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College Basketball Odds & Best Bets: Our Top Thursday Picks for Every Active Conference Tournament (March 3)

College Basketball Odds & Best Bets: Our Top Thursday Picks for Every Active Conference Tournament (March 3) article feature image
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Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: Ta’lon Cooper.

  • Thursdays are good days in the college basketball world, and that's especially true in March.
  • Our experts have hand-picked a best bet for every active conference tournament today, including Morehead State vs. Tennessee Tech.
  • Check out all of our favorite picks for Thursday below.

Conference tournament season rolls on, and there’s plenty of action on this fine Thursday night.

We’re blessed with seven conference tournaments in play today, ranging from the Sun Belt starting early in the day to the WCC ending late at night.

Our staff is focused on the night shift. They’ve laid out a best bet for every active tournament, plus a bonus bet from our senior college basketball writer, Stuckey.

Be sure to come back tomorrow when the Southern Conference joins the action and the Big South returns.


Conference Tournament Best Bets for Thursday, March 3

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.

Game
Time
Pick
6 p.m. ET
Arkansas State -5.5
7 p.m. ET
Lehigh -1
7 p.m. ET
Indiana State +1.5
7 p.m. ET
Detroit +4
7 p.m. ET
Detroit +4
7 p.m. ET
Florida Gulf Coast +3.5
10 p.m. ET
Morehead State -7
11 p.m. ET
San Diego -3
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.

ULM vs. Arkansas State

Thursday, Mar. 3
6 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Arkansas State -5.5

By Kyle Remillard

UL Monroe enters the Sun Belt Tournament having lost five games in a row. Much of that is due to the lack of defense from the Warhawks, which has been a consistent issue all season.

The group ranks 295th in the country in defensive efficiency rating and has allowed 75 points per game. Opponents have gotten open looks all over the floor, hitting 36% from 3-point territory (299th) and 52% on 2-point field goals (279th).

In the rare instances of a miss, the Warhawks allow offensive rebounds 33% of the time, which ranks 338th nationally.

Now, they’re tasked with attempting to slow down the Sun Belt Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in Norchad Omier.

Omier has been a monster who has produced in every category. He led the conference, hitting 65% from the field and snatching 12 rebounds per contest. The six-foot-7 forward is putting up 17 points in addition to 2.1 blocks and 1.6 steals per game.

The Red Wolves have Arkansas transfer Desi Sills running the show at point guard. Sills is averaging 13 points per game and has big-game experience under his belt.

Arkansas State’s one-two punch will expose UL Monroe’s lackluster defense en route to a comfortable victory.

Pick: Arkansas State -5.5 (Play to -6.5)



Army vs. Lehigh

Thursday, Mar. 3
7 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Lehigh -1

By Shane McNichol

Of the four Patriot League quarterfinal lines, the matchup of the 4-seed Mountain Hawks and 5-seed Black Knights feels like the right one to target.

These teams split their previous meetings, each winning handily at home.

Army’s win, however, came all the way back on Jan. 7 when the Cadets were playing some of their best basketball of the season. Since then, the wheels have fallen off in West Point. Army lost its first six games in the month of February, plummeting a once-promising season.

Lehigh is also primed to stop Army’s offensive attack. The Mountain Hawks lead the entire nation with the lowest 3-point rate allowed.

Lehigh forces opponents to attack inside the arc, where its help defense is ready and waiting. Lehigh’s 2-point percentage allowed was third in the Patriot League and top-70 in the nation.

Army looks to attack the interior, leading the Patriot League in 2-point buckets per game. As long as Lehigh’s defense stays deliberate and does not reward Army with trips to the foul line, the Mountain Hawks should stifle the Black Knights’ scoring.

On the other end, Lehigh is one of the best shooting teams in the Patriot League. If they can stay hot in their home gym, the Mountain Hawks should win here and cover the minimal spread.

Pick: Lehigh -1

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Indiana State vs. Illinois State

Thursday, Mar. 3
7 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Indiana State +1.5

By Tanner McGrath

​​Indiana State shouldn’t have opened at +1.5. This line should be closer to +3.

Nonetheless, I can’t help but back the Sycamores in this opening-round battle.

I’m not a big fan of Illinois State. The Redbirds led the league ATS this season at 18-11, but they’re not strong in any area except for 3-point shooting (36.8%, third in MVC) and 3-point defense (33.7%, second in MVC).

It feels like the Redbirds are begging for regression.

Meanwhile, you have an Indiana State team in a buy-low spot coming in off of a five-game losing streak. It is begging for regression. ShotQuality projects that the Sycamores should be 14-16 based on the quality of shots taken and allowed, as opposed to their actual 11-19 record.

A perfect example of this: Indiana State shot just 8-for-29 from 3 in a 20-point blowout loss to Illinois State to end the regular season.

To recap: We’re getting Indiana State in a buy-low spot and a revenge spot – while it’s due for positive regression – against an Illinois State that is due for some negative regression.

I think Indiana State is moving on. I’m ready to play the Sycamores down to a pick ‘em if needed.

Pick: Indiana State +1.5 (Play to PK)



Detroit vs. Northern Kentucky

Thursday, Mar. 3
7 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Detroit +4

By Jim Root

When it comes to single-elimination basketball, it’s quite advantageous to have the best player on the floor.

In this game, there’s no question who that is. Detroit’s Antoine Davis has racked up nearly 2,700 points in his illustrious college career, and the lanky sharpshooter has tallied 171 of them against Northern Kentucky.

Detroit also got Madut Akec, its second-best player, back from injury in the first round of this tournament. He is vital as a dual-threat forward, and his ability to invert the court will be particularly useful against the Norse zone.

Defensively, the Titans’ biggest weakness is at the rim. NKU has become more of a perimeter-heavy offense this season, though. It cannot take advantage of that vulnerable interior.

Few teams in the country can outshoot Davis and Detroit: the Titans rank third nationally in percentage of points scored from beyond the arc.

Detroit has beaten the Norse by six and eight points in two meetings already this season. That accounts for all of NKU’s losses since mid-January. With Davis, Akec, and Detroit’s other gunners launching from deep, I expect a third.

Pick: Detroit +4 (Play to +3)

Detroit vs. Northern Kentucky

Thursday, Mar. 3
7 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Detroit +4

By Stuckey

I agree with Jim on the Titans.

I think they remain undervalued in the market due to their advanced metrics being deflated by a horrific start to the season and injuries throughout the 2021-22 campaign.

Well, they now have Noah Waterman back in full force. As a stretch-5 who knocks down 40% of his 3s, he’s critical for the Detroit offense to provide necessary spacing for Antoine Davis, who will be the best player on the court.

Having another player who can shoot against the NKU zone is also key. Speaking of Davis, he’s capable of going for 30-plus on any given night and looked healthy last game after dealing with a nagging injury in recent weeks.

Detroit also got back Madut Akec last game, and he’s arguably the team’s second-best player. The Titans swept the regular-season series even playing without Waterman in one game and Akec in the other.

I think they have a very good shot at completing the sweep and will gladly take the points here.

Pick: Detroit +4



Florida Gulf Coast vs. Bellarmine

Thursday, Mar. 3
7 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Florida Gulf Coast +3.5

By Keg.

As I mentioned in my ASUN Tournament preview, no team has been hotter coming into the tournament than FGCU.

Over the last month the Eagles are 7-1 and beating teams by an average of 9.8 points per game. Thursday night will be the Eagles’ first game in Freedom Hall after the previous three took place in Fort Myers.

However, Bellarmine has also won its previous three.

Neither defense has been great, but Bellarmine is ranked 314th in adjusted efficiency, per KenPom. Not to mention, the Knights are 0-5 against the spread in their last five home games.

FGCU has also been much better on the road than at home. I think the Eagles not only cover the spread but have a very good chance of winning this game.

I’ll be backing the Eagles at +2 or better and making a small wager on the moneyline as well.

Pick: Florida Gulf Coast +3.5 (Play to +2)



Tennessee Tech vs. Morehead State

Thursday, Mar. 3
10 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Morehead State -7

By Matt Cox

The sharks were out early today scouring for value in the conference tournament betting markets. They smelled blood in this one, clearly.

Morehead opened as a 5.5-point favorite in most shops, but that price was soon extinct. Money quickly poured in early on the Eagles, the No. 3 seed in this year’s OVC Tournament, pushing the number up to a touchdown by 9 a.m. ET.

From that angle, we’re betting into a stale line. However, even at -7, there’s sufficient value to hop in on the favorite.

For starters, they sit in a position of power. A strong regular season earned Morehead the opening-round bye, giving it a major edge over Tennessee Tech, which will be on a back-to-back. In fact, the Golden Eagles are playing their fourth game in seven days.

This will be an uphill climb for a thin TTU rotation, especially against Morehead’s stifling defense. There’s a reason Morehead swept Tennessee Tech in the regular season — the Eagles are simply a longer, more athletic and more physical version of the Golden Eagles, ironically.

They say it’s hard to beat a team three times in a row. Well, data thoroughly debunks their anecdotes. Per Dr. Bob Stoll, teams are 52% against the spread over the last 30 years versus teams they’ve already beaten twice in the regular season

Pick: Morehead State -7 or better



Pepperdine vs. San Diego

Thursday, Mar. 3
11 p.m. ET
WCC Network
San Diego -3

By D.J. James

It’s the opening round of the West Coast Conference Tournament, and two of the league’s most depleted teams, San Diego and Pepperdine, come together for the 7-seed vs. 10-seed game.

Pepperdine’s injuries are a bit more impactful than San Diego’s. Maxwell Lewis, the team’s third-leading scorer, is out for the rest of the year with a wrist injury, while Jan Zidek, Keith Fisher III and Darryl Polk Jr. are all questionable. If any of those three are also out, the team has no shot to remain in this game.

It’s not like the Toreros have proven to be a juggernaut, though.

They have Terrell Brown and Bryce Monroe banged up, but Marcellus Earlington and Jase Townsend can carry this offense. The two are the only players scoring in double figures for San Diego.

Given how Pepperdine’s defense is already 260th in adjusted defensive efficiency (per KenPom), SD should take advantage.

The Toreros’ offense should thrive, as over 60.1% of their points this season have come from 2-point range. That is specifically where Pepperdine struggles defensively – the Waves are permitting teams to shoot 55% on 2s this season on average.

With the expectation that the Waves’ bench will log major minutes, it’s hard to envision a cover here.

Take the Toreros to advance with the spread.

Pick: San Diego -3 (Play to -5)

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