College Basketball Odds, Best Bets: Our Top 4 Early Picks, Including Butler vs. Xavier (Wednesday, March 9)

College Basketball Odds, Best Bets: Our Top 4 Early Picks, Including Butler vs. Xavier (Wednesday, March 9) article feature image

Brady Klain/Getty Images. Pictured: Bryce Golden.

  • Wednesday's college basketball conference tournaments are loaded with action.
  • Our college hoops staff came through with four best bets for the day's early games, including Butler vs. Xavier and Utah State vs. Air Force.
  • Check out all of our early picks below.

We are firmly in college basketball conference tournament mode with 15 tourneys taking place across the country today, beginning at 11 a.m. ET and rolling through 10:30 p.m. ET.

With so much action going on, our staff is diverting their attention by tip-off window. First up? Four best bets for the early slate, which tips off with Syracuse vs. Florida State in the ACC Tournament at 12 p.m. ET.

But the fun doesn't stop there. We also have picks from the Big Sky, Mountain West and Big East to round out our top early picks. Then, our staff will come back this afternoon for their favorite bets for the early evening and the late-night sets.

After all, this is March.  Let's have some fun.

Wednesday College Basketball 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 of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.

12 p.m. ET
Florida State +1
2 p.m. ET
Idaho State +4.5
4:30 p.m. ET
Air Force +14.5
4:30 p.m. ET
Butler +5.5 · Butler ML +200
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.

ACC: Syracuse vs. Florida State

Wednesday, March 9
12 p.m. ET
Florida State +1

By Kody Malstrom

Oh, Florida State, what could have been.

Ravaged by injuries, the Seminoles saw their season fall apart early. I have to give credit where credit is due after writing them off after losing to Boston College 71-55, only to turn it into a three-game win streak over Virginia, Notre Dame, and NC State.

This team still has fight in it and is coming in playing some of its best ball — the exact opposite of Syracuse, which enters this one on a four-game losing streak.

Nothing about Florida State really screams “elite” off of the paper, but nothing really has to when going against Syracuse’s defense. Normally in a tournament format, the Cuse zone is lethal and can propel a run, but not this year. Not when it’s this bad. Not when it ranks 216th nationally.

Losing Malik Osborne for the season is a killer, but Florida State still has enough variety to attack Syracuse with Caleb Mills, Matthew Cleveland and Anthony Polite serving as capable double-digit scorers.

If the Seminoles can limit star Buddy Boeheim — who has been having an off-shooting year compared to last year — and limit their turnovers, then they should find themselves into the next round with a date with Duke, which looks more vulnerable than ever.

Pick: Florida State +1 (Play to -2)

Big Sky: Idaho State vs. Portland State

Wednesday, March 9
2 p.m. ET
Idaho State +4.5

By Matt Cox

Idaho State and Portland State head to Boise to kick off the Big Sky Championship. Note the early tip time in this one, folks. Shockingly, this is actually the second game of the day at Idaho Central Arena — that’s right, Idaho and Sacramento State tip off at 9:30 a.m. local time (Under, anyone?).

The angle in this matinee special is largely injury-related. Based on the stagnant early line movement in this matchup, few are privy to what could be two gargantuan omissions for Portland State’s lineup.

Burgeoning transfer guard Damion Squire did not play in the Vikings’ regular season finale loss to Eastern Washington due to an injury sustained against Idaho the previous game. The Vikings’ perimeter rotation took another blow when Michael Carter III sprained his ankle in the first half in that same EWU game.

This could potentially leave PSU without two of its top three guards for a critical win-or-go-home tilt with the Bengals. Granted, it’s entirely possible both suit up, but their prognosis looks ominous.

Squire and Carter are critical in the Vikings’ defensive coverage, as they key Portland State’s full-court pressure. This havoc bothered ISU in the most recent meeting when Portland State snuck by the Bengals in overtime.

Without all hands on deck, the Vikings may be challenged to exert the full force of their pressure, enabling Idaho State to settle into a rhythm on offense.

Pick: Idaho State +4.5 (Play to +4)

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Mountain West: Air Force vs. Utah State

Wednesday, March 9
4:30 p.m. ET
Mountain West Network
Air Force +14.5

By Anthony Dabbundo

Air Force finished the regular season with just four league wins, but the Falcons were competitive in a lot of games.

Wyoming needed a buzzer-beater to beat them, then only won by eight in the second meeting. Air Force was within single-digits in games with Colorado State, Boise State and Nevada as well. It also split two meetings with Utah State during the regular season.

The Falcons have one of the slowest-paced offenses in the entire country, and when they can avoid turnovers, they’ve shown some signs of competence on offense this season.

Air Force has major size issues and doesn’t rebound well at all, but Utah State is pretty mediocre at grabbing offensive rebounds and doesn’t really apply a lot of ball pressure to turn opponents over in the half-court.

The Falcons run a morphing zone defense and throw a lot of different looks at opposing offenses to take them out of rhythm. They also defend the perimeter pretty well, a major key against Ryan Odom’s spaced-out Aggies offense that loves to shoot from the perimeter.

While Utah State could run away with this, there’s not going to be many possessions for the Aggies to get margin. If it’s a comfortable lead late, you could see Utah State step off the gas, knowing it will play the next day.

I’ll take the Falcons at +14 or better.

Pick: Air Force +14.5 (Play to +14)

Big East: Butler vs. Xavier

Wednesday, March 9
4:30 p.m. ET
Butler +5.5 · Butler ML +200

By Shane McNichol

Motivation is one of the most difficult things to gauge during conference tournaments. In theory, every team playing in a conference tournament has a path to cutting down the nets and playing in the NCAA Tournament. In practice, some teams seem checked out, while others play their best basketball of the season.

This is particularly tricky when factoring in teams with a chance to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Some take the challenge head-on. Others shrink from the moment.

This opening round game features a Xavier team that is squarely on the bubble.

Xavier has been in free fall lately, losing seven of its last nine to close the regular season. The Musketeers will be scrambling to figure things out before their postseason dreams slip away.

They’ll face a Butler team that either has nothing to play for or nothing to lose, depending on the Bulldogs’ perspective. Butler has lost five in a row and 8-of-10 to end the season, yet the Bulldogs have been competitive. Butler took Providence to overtime and made Seton Hall sweat out a win in Newark.

I trust LaVall Jordan to get his guys juiced for this game more than I trust Travis Steele to put the pieces of Xavier’s tattered season back together on the fly.

I like Butler to cover but will also take a chance on the moneyline.

Pick: Butler +5.5 · Butler ML +200

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