College Basketball Best Bets: Top Picks for Monday’s Horizon, WCC, Colonial, & Summit League Tournament Games (March 8)
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Tyree Eady (left), Rocky Kreuser (center), and Vinnie Shahid (right).
- With the college basketball regular season now over, conference tournament season is in full swing.
- Our staff broke down four games from the Horizon League, WCC, Colonial, and Summit League as their best bets for the day.
- Check out each pick complete with a breakdown and odds below.
The postseason is here. From here on out, every college basketball game on the schedule will have major implications in one way or another.
That’s true for each of our staff’s best bets as well.
Our college hoops writers picked out four games from Monday’s conference tournament slate and shared a betting pick with a breakdown for each one, starting with the Horizon League battle between Cleveland State and Milwaukee and ending with the Summit League scuffle between South Dakota and North Dakota State.
Check out each pick below, and feel free to navigate to any game by using the table below.
College Basketball Odds & Picks
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Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.
Cleveland State vs. Milwaukee
By Mike Randle
The oddsmakers did not believe in Cleveland State prior to the start of the Horizon League Tournament, giving it +1000 odds to finish as champions. The Vikings will face Milwaukee in the semifinals after both teams survived intense battles in the quarterfinals.
Cleveland State earned a 108-104 3OT win over Purdue Fort Wayne, while Milwaukee overcame a 24-point deficit in the last six minutes to rally past tournament favorite Wright State.
These two teams split their regular-season meeting, both played at Milwaukee’s home gym. The Panthers rely on scoring from guards DeAndre Gholston (17.1 PPG, 38.1% 3P), Te’Jon Lucas (15.2 PPG, 5.8 APG), and Josh Thomas (11.9 PPG). That trio combined for 71% of the Panthers’ points in the two games against Cleveland State.
The Vikings can match that trio with their own three guards, Torrey Patton (14.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG), D’Moi Hodge (10.3 PPG), and Tre Gomillion (10 PPG, 5.1 RPG). Cleveland State generates most of its points from inside the arc (53.8%), doing so with aggressive drives to the basket.
The Vikings can also take advantage of Milwaukee’s league-worst 3P defense, which allows 37.4% from deep.
The Panthers limped into the postseason, losing five of their last six games, but gathered momentum with their two wins in the Horizon Tournament. However, I fear the Panthers have been unintentionally cooled off with a week layoff since their last game, making Cleveland State the choice with this small line.
Vegas may not have thought much of a Cleveland State team that was picked seventh in the preseason polls, but as the regular-season co-champions, it has enough to get by the overachieving Panthers here.
Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary’s
When these two rivals meet, it’s a clash of styles from the opening tip.
Saint Mary’s is going to try everything it can to slow the game down and keep Gonzaga out of transition. The Zags, conversely, are going to look to run on every opportunity, including made baskets by the Gaels.
Gonzaga is playing at the fourth-fastest tempo in the nation this year. Saint Mary’s has played as the 10th-slowest team.
In recent history, the Zags have been able to win this battle.
Gonzaga has topped 81 points in four of the last five meetings between these foes, dating back to the beginning of the 2019-20 season. The lone exception in that group was Gonzaga’s win in Moraga this year, which was the Bulldogs’ lowest-scoring output this season and its slowest game by number of total possessions. The Zags started that game ice cold, allowing Saint Mary’s to jump out to a 22-12 lead.
It’s hard to imagine the Gaels succeeding at slowing the Zags down for a second time this season.
Saint Mary’s has had the answer defensively against Gonzaga in the past, like the Gaels’ 2019 WCC Tournament win in which the Zags managed only 47 points.
Yet, that Gonzaga team ranked 62nd in tempo nationally. These Zags are a totally different beast and should be able to dictate the tempo and score at will.
Drexel vs. Northeastern
By Pat McMahon
These two squads won in a much different fashion last night to earn their spot in the CAA semifinals.
Drexel couldn’t miss against Charleston last night, shooting 55.4% from the floor and a ridiculous 61.1% (11-of-18) from 3-point range in the 80-75 win. Northeastern, meanwhile, used its stout defense to suffocate William & Mary in a 63-47 victory.
On the surface level, this total may seem low, but there are several key reasons it’s in the low 130s. First, neither team is in a rush on offense. The Dragons play at a snail’s pace, ranking 336th in adjusted tempo according to KenPom. The Huskies aren’t much faster, ranking 239th in tempo.
Another reason for the low number is Northeastern’s ability to defend. The Huskies have the best adjusted defensive efficiency rating in the conference and lead the conference in opponent effective field goal percentage. They also rank second in the conference and 60th nationally in opponent 3-point percentage, allowing just 31.5% from downtown.
The Dragons torched a Charleston team with a sub-300 ranking in opponent 3-point percentage, but it’ll have a much tougher time hitting shots against the Huskies.
Both teams do a nice job of taking care of the glass, so second-chance opportunities will be scarce. Drexel ranks 48th in defensive rebounding percentage, and Northeastern ranks 84th, per TeamRankings.
I don’t see either team exploding from deep in this game, which will cause the offenses to tighten up and be more deliberate with the ball as the game goes on. With a bid to Tuesday night’s championship game on the line, expect a rock fight in this one.
North Dakota State vs. South Dakota
By Jim Root
After both took care of business in the quarterfinals, North Dakota State and South Dakota now meet for the fourth time in 2020-21 — and the third time in 10 days.
The Bison and the Coyotes split to close the regular season, but the second leg’s result is the more telling outcome.
That’s because it did not involve star South Dakota guard AJ Plitzuweit, who hurt his knee in the first meeting.
Without him, the Coyotes’ other matchup nightmare, Stanley Umude, racked up an eye-popping 39 points, but it wasn’t enough to even keep the final margin in single-digits as the Bison racked up a preposterous 1.35 points per possession.
Therein lies the core issue for South Dakota.
The Coyotes’ defense is excessively leaky, and without Plitzuweit, the offense lacks the firepower to offset those foibles against competent opponents. I say “competent” opponents because USD just had its way with the sieve-like Western Illinois defense, but NDSU is far more capable of slowing the Coyotes’ complementary pieces.
Both coaches are terrific, but NDSU’s Dave Richman has the advantage of working with a full deck of cards. USD’s Todd Lee is down an ace, and although Lee and the Coyotes have had an extra day to rest and prepare, the Bison are too strong an opponent to survive the Plitzuweit absence.