NCAAB Best Bets for 7 Thursday Conference Tournament Games

NCAAB Best Bets for 7 Thursday Conference Tournament Games article feature image
Credit:

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: North Alabama’s Damian Forrest.

College basketball conference tournament season is officially in full swing.

With seven tournaments in action Thursday — Missouri Valley, WCC, Sun Belt, Patriot League, Horizon League, ASUN and OVC — it's only right that we came through with seven best bets for the day's action.

It all starts early with a 1 p.m. ET tipoff between Missouri State and Murray State in Arch Madness, and it runs until Milwaukee and Green Bay close things out in the Horizon League Tournament quarterfinals at 9 p.m. ET.

There's plenty of postseason basketball to bet today, so let's strap in and enjoy the ride.

Read on for all seven best bets for Thursday's college basketball conference tournament games — and be sure to check back tomorrow for even more NCAAB postseason picks.


College Basketball Conference Tournament Best Bets

The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college basketball betting staff is targeting from Thursday's slate of conference tournament games. Click on the team logos for any of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.

GameTime (ET)Pick
1 p.m.
5:30 p.m.
6 p.m.
7 p.m.
7:30 p.m.
8 p.m.
9 p.m.
Specific betting 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.

MVC: Missouri State vs. Murray State

Thursday, March 7
1 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Missouri State ML -125

By Sean Paul

Arch Madness begins on Thursday, and you should check out my detailed breakdown of the conference tournament after this best bet breakdown. I’ll be rolling with the first matchup of the day between the Murray State Racers and Missouri State Bears.

While the Murray State program holds a lot of cache for winning several NCAA Tournament games in the last decade, it’s facing a rough patch. Since joining the Missouri Valley two years ago, Murray finished in the middle of the conference in back-to-back seasons.

Last year, the Racers won one Missouri Valley Tournament game and will try for another this year.

Murray State’s biggest problem? Defense. The Racers rank 186th in defensive efficiency and allow a 54.6% effective field-goal percentage, which ranks in the bottom 10 nationally.

Steve Prohm plays a really small team — Nick Ellington is the team’s tallest starter at 6-foot-7. Ellington posts a 7% block rate, which is one of the best in the Valley, but no one else on the roster provides defensive ability.

Missouri State, meanwhile, beat Saint Mary’s in Moraga during the nonconference slate only to win just eight conference games. Also, the Bears took home two disappointing losses to Murray State during the season. On the flip side, Missouri State beat Drake.

So, what gives? Missouri State could win multiple conference tourney games when Alston Mason goes off. The 6-foot-3 guard averages over 17 points per game and posted multiple 30-plus point games.

However, he's scored fewer than 15 points in the past three games, so he’ll need to shake off the rust.

Dana Ford is a defensive-minded coach, as evidenced by Missouri State’s stout 2-point defense, which allows opponents to make shots inside the perimeter at just a 47% clip.

Missouri State is super athletic and has the size to combat Murray State’s sharp scoring ability. You aren’t getting into the lane against the Bears, so connecting on 3s is necessary. But Murray isn’t a good shooting team, hitting only on 32% from deep.

The Bears' biggest advantage is up front with Donovan Clay and N.J. Benson. The duo should dominate on the glass and create extra opportunities for buckets and put pressure on the Racers defense.

Pick: Missouri State ML -125 (Play to -1)

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WCC: Pacific vs. Pepperdine

Thursday, March 7
5:30 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Over 150.5

By John Feltman

Welcome to the 2023-24 College Basketball Toilet Bowl, presented by Pacific and Pepperdine. Both of these teams kicked off the WCC Tournament on Thursday evening after both programs fired their head coaches.

Metric-wise, this is as bad as it gets for both of these teams, which rank outside the bottom 300 in adjusted defensive efficiency. Pepperdine’s offense isn't terrible, but Pacific sits currently near the bottom of the country in adjusted offensive efficiency.

According to EvanMiya, both of these teams have trended upward offensively over the last 30 days. Their defenses continue to regress, though, which is exactly what we want when targeting an over.

These teams may feel a sigh of relief now that both coaches have left the program, causing the players to be more relaxed and rejuvenated. I expect both offenses to be extra aggressive in their offensive sets, which will lead to increased production or turnovers that quickly become easy transition buckets.

The Tigers are horrific offensively, but the Waves rank 360th in 3-point percentage allowed. That stunningly is not an inflated number, as they allow a ton of attempts from beyond the arc each contest.

Pacific guard Jalen Brown shoots 45% from outside, so he has shown flashes of getting hot consistently from that area.

Neither of these teams are snails in terms of pace, so all of the optics of the contest are working in our favor.

Let’s face it — there's no consistency whatsoever on the defensive side of the ball for either team. It's disgusting to even think about placing a wager in this game, but that's the beauty of conference tournament season.

Pick: Over 150.5 (Play to 151.5)



Sun Belt: Texas State vs. Southern Miss

Thursday, March 7
6 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Texas State ML +100

By Jim Root

Fun Belt Madness rolls on in Pensacola, where Texas State hopes to keep momentum rolling after a thrilling overtime win over Old Dominion on Tuesday.

A day off is crucial for the Bobcats after that extra period. Plus, they play a slowed-down, half-court style — a perfect fit for postseason play.

That style is why I like Texas State.

Led by erratic-but-talented guard Andre Curbelo and dynamic wing Austin Crowley, Southern Miss thrives in an uptempo game. When slowed into an execution-based grinder, the Golden Eagles struggle to score.

That’s exactly what Texas State did in its win over Southern Miss back on Feb. 3. The Bobcats forced the game into more of a half-court setting, and USM tallied just 0.83 points per possession as a result.

Granted, Curbelo didn't play in that one, but TSU’s half-court shell will be difficult for him to probe in a high-intensity affair.

USM is also reliant on the charity stripe for points, and we could see the whistle loosen up in postseason play. Without free points at the line, the Golden Eagles offense could become even more limited.

Texas State already has a win on this neutral court. I think it continues climbing the Sun Belt ladder with another victory in a toss-up game.

Pick: Texas State ML +100 (Play to -125)

college basketball-best bets-picks-conference tournaments-march 5
David Buono/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Texas State's Dylan Dawson.


Patriot: Holy Cross vs. Colgate

Thursday, March 7
7 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Under 142.5

By Sean Paul

The Colgate Raiders are clear favorites in the Patriot League Tournament once again.

While the Raiders lost just twice in conference play, Matt Langel’s team won in a much different fashion. The Raiders are known for elite offense, but that never materialized this season as they rank 209th in offensive efficiency.

But great coaches are great for a reason. Langel morphed his team into the Patriot League’s best defensive team.
Colgate is elite at contesting shots, ranking 35th in effective field-goal percentage while limiting teams to 30% shooting from 3-point range to rank 14th nationally.

Those characteristics lend themselves to the under.

Colgate and Holy Cross matched up twice during the regular season, and both totals finished under 141. With this total sitting at 142.5, the under holds some value once again.

I don’t see this one trending differently, as Colgate’s deliberate pace and elite defense should halt Holy Cross’s offense.

The Raiders rank 253rd in adjusted tempo, while the Crusaders sit in the 270th range in tempo. Neither team is aiming to push the pace in this one.

Pick: Under 142.5 (Play to 141)



OVC: Tennessee State vs. Western Illinois

Thursday, March 7
7:30 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Tennessee State +3

By Sean Paul

The OVC Tournament is in full swing.

Tennessee State pulled out a first-round win over a severely shorthanded Southern Indiana team yesterday and will now meet Western Illinois for a spot in the semifinals.

Western Illinois is the biggest surprise in the OVC, winning 20 games and securing a bye in Chad Boudreau’s first season. The Leathernecks developed a defensive identity, ranking 166th in defensive efficiency and 23rd in effective field-goal percentage.

The issue? Western Illinois lacks shot-makers. Big man Drew Cisse can only bail out poor offense and shot selection so many times. It could haunt them in this one.

Tennessee State is only slightly better in offensive efficiency (293rd to 299th), but the offense just feels so much smoother. Plus, there’s no shortage of scoring options.

Christian Brown, Marcus Fitzgerald Jr., EJ Bellinger and Kinyon Hodges are all proven scorers who could exploit the Leathernecks' typically dominant defense.

Brown is the type of scorer who could score over anybody with his lengthy frame and shot-creation ability. Bellinger is a knockdown shooter, connecting on 37% of his triples for the season while scoring 17 points against USI last night.

Additionally, Tennessee State’s interior size kept Cisse to two of his lowest rebounding outputs during OVC play. It already happened twice, and the Tigers have a pair of 6-foot-10 bigs to battle with the smaller Cisse inside.

This game just lines up perfectly for the Tigers.

Pick: Tennessee State +3 (Play to +1.5)



ASUN: North Alabama vs. Austin Peay

Thursday, March 7
8 p.m. ET
ESPN+
North Alabama +4

By Ky McKeon

The ASUN Tournament has been drunk this year with underdogs going 4-2 straight up. Throw out everything you know about basketball and go with your gut in these two semifinal contests.

North Alabama is on a mission.

Head coach Tony Pujol has said the past two years his program has gotten a jolt of motivation with the oppressive shackles of the NCAA’s four-year D-I to D-II transition rule finally lifted. UNA turned in its best conference record last year in its short D-I history, and this season, it hit a new high in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency metrics.

Austin Peay swept UNA during the regular season, but both games were close, and one went to overtime. The Lions have the guard talent with Jacari Lane and KJ Johnson, and the big man fortitude behind Damian Forrest to win Game 3.

Peay’s quarterfinal game went to overtime on Tuesday, which is significant considering the Govs’ lack of depth. Corey Gipson played his three star guards 45, 44 and 41 minutes, and another guard 39 minutes.

Only seven players saw the floor, and the seventh saw under 10 minutes of action. UNA is deeper, and the travel from Nashville — where Lipscomb is — to Clarksville is negligible.

This game should have fireworks, as both offenses feature terrific guards who can create for themselves and others.

But UNA’s defense is far better than Peay’s, which ranks dead last in the ASUN in adjusted efficiency. That should be the key in a North Alabama victory tonight.

Pick: North Alabama +4 (Play to +3)



Horizon: Milwaukee vs. Green Bay

Thursday, March 7
9 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Green Bay -1

By Matt Cox

Sunny Wicks promised no secrets about the availability of star player Noah Reynolds tonight. The Phoenix’s do-everything engine, whom Wicks refers to as “Batman,” is officially back after a four-game absence.

Wicks decided to play it safe with Reynolds, who suffered a “high low” ankle sprain in mid-February, by holding him out of the regular-season finale against arch-rival Milwaukee.

The Phoenix sorely missed Reynolds’ talents on Senior Night, especially in breaking the Panther' full-court pressure. Pinned against Milwaukee’s frenetic havoc in a hostile environment, the younger Green Bay guards folded in the final 10 minutes despite keeping it nip-and-tuck for the first 30.

Green Bay coughed it up 17 times, including four costly ones by rookie sharpshooter David Douglas, who was thrust into more ball-handling duties sans Reynolds.

Tonight, Green Bay gets a rare opportunity at immediate revenge — this time on its home floor, where Horizon League top-four seeds are 11-1 outright since the COVID-19 cancellation in 2020.

Rejuvenated by their unflappable backcourt star, Reynolds, the Phoenix should rise from the ashes of their late-season swoon in the Horizon League Tournament opener.

Pick: Green Bay -1 (Play to -2)

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