College Basketball Best Bets: Our 5 Favorite Picks, Including West Virginia vs. Oklahoma State, Saint Louis vs. St. Bonaventure, More (Saturday, March 6)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images. Pictured: Hasahn French.
- Few things are better than college basketball Saturdays, and our staff has you covered from a betting perspective today.
- Our writers broke down five games from Saturday's slate, including Oklahoma State vs. West Virginia, Indiana vs. Purdue, and Saint Louis vs. St. Bonaventure.
- Check out each individual pick complete with a breakdown below.
Few things are better than college basketball Saturdays in March.
With a number of high-profile regular-season games and conference tournament showdowns on the slate for Saturday, our staff broke down their five favorite bets for the day.
It all starts with three 2 p.m. ET showdowns, including Indiana vs. Purdue, Oklahoma State vs. West Virginia, and Mount St. Mary’s vs. Wagner. Then, our writers round things out with USC vs. UCLA at 4 p.m. and Saint Louis vs. St. Bonaventure at 6 p.m.
Check out all five picks below, and feel free to use the table below to navigate to a specific game.
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Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.
Mount St. Mary’s vs. Wagner
Welcome to the NEC Tournament, where play begins in the semifinals.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only the top four teams were eligible to compete for the conference title. Mount St. Mary’s secured its spot with an overtime victory over St. Francis PA on Feb. 25 and has not played since.
Bryant is scheduled in the other semifinal but canceled its remaining two games against the Mountaineers because of COVID-19 disruption within the team.
This game will be the slowest on the Saturday slate with tempo ranks of 315th and 356th. With the slow tempo comes issues in the scoring department.
Mount St. Mary’s is the worst shooting team from 2-point range and has the worst free-throw rate of any team in the NEC. Wagner loves to feed the bigs on the baseline, but the Mountaineers have the best defensive efficiency of all teams in the conference.
The Seahawks’ rank of ninth in the NEC in free-throw rate makes this the two worst offenses at getting to the free-throw line. In combination with tempo rankings, this under is good to a projection of 118.
West Virginia vs. Oklahoma State
We can all agree that Oklahoma State has established itself as a serious threat in this year’s Big Dance. The emergence of Cade Cunningham (20 ppg, 6 rpg L6) is enough to strike fear into any top seed.
But as of right now, the Pokes are banged up and understandably drained following their loss to Baylor. Both Cunningham and Isaac Likekele are questionable for this contest. Even if they were to play, it’s fair to question just how effective they would be given their injuries (ankle and hand, respectively).
West Virginia, meanwhile, is still working to solidify a two-seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. According to Bracket Matrix, it’s right on the edge between the two and three line, making this game pivotal before the Big 12 Tournament next week.
A win here also sews up the No. 2 seed in the Big 12 Tournament, which would put it in line for the winner of OU-Iowa State. Grabbing a team playing its second game in a row would be preferable.
For all the buzz Oklahoma State has been receiving, WVU is a few possessions away from a nine-game winning streak in the RPI’s top-rated conference.
The ‘Neers have been climbing up the offensive efficiency leaderboard (43rd) but can still beat teams by grinding on the offensive glass (12 off. reb, 4th) and relentlessly getting to the line (24.4 FTA, 3rd).
In Round 1 between these two teams in Stillwater, WVU collected 22 offensive rebounds and attempted 29 foul shots. I foresee a similar performance against OSU in this spot and would play this up to 8.5.
Indiana vs. Purdue
By Pat McMahon
The Boilermakers have absolutely owned this rivalry recently, winning the last seven matchups and 10 of the last 11. Despite Purdue’s recent dominance, I think this number is a little too big for it to cover.
In the first game between these squads in Bloomington on Jan. 14, Purdue couldn’t miss. The Boilermakers shot 53.2% from the floor and a ridiculous 64.5% from beyond the arc in the 81-69 victory.
Purdue is just an average shooting team, so that type of performance is highly unlikely against a solid Indiana perimeter defense. Eric Hunter Jr. and Jaden Ivy were a combined 5-of-6 from downtown in Bloomington, and both players are below 30% from deep on the season.
Despite its now below .500 record, Indiana’s NCAA Tournament hopes are not entirely dead. Thanks to a tough schedule and some quality wins on their resume, the Hoosiers still have a shot at hearing their name called on Selection Sunday if they beat Purdue and win a couple of games in the Big Ten Tournament.
With its back against the wall, expect to see Indiana’s best effort on Saturday afternoon.
Scoring could be an issue for the Hoosiers against a really strong Purdue defense, but Indiana’s offensive numbers aren’t as bad as its recent play would indicate. Indiana ranks 49th in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom.
The Hoosiers are at their best when they play aggressively by attacking the rim and pounding it inside to Trayce Jackson-Davis. Davis and Race Thompson had strong outings in the first game against Purdue, posting 25 and 13 points, respectively.
Indiana’s aggressive play was rewarded with plenty of trips to the line, but it struggled to convert, making just 16-of-29 attempts (55.6%). The Hoosiers aren’t great at the stripe on the season (66.9%), but just playing up to their average this time around could be the difference in staying within the number.
Both teams play slow, with Purdue ranking 273rd in adjusted tempo and Indiana at 290th. A game with limited possessions between two strong defensive teams favors the dog, especially at a number this high.
The Hoosiers are not going to go down without a fight, and I would play them down to +6.
USC vs. UCLA
This is a terrible matchup for Mick Cronin’s men.
Not only are they once again going to be without starting center Jalen Hill, but they don’t have the size to match up with USC. The Trojans are the tallest team in America and tower over the Bruins, as they only have two players taller than 6-foot-6.
For that reason, the Bruins shoot a really high percentage from 3-point range, but they only shoot 3s on 31% of their field goal attempts. That means most of their scoring is going to have to come from inside, which is not how teams should plan to beat USC’s defense, which is allowing only 43% from 2-point range.
In fact, in the first meeting between these teams back in early February, UCLA put up only 48 points, 0.73 points per possession, and a 41.9% mark from 2-point range, so I have a hard time seeing how things are going to drastically change in the second matchup.
Not only does USC dominate in the paint on defense, but it also dominates inside on the offensive end of the floor with 7-foot freshman Evan Mobley, who is averaging 16.8 points per game.
The Trojans shoot over 60% on shot attempts at the rim, per Hoop-Math and have the highest rebounding rate in the Pac-12, so I think they’ll have no problem scoring inside against an undersized UCLA defense.
However, the real way teams beat this UCLA defense is from outside, as the Bruins allow over 38% from 3-point range during Pac-12 play. The good news for USC is it shoots a decent 35%, so it should be able to score from anywhere on the floor.
USC completely dominated its inner city rivals in the first matchup, and I think we’re going to see the same story at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday afternoon.
I have USC projected as a -5.34 favorite on the road, so I think there’s plenty of value on the Trojans at -1.5 and would play them up to -3.5.
Saint Louis vs. St. Bonaventure
By Mike Randle
The battle of two fantastic A-10 teams, which will more than likely be an NCAA Tournament elimination game. Both the Billikens and Bonnies are squarely on the bubble after battling COVID-19 pauses at different times.
St. Bonaventure endured its pause at the beginning of the season and sits atop the A-10 standings at 11-4 in conference. Saint Louis suffered its hiatus during the month of January but has finally regained its early-season form.
The Billikens defeated St. Bonaventure at home on Jan. 26, just three days removed from their COVID-19 break. In that game, Saint Louis used its big-man depth to limit St. Bonventure’s star center Osun Osunniyi to just seven points on 1-of-3 shooting from the field.
Saint Louis is one of the few teams that matches up well with the Bonnies, with incredible guard efficiency from Javonte Perkins (16.9 PPG, 41.9% 3P), Jordan Goodwin (14.5 PPG, 10.3 RPG), and Gibson Jimerson (8.6 PPG, 38.6% 3P). When teams can match up with Osunniyi, the Bonnies struggle.
Even against Duquesne, a team with much less talent than the Billikens, St. Bonaventure found itself in trouble. The Bonnies needed late-game surges to beat the Dukes twice in the regular-season and then survived a massive comeback in the A-10 quarterfinals.
They also experienced a senior-night upset at the hands of Dayton, another team with an inside big man and strong perimeter play. The other struggle in the A-10 was against VCU, which has tough defensive guards as well.
St. Bonaventure also has a limited bench, going only six players deep. It’s very susceptible to foul trouble and therefore plays at a slow pace in order to limit possessions. It also struggles on the boards and will be exploited by the superb rebounding of forward Hasahn French (9.1 PPG, 7.1 RPG) and Goodwin.
I’m a huge fan of the Bonnies, but this is a bad matchup for head coach Mark Schmidt’s crew.
Saint Louis was one of the best teams in the country before its COVID-19 break, and it has finally started to return to that elite form. I’m laying the small number with Saint Louis and wouldn’t be surprised to see this game as a pick by the 6 p.m. ET tip-off.