism and size in the backcourt makes them an intimidating force on the perimeter. They are among the best in the country at running shooters off the 3-point line and contesting long-ball tries.
That is crucial against a Wofford team that shoots the eighth-highest rate of triples in the country.
Both teams play through the post — Wofford through B.J. Mack, and Chattanooga through Silvio De Sousa, Josh Ayeni and Avery Diggs. The Mocs have more bodies to throw at the Terriers down on the block, and in De Sousa, they have the biggest guy on the court who happens to have a Big 12 pedigree.
The talent edge is considerable. Chattanooga has the SoCon Player of the Year in Malachi Smith (who has averaged 21 PPG in two games against Wofford this season), arguably the second-best player on the floor in David Jean-Baptiste and perhaps even the third best in De Sousa.
Combine Nooga’s talent edge with its athleticism edge, and you have a clear answer on which team to bet in this semifinal.
Pick: Chattanooga -1 (Play to -2)
Louisiana vs. Troy (Sun Belt Semifinal)
Louisiana matches up with Troy on Sunday for a spot in the Sun Belt Conference Championship.
Louisiana’s offense is reliant on scoring from its frontcourt. Forwards Jordan Brown and Kobe Julien are the only two players who are averaging double-digits for the Ragin’ Cajuns. Brown exploded for a career-high 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting to help eliminate Texas State in the quarterfinals.
Troy has the big men to slow down Louisiana’s dynamic duo. Six-foot-9 forward Efe Odigie is a force in the paint and an elite rim protector for Troy. Offensively, he required a double-team every time he touched the ball against Little Rock.
With 13 players averaging double-digit minutes for Troy, the scoring has been spread out across the board. But the group all plays together with the same defensive intensity.
The Trojans utilize a full-court press, with an evolving lineup to help tire out their opponent. This will be Louisiana’s third game in four days, so we may very well see some fatigue from the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Troy’s high-energy defense has forced turnovers on nearly 21% of opponents’ possessions. That could be key as Louisiana’s offense ranks 349th in the country in turnover percentage.
Troy’s defense will be the difference-maker in this matchup. It will be able to contain Brown and force enough turnovers to punch its ticket to the Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship.
Pick: Troy +1.5 (Play to -2.5)
Western Illinois vs. Oral Roberts (Summit Quarterfinal)
By Matt Cox
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
In the two quarterfinal tilts at the Pentagon yesterday, Summit League overs went 2-0. As mentioned in yesterday’s breakdown, that ups the over record in the last two Summit League Tournaments to 7-2.
We’re hopping back on the over train today with one of the loftiest totals you’ll see in a postseason setting.
Oral Roberts and Western Illinois can put up buckets in bunches, as they did to each other in both conference battles this season. Both rosters are built to run-and-gun, and when pinned against one another, this game tends to combust into a full-on track meet.
Oral Bob and WIU clocked 77 and 76 possessions in their two regular season matchups. Today, KenPom’s model projects a 73-possession affair in what equates to a 163-point total estimation.
The oddsmakers mostly copy and pasted that value, with a few books shading it upwards ever so slightly.
The last meeting between these two in the regular season closed at a 163-point total. This is a strong play up to 165, but anything higher would be require a dicey bet into a stale, sharpened line.