College Basketball Betting Odds & Picks: 8 Ways To Bet Thursday’s Conference Tournament Games
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Former Austin Peay Governors Forward Averyl Ugba (24).
- Conference tournaments roll on Thursday as we receive more games from the A-10, Big South, ASUN, MVC, OVC and WCC.
- Our staff broke down seven bets for Thursday's games, including games with Dayton, San Francisco and Austin Peay.
- Check out our college basketball crew's betting picks complete with odds and analysis below.
College basketball conference tournament season is truly one of the best times of the year — perhaps second only to the NCAA Tournament itself. Low- and mid-major schools across the country fight tooth and nail for automatic qualifying bids to the Big Dance with games tipping off as early as 10 a.m. ET and, in some cases, as late as 11:59 p.m. ET.
CRT televisions being wheeled into high school classrooms during “study breaks” … stealing away to the break room (along with half of your coworkers) to sneak a peak at the ACC, Big Ten or Big East Conference Tournament on Friday afternoons … it is truly a glorious occasion for college basketball fans and bettors alike.
So, in order help cut through all the noisy rescheduling and COVID-19 news for the 31 conferences in postseason action from now until Selection Sunday on March 14, we’ll be providing you our top picks for (nearly) every conference tournament every single day.
Don’t know a thing about the Northeast Conference or the Summit League? Want to bet the 2 p.m. ET SoCon tipoff but only have your lunch break to decide which side to back? Don’t worry: We’ve got you covered.
Thursday’s top picks include action from six conferences (Atlantic 10, Atlantic Sun, Big South, Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley, West Coast) and touch nearly every tipoff window on today’s slate — from 2 p.m. ET until 10:30 p.m. ET.
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Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.
ASUN Men’s Basketball Championship: Quarterfinals
No. 8 Kennesaw State vs. No. 1 Liberty
By Jim Root
For the past two seasons, Kennesaw State has lived in the ASUN cellar, at one point mired in a 27-game losing streak in regular season conference games.
This year’s version has talent, though, thanks to an impressive recruiting haul brought in by second-year coach Amir Abdur-Rahim featuring three 3-star prospects, per 247Sports. Nabbing one freshman of that caliber is rare in the ASUN; three is unheard of.
The young Owls (342nd nationally in experience per KenPom) clearly improved as the season progressed and those freshmen emerged, knocking off both Stetson and Florida Gulf Coast during the back half of February (thus snapping that ignominious ASUN streak).
They’ve also already played Liberty close once this year, losing by six on Jan. 8, and the Owls’ extended perimeter defense takes away what Liberty does best — that is, shoot 3s. Finding points will always be a struggle for Kennesaw, but in a game with a big spread but low total, the underdog may only need 55 to cover.
Bigger underdogs have appeal in conference tournaments.
Even if they get down early, there’s no temptation to pack it in for another day, meaning the backdoor is always open if needed. Plus, the 1-seed Flames have all the pressure as a heavy favorite that needs to win the tournament to make the Big Dance.
Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament: Second Round
No. 7 Dayton vs. No. 10 Rhode Island
Dayton has the pieces to make a deep run in the A-10 Tournament, and it starts against Rhode Island Thursday afternoon.
Although they’ve been hit-or-miss all season, the Flyers ended the season on a high note, beating top seed St. Bonaventure. Dayton took care of business the first time these two teams met, winning by a score of 67-56. The second time they played, Dayton led by 16 late in the second half before ultimately losing in double-overtime 91-89.
The Flyers are led by two senior guards in Jalen Crutcher and Ibi Watson. Crutcher has been phenomenal all year, averaging 18.2 points while Watson puts up 15.6.
Dayton ranks 2nd in the conference in both 2-point and 3-point field goal percentage. The Rams don’t shoot the ball particularly well, ranking 12th and ninth in those same categories, respectively.
That may be even worse in this game as URI will be without senior guard Jeremy Sheppard in this matchup. Sheppard is the second-leading scorer for the Rams but also the best outside shooter, as he hits 39.4% of his 3-point attempts.
URI has lost six of its last seven games and heads into the A-10 Tournament in a slump. Among those losses are against some lower caliber teams such as George Washington, Duquesne, and UMass.
The Rams defense has been atrocious of late, giving up 84.3 points per game over the last three contests.
ASUN Men’s Basketball Championship: Quarterfinals
No. 2 Bellarmine vs. No. 7 Stetson
Bellarmine is a scary team to recommend.
In its first year in Division I, the Knights have drilled by opponents from beyond the 3-point line. For some teams, that’s a fluky stat that can fluctuate with regression. It’s hard to make that argument for the Knights.
Bellarmine ranks in the bottom-five in the nation in 3-point percentage allowed and 3-pointers attempts allowed as a percentage of total field goals.
Teams are finding a ton of open shots against Bellarmine, so it’s no surprise that a significant number of those opportunities are open looks that go in. No team in Division I allows a higher percentage of its opponents’ points to come from outside the 3-point arc.
A bet on Bellarmine is a bet against the opposing teams’ chances to execute offensively. Stetson is likely in line for some regression after making better than 44% from long range in its last four games.
More importantly, the Hatters could be due to cough up turnovers against the risk-reward Bellarmine defense. The Knights lead the A-Sun in forcing turnovers and rank in the top 15 in the nation in that stat.
The first two times these teams met — both wins by Bellarmine — Stetson posted the two lowest turnover totals of any Bellarmine opponent this season. Unless they can repeat that uncharacteristic level of ball security for a third time, the extra possessions should be enough for the Knights to win and cover.
Pick: Bellarmine -5.5
Big South Conference Tournament: Semifinals
No. 5 Longwood vs. No. 1 Winthrop
The Longwood Lancers dominated the UNC Asheville Bulldogs by a score of 77-61 this past Monday. The Lancers came in as 3-point underdogs and won by 16.
That’s how you cover a spread.
As a matter of fact, Longwood bettors have had good success this year: The Lancers rank 19th in the nation with a 15-11 record against the spread (ATS).
On Jan. 14 and Jan. 15, Longwood and Winthrop matched up for a Big South regular season back-to-back series. The first time around, the Lancers lost by 11; then the next night, they lost by 20 — their second-worst loss of the season, only bested by the No. 22 Virginia Tech Hokies.
This was right before Longwood went on an absolute tear in the conference, winning nine of its next 11 games. During that timespan, the Lancers scored an average of 67.5 points per game while only giving up 61.1.
Although their schedule hasn’t been very challenging, they have still shown that they are very capable of handling business. Much of their recent success during that 11-game stretch can be attributed to two factors:
- Longwood’s 3-point shooting — which stands at 37.6%;
- The Lancers defense, which only allows opponents to shoot 42.7% from the field.
How many times have the Lancers even lost by more than 12? The answer is three times. Two of those three games were against Winthrop and No. 22 Virginia Tech.
Ohio Valley Conference Tournament: First Round
No. 4 Jacksonville State vs. No. 5 Murray State
Jacksonville State actually swept Murray State in the regular season, eclipsing the 85-point mark in each victory.
The Racers have been incredibly inconsistent, so who knows what version will show up here? Both offenses are fully capable of scoring efficiently against the opposing defenses. The difference could be the experience edge of JSU and its attacking style against a Murray State defense that could be without injured starting forward Demond Robinson once again.
Lastly, I like getting JSU head coach Ray Harper as an underdog in a game I think is a true toss-up.
Arch Madness Missouri Valley Tournament: First Round
No. 7 Northern Iowa vs. No. 10 Illinois State
The Panthers’ season has been a massive disappointment — there’s no way around that.
Junior guard A.J. Green was selected as the preseason Player of the Year in the MVC, and UNI was tabbed as the team to beat by the media back in October. Green went down with a season-ending hip injury, and the Panthers took a nosedive.
But conference tournament time is all about momentum and the Panthers have covered three of their last four contests, with a matching 3-1 record straight up.
Across this mini hot streak, UNI has featured four starters averaging 12+ points per game, which is how it’s come to replace Green’s offensive production. Noah Carter has done it as a starter and as a sixth man as of late, including a 22-point outburst in its last win over Illinois State.
The Redbirds are 2-9 SU in their last 11 and have lost by seven or more in six of their last eight games. They’re a completely mediocre team offensively (245th in efficiency), and they’re dreadful at getting to the line (13.9 FTA, 330th) and making them when they do get to the charity stripe (65.3%, 322nd).
When you factor in their inability to catch fire from long range, it’s hard to imagine them hanging with a team that just beat them on their home floor in back-to-back games just a week ago.
West Coast Conference Tournament: First Round
No. 8 San Francisco vs. No. 9 San Diego
By Mike Randle
Neither of these teams inspire much confidence heading into WCC Tournament competition.
San Diego is just 3-10 overall (2-7 in conference) and has lost three games in a row. San Francisco is just 10-13 overall (4-9 in conference) and has lost a shocking six games in a row entering Thursday. However, I have faith that San Francisco can reverse the trend and get a comfortable win against San Diego.
The Dons are superior to the Toreros in three main areas.
First, they have more talent. The Dons feature a veteran backcourt of senior Jamaree Bouyea (17.5 PPG, 37.5% 3P) and junior Khalil Shabazz (15.6 PPG, 34.1% 3P). Both are versatile scorers and two-way players.
They serve as the foundation for a San Francisco team that ranks first in WCC play in defensive turnover rate. Bouyea was particularly impressive in their first meeting, scoring 24 points in the Dons’ 70-62 home win on Dec. 31.
Second, they have the superior coach in Todd Golden. He is one of the brightest young coaches in the country, a devout student of metric-based decisions. Golden is elite at game-planning, as evidenced by their early season neutral court upset of then-No. 4 Virginia.
Finally, San Francisco has faced a better overall schedule. The Dons have non-conference wins over the Cavaliers and Nevada, while San Diego has only defeated Cal Poly, Portland, and Santa Clara.
This line opened at SF -8.5 and has come down slightly to SF -8. I would wait to see how the line reacts to the public throughout the day and hope for the Dons -7 or -7.5.
Ohio Valley Conference Tournament: First Round
No. 6 Austin Peay vs. No. 3 Eastern Kentucky
I make both OVC games about a coin flip, and I like the underdog in each.
Austin Peay has been plagued by major turnover issues, which looks problematic on the surface against the EKU pressure defense. However, the Governors held their own in both meetings with the Colonels this season.
They lost, 80-75, at home in a game they shot 4-of-22 from 3 (EKU 11-22) and then dominated on the road, 94-79.
Terry Taylor will be the best player on the court, and EKU really has no answer for him. I wouldn’t be surprised if Taylor goes for 35. Hopefully, the good and healthy Jordyn Adams shows up, as he’s the wild card here.
Lastly, the regression monster looms for EKU from a shot quality perspective, while Austin Peay has been unlucky in that department.
Pick: Austin Peay +2.5