College Basketball Best Bets: Our Top Picks for Tuesday’s Conference Tournaments, Including Pittsburgh vs. Miami & Duke vs. Boston College (March 9)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Wendell Moore.
During the college basketball season, Tuesdays are typically jam-packed with plenty of action from around the country.
That’s essentially the same tonight. While some of the power conferences won’t start their postseasons until tomorrow, the ACC joins the fold today, and two of our staff members are betting the early games.
It all starts with Pittsburgh vs. Miami at 2 p.m. ET and is followed by Duke vs. Boston College at 4:30 p.m. Then, our staff pivots to Iona vs. Quinnipiac at 5 and Cal State Northridge vs. Long Beach State at 6 before ending the night with Rice vs. Southern Miss — if the price is right.
Check out each pick breakdown below, and feel free to use the table below to navigate to any specific game.
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Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.
Pittsburgh vs. Miami
By Pat McMahon
Pittsburgh and Miami get the ACC Tournament started with a matinee tip on Tuesday afternoon.
This will be Pitt’s fourth game since starting guards Au’Diese Toney and Xavier Johnson both left the program. The Hurricanes are shorthanded as well, as they’ve been ravaged by injuries throughout the season.
Miami has been offensively challenged all season without Chris Lykes, and currently rank 197th in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom. The Hurricanes are a dreadful outside shooting team, ranking last in the ACC in 3-point percentage at 29.4%.
Miami exploded for 80 points against Boston College on senior night Saturday despite shooting right at its season average from 3. The Hurricanes did their damage by crashing the offensive glass and getting to the line against a weak Boston College interior defense.
That won’t happen against the Panthers, who are much better than the Eagles defensively and have the ACC’s leading rebounder, Justin Champagnie, manning the paint.
With Johnson and Toney gone, Champagnie is Pittsburgh’s only reliable scorer. It also now lacks a true point guard, so it’s no surprise that the Panthers are averaging fewer than 65 points per game over their last three.
Neither team is in a hurry offensively either, with Pitt ranking 175th in adjusted tempo and Miami 199th. Expect a slow, ugly battle to kick off ACC Tournament action.
Duke vs. Boston College
It’s hard to believe we live in a world where Duke is playing a Tuesday game at the ACC Tournament.
Even after the Blue Devils’ three-game skid to end the season, there’s still some outsized hope of a tournament bid. Duke is the seventh team out of the field currently, according to Bracket Matrix, with just five of the 107 bracketologists it tracks finding the Devils worthy of a bid.
That leaves a sliver of hope that an ACC Tournament run could earn the Dukies a spot in the First Four.
Boston College, meanwhile, is just playing out the string. Coach Jim Christian was relieved of his duties. Wynston Tabbs was suspended for violating COVID-19 protocols before entering the transfer portal. Rich Kelly is also looking for a new home for next year. Steffon Mitchell, BC’s most reliable paint presence, is questionable to play with a hamstring injury. There’s little reason for optimism here.
The first time these teams met in Durham, BC jumped out to a 16-point first-half lead that was squandered with mistakes late in the game. The Eagles disguised poor play with a hot shooting night, making up for 21 turnovers with better than 50% outside shooting that night.
With injuries and departures throughout the roster, it’s hard to imagine that happening again.
Call me biased, but I think I speak for all my fellow BC alumni when I say this game is more of a burden than a rare chance to take down Duke. BC basketball should have followed the football team’s lead and passed on postseason play.
Iona vs. Quinnipiac
The Iona Gaels face off against Quinnipiac Bobcats in the second round of the MAAC tournament on Tuesday.
The Rick Pitino-led Gaels will play their first game in 17 days after being shut down due to COVID-19 protocols. This is the second time Iona had to pause the season, as it also didn’t play for 51 days at the end of December for the same reason.
The Gaels showed no signs of rust returning from that layoff, beating Manhattan, 85-67. I don’t anticipate seeing any rust this time around, as the stakes are higher and Pitino will have his squad fired up to play.
Iona is severely underseeded in this tournament due to those layoffs and only playing 13 games this season. Had it played a full schedule, it would most likely be one of the top seeds in the tournament.
The Gaels own the top-ranked offensive efficiency and second-ranked defensive efficiency in the MAAC this season, according to KenPom.
There isn’t much to brag about with this Bobcats team, as they rank 339th in the country in offensive efficiency and don’t do any one thing great. Quinnipiac beat Iona outright the first time they played, but it was aided by getting to the free-throw line 25 times to the Gaels’ 10.
This is a good revenge spot for Iona, which is the much more talented team. I trust Pitino will make the necessary adjustments for it to win comfortably in the first round and cover the six-point spread.
Cal State Northridge vs. Long Beach State
Any time conference tournament season rolls around, you can expect a chaotic collision of teams all vying for one thing: the potential of March Madness glory.
There will always be at least one unpredictable event that presents itself, and despite our attempt at preparedness, we will still be caught off guard.
Now, these two teams are not exactly heavyweight contenders set to rattle off four straight miraculous wins just to squeeze into the NCAA Tournament.
Nonetheless, they are in the tournament and have a chance. First, they each have to make it past the other in order for that dream to stay alive.
Both teams are fairly close, albeit low, in KenPom’s ratings: Cal State Northridge sits at 262nd in the nation, while Long Beach State rests at 274th.
You can find these respective squads at the bottom tier of most statistical categories, including total team rebounding rate, points allowed, and team defensive efficiency.
This makes them very evenly matched, and the line looks like it was set perfectly at face value.
However, there is a variable in the Matadors’ equation that will make all of the difference in this game: TJ Starks.
In March, it’s a much easier bet to choose a team like CSUN because it has such a prolific scorer, and that can come in handy when every team is playing “floor-slap” defense for all 40 minutes.
And Starks has absolutely scorched opposing teams, averaging 25.8 points in his past six games.
During this stretch, the Matadors’ opponents were much better competition than Long Beach State, and it’s safe to expect a winner like Starks to tear it up and have close to 30 points this game.
To its credit, Long Beach State has a tendency to keep games close. However, trust the Matadors to cover the marginal spread here with a heroic effort from the scoring savant, Starks.
Rice vs. Southern Miss
I really have no interest in this game.
Rice, which will go for the three-game season sweep of Southern Miss, is one of the highest 3-point variance teams in the country, as it bombs away from deep at a top-five clip nationally.
This one will likely come down to whether or not Rice is hitting its shots. It’s a pure stay-away unless this line gets over Southern Miss +5. Then, I’d look at the underdog.