College Basketball Odds, Best Bets: Our Top Picks for Tonight’s Late Conference Tournament Games (Friday, March 11)
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Boogie Ellis (USC)
- Friday night of college basketball conference championship week is set to be a wild one.
- A number of upsets have already occurred, and now our staff is preparing for the late set, including best bets for USC vs. UCLA and Sand Diego State vs. Colorado State.
- Check out all of our best bets for Friday night's conference championship games below.
We’re not done betting college basketball on Friday! After touching on the early and evening windows, our staff is diving into the late-night conference tournament games.
Below, you will find eight best bets, including selections for the Southern California rivalry between USC and UCLA, an ACC semifinal between Virginia Tech and UNC, and much more.
Friday’s Late-Night 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.
|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.|
UCSB vs. Long Beach State (Big West Semifinal)
The Gauchos and the Beach have already met twice this season, splitting the series with each team winning at home. UCSB enters this game on a winning streak, having won six in a row and nine of its last 10.
The Santa Barbara defense has been one of the best in the country, limiting teams to just 65.7 points per game. However, when matched up against conference opponents, Long Beach has been the most efficient in the Big West.
The Beach have struggled on the offensive end at times, but they’ve limited fouls and turnovers — two things that should even the playing field against a Gauchos team that has been one of best shooting squads in the country.
Roll with the Beach at +3 or better.
Pick: Long Beach State +4 (Play to +2.5)
Grand Canyon vs. New Mexico State (WAC Semifinal)
By Ky McKeon
Grand Canyon survived a war with Sam Houston yesterday, getting down by as much as 10 points and trailing by seven in the second half. New Mexico State has been off nearly one week, a benefit of the WAC Tournament structure that gives its top-two seeds byes to the semifinals.
That rest is key for NMSU, which was banged up down the stretch. The Aggies should be fully healthy and ready to take on a very familiar Lopes team.
NMSU head coach Chris Jans is an excellent coach and game planner — he will have the goods for this matchup.
New Mexico State has had Grand Canyon’s number ever since GCU joined the WAC. This season, the Aggies took down the Lopes by 10 and 16 points. Teddy Allen, New Mexico State’s star guard and the WAC Player of the Year, averaged 29 points against Grand Canyon this season — he shall not be stopped.
The Aggies will force Grand Canyon to take jump shots. Jans’ defense is famous for taking away the middle of the floor, which is a key against a Lopes team that hits the glass hard. GCU can shoot, but it can’t win a game solely on 3-point reliance.
NMSU will have a significant size and athleticism advantage, which has shown through in the two matchups this year. Add that to the rest, the coaching game plan, and the best player on the floor, and you have a recipe for success.
Bet the Aggies to win and cover the short spread.
Pick: New Mexico State -2.5 (Play to -3)
UCF vs. Memphis (AAC Quarterfinal)
No team enters the AAC Tournament hotter than the Memphis Tigers, who have won 10 of their last 11 and covered the spread in eight of those matchups.
They’re set to match up against a UCF team that entered the tournament after blowing a five-point lead with six seconds remaining against Tulsa.
Horne at the horn for first lead of game for Tulsa (+1). Brutal for UCF backers pic.twitter.com/L8HbbdKMCl
— Stuckey (@Stuckey2) March 6, 2022
The Knights carried some of that lag into the first round, as they barely survived South Florida, 60-58. Central Florida hit 45% of its 22 3-point attempts in that game, but connected on just 31% of its 36 field-goal attempts inside the perimeter.
These two teams split the season series, with each program winning on its home floor.
But UCF’s victory came when Penny Hardaway was missing some of his key superstars. When it matched up with Memphis the second time at full strength, the Tigers destroyed the Knights by 28 points. Memphis shut down the 3-point line, and when UCF isn’t hitting outside shots, the offense completely shuts down.
UCF has scored just 46% of its points this season on 2-point attempts. It will struggle mightily against Memphis rim protector Jalen Duren, who leads the AAC with 2.2 blocks per game.
Memphis will continue its hot streak and handily beat a UCF team that barely snuck past South Florida in the first round.
Pick: Memphis -7.5 (Play to -9)
Alabama A&M vs. Alcorn State (SWAC Semifinal)
Two of the hottest teams in the SWAC face off tonight in the late slot of the conference semifinals. No. 1 seed Alcorn State and No. 5 seed Alabama A&M have both won seven of their last eight outings.
Alcorn State and Alabama A&M are averaging 71.2 and 70.2 points per contest over the last eight games, respectively.
Both schools posted low-scoring outings in their quarterfinal games, however, they both shot poorly from the field.
Alcorn State went 22-for-61 (36%) from the field, while Alabama A&M finished 19-for-54 (35%). I expect better shooting and scoring, as both teams shot 46.8% and 41.4% from the field over the course of the season, respectively.
My model incorporates a recency bias — which I think is the best way to analyze these two peaking teams — and is projecting a combined 131.28 points to be scored.
I expect a shooting percentage mean reversion for both teams, as the chance to play for an auto-bid is on the line tonight.
Pick: Over 124.5 (Play to 125.5)
Oklahoma vs. Texas Tech (Big 12 Semifinal)
By Doug Ziefel
In tournament play, momentum can be as crucial a factor as any, and the Oklahoma Sooners will have a ton of it entering this semifinal matchup.
The Sooners went through a rough stretch in the middle of conference play, but they were always better than the final score — as the numbers portrayed. They finished the season on a three-game winning streak, and then rolled it over into a massive quarterfinal upset of the Baylor Bears.
Now, they get a Texas Tech team that is looking as dominant as ever after blowing out Iowa State in its quarterfinal game. However, that blowout created a bit of extra value on the Sooners here.
As I eluded to, Oklahoma is far better than its 7-11 conference record indicates.
Oklahoma ranks 48th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 37th in adjusted defensive efficiency. It’s also 22nd in effective field goal percentage. The Red Raiders’ defense may be formidable, but the Sooners will also have the confidence knowing they already took this Tech team down once this season.
In the end, Oklahoma is being undervalued here and should keep this one tight.
Pick: Oklahoma +8 (Play to +7)
Virginia Tech vs. North Carolina (ACC Semifinal)
For a potential conference futures staff best bets piece, I selected North Carolina and Virginia Tech in the ACC. If you did the same, you’d comfortably be waiting for the anticipation of this matchup.
Well, it’s happening. Now, we get a guaranteed futures team into the finals against a very shaky Duke squad or Miami’s laughable defense.
But before the finals happen, we need to see which one of our futures makes it there.
Virginia Tech had a comfortable lead against Notre Dame until the very end. Things got dicey until Storm Murphy willed the Hokies to a win. Meanwhile, North Carolina cruised past Virginia in one of the ugliest games I’ve seen in a while.
UNC swept the regular-season series vs. Virginia Tech, winning by at least eight in both matchups. While the phrase, “it’s never easy to beat someone three times” has been debunked over the years, I believe that statement holds true this time around.
Don’t let UNC’s score against UVA fool you; that game was ugly — so ugly a mother couldn’t even love it. North Carolina “held” Virginia to a 13-point first half, as the Cavaliers were unable to buy a bucket even when given open looks all game.
North Carolina’s defense, though improved, still struggles, and surrendered open looks all game — something Virginia Tech will more than capitalize on.
Virginia Tech is one of the better shooting teams in the ACC, a metric we will see on full display given the quality of shots it takes. While the Hokies will be outplayed down low, their shooting will more than make up for it.
Even if cold, Virginia Tech will smother the perimeter, forcing UNC to scramble for an open look.
With UNC’s success — depending on shooting — I lean toward Virginia Tech in an upset.
While North Carolina should have no problems on the boards, I just don’t see how it overcomes a potential rough shooting night, while also giving up open looks with its suspect defense.
Pick: Virginia Tech +2.5 (Play to +2)
USC vs. UCLA (Pac-12 Semifinal)
This Pac-12 Tournament semifinal matchup marks the third and final game between Southern California-based programs, UCLA and USC, this season.
The two have split the season series, both winning on their home floors, and now meet at T-Mobile Arena for a shot at the conference tournament championship.
To me, this is too many points on a neutral court for a USC team that matches up quite well against the Bruins. Tack on Johnny Juzang’s health — he’s still recovering from an ankle injury — and this spread should be a few points lower.
The Trojans’ height advantage gives them an upper-hand on the interior. They own the best 2-point defense in conference play and the best offensive rebounding unit. They match up well against a UCLA team that gets nearly 55% of its points from inside the arc.
While they are a good shooting team, the Bruins have had their fair share of struggles against the Trojans. In both games, UCLA shot under 31.2% from 3. They rank 313th in 3-point frequency, per ShotQuality, settling for mid-range jumpers and drives to the rim instead.
In their seven-point loss to UCLA, the game remained relatively close throughout despite the Trojans turning the ball over 15 times to the Bruins’ one. And even more impressively, their win at home came without star Isaiah Mobley.
USC should be able to find success attacking UCLA inside. It has a height advantage that should lead to second-chance opportunities and cause defensive disruption. Both teams also play at a slow pace, making points a premium.
Andy Enfield’s squad always finds itself battling in one- or two-possession games, oftentimes coming out victorious. I expect a similar game script to the previous two matchups, with the Trojans keeping it close in an eventual loss.
They’re getting too many points in a high-intensity game that should be a defensive slugfest.
Pick: USC +6 (Play to +5)
San Diego State vs. Colorado State (Mountain West Semifinal)
San Diego State and Colorado State split their two regular-season meetings, with each team winning at home. The Aztecs won at home in January by 30. Then, in the second meeting, the Rams led by double digits in the second half, but needed a last-second shot to win at home.
The rubber match is set on a neutral court, where the Aztecs are the slightest of favorites after opening as underdogs.
SDSU’s defense can cause matchup issues for the Rams because of its ability to dominate the middle defensively and alter CSU’s undersized guards from getting to the rim.
Nathan Mensah is one of the best interior defenders in the country, and the Aztecs bring the No. 1 KenPom defense into this game. SDSU head coach Brian Dutcher has had a lot of success in defending the floor spacing and driving offense of Niko Medved in the past.
The Rams are a bit inflated based on their close-game record. CSU is 9-1 in close games — sixth-best in the country — and ranks third in the luck rating.
The Rams have executed at a high level in tight situations down the stretch, but the Aztecs’ size, defense and switchability are enough for them to win this game.
Pick: San Diego State -1
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