College Basketball Odds & Best Bets: 2 Top Picks for Early Conference Tournament Games

College Basketball Odds & Best Bets: 2 Top Picks for Early Conference Tournament Games article feature image

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Today, the first automatic bid of 2022 will be handed out when Murray State squares off against Morehead State in the OVC Championship at 8:30 p.m. ET.

But before we get into the night matchups, we have two best bets for you for the early window of conference tournament games.

So get set for the Big South semis and the Sun Belt quarters by tailing our selections.

Saturday's Early 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.

12 p.m. ET
USC Upstate +6.5
3 p.m. ET
Troy -8
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.

South Carolina State vs. Longwood (Big South Semifinal)

Saturday, March 5
12 p.m. ET
USC Upstate +6.5

By Jim Root

The first and only meeting between these two does not bode well for the Spartans.

USC Upstate lost by 13 at Longwood — to a team that was missing two starters in point guard Justin Hill and forward Leslie Nkereuwem.

The league’s top seed scored at a scalding 1.27 points per possession, making more 3s (11) than it committed turnovers (eight).

Longwood may beat the Spartans up inside, but shooting is the ultimate equalizer. USC Upstate has several lethal perimeter gunners with freshman Jordan Gainey quickly emerging into a bona fide star.

The favored Lancers give up a ton of triples (328th nationally in defensive 3PA rate), so Gainey, Bryson Mozone, Dalvin White and stretch big Josh Aldrich will have chances to keep Upstate in the game.

Even if Longwood gets up early, the Spartans will continue to hit back with runs of their own. Underdogs rarely go away in postseason play, and this event has put that notion on full display.

So far in the Big South Tournament, six of the eight underdogs have either covered or gone to overtime. As I did yesterday with the Campbell/Gardner-Webb under, I acknowledge that OT is a risk here.

I trust upstart Upstate to hang around, though.

Pick: USC Upstate +6.5 (Play to +5)

Little Rock vs. Troy (Sun Belt Quarterfinal)

Saturday, March 5
3 p.m. ET
Troy -8

By Kyle Remillard

Little Rock is on Cinderella Watch after upsetting South Alabama as 12.5-point underdogs in the first round of the Sun Belt Tournament.

It’s worth noting that South Alabama was without captain Jay Jay Chandler in that matchup. It also didn’t hurt that Little Rock's Jordan Jefferson hit 8-of-9 from 3-point territory. That’s pretty solid for a player who hit only 24 shots from behind the arc all season.

But now, Little Rock will match up against Troy — the deepest team in the conference. Troy ranks first in the nation in bench minutes and is two-deep at every position. That’s allowed it to keep fresh bodies on the floor and the defensive intensity high all game long.

The Little Rock defense is one of the worst in the country. The program allows 38% from 3-point territory (344th) and 56% on 2-point field goals (353rd).

Little Rock won just one of its last 10 regular-season games, and that was on the road against Troy. But Little Rock lost by double-digits in eight of those other nine games.

That first matchup was the worst shooting game for Troy all season, and we know it wasn’t because of the Little Rock defense.

I’m laying the points with Troy, which will lean on its depth to shut down the Little Rock offense.

Pick: Troy -8 (Play to -9.5)

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