College Basketball Odds & Picks: Best Bets for MVC, OVC, Sun Belt, SoCon & WCC Tournament Games (Friday, March 5)
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- It's college basketball conference tournament season, which means we've got heavy hoops action deep into the early hours of the morning on Friday night.
- Our college basketball staff has you covered with betting angles and top picks for games from five unique conferences in postseason action this evening.
- Below, find comprehensive breakdowns for each of their favorite betting positions in the MVC, OVC, SoCon, Sun Belt & West Coast conferences.
This evening’s college basketball slate features conference tournament action from the SoCon, Atlantic 10, Missouri Valley, Sun Belt, Atlantic Sun, Ohio Valley and West Coast conferences. So, in order help cut through all the noise, we’ve compiled our favorite bets and angles for five of tonight’s active conference tournaments.
Tonight’s top picks span from 5:30 p.m. ET until 10:30 p.m. ET. So if you’re looking to build a card for tonight’s action, then rest assured: You’re in the right place.
College Basketball Odds & Picks
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SoCon Tournament: Opening Round
No. 10 Samford vs. No. 7 Mercer
Both matchups have plenty of uncertainty.
The Citadel hasn’t played since Feb. 24, with its season finale canceled due to COVID-19 issues at Samford, which last saw action more than two weeks ago on Feb. 17.
If you’re not familiar, those two teams each play extremely unique, fast-paced styles.
Samford has its “Bucky Ball” under first-year head coach Bucky McMillan, who has also used a zone defense on 25% of possessions and pressed at the second-highest rate in D-I, per Synergy. And The Citadel has its fun-n-gun, 3-and-run style under long-time SoCon coach Duggar Baucom. Neither are known for their defense.
Mercer has a dangerous offense full of shooters and did sweep the regular-season series against Samford, but both came in overtime. Samford also had a two-week hiatus before that series, so Mercer will be catching Samford again in that same scenario.
After picking up four non-conference wins in overtime, Western Carolina really struggled during league play.
The Catamounts do have an excellent player in senior guard Mason Faulkner, who returned for their final two games after a three-game absence. After starting 2-13 in conference play — with two home victories by a combined three points over VMI and The Citadel — WCU did finish the season with two impressive wins with Faulkner back in the lineup:
A road win at top-seed UNC Greensboro (which it would face in the second-round)
25-point home win over Mercer
The upward-trending Catamounts split their season series with The Citadel, picking up a one-point win at home and suffering an 11-point defeat on the road. Both offenses have major advantages here and both want to play fast, hence the total in the high 150s.
Ultimately, this is a watch-and-learn day for me in the SoCon. There’s way too much uncertainty to get involved with Samford coming off of a COVID-19 break and The Citadel having not played since Feb. 24.
No reason to force anything in games that I think are lined pretty fair.
West Coast Conference Tournament: Second Round
No. 8 San Francisco vs. No. 5 Loyola Marymount
By Mike Randle
I’m staying with the Dons, who provided the “no-sweat” cover last night against San Diego.
The old adage of “it’s hard to beat a team three times,” is often overused. However, in this case, I think it’s relevant.
Loyola Marymount has played hard for first-year coach Stan Johnson, finishing 5-2 over the past seven games. That included a 68-63 win at San Francisco, sweeping the season series. However, in that game, the Lions survived despite 22 turnovers, a repetitive issue for them all season.
The Dons have a familiarity advantage, having already played at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas against the Toreros.
The guard duo of Jamaree Bouyea (17.5 PPG, 37.7% 3P) and Khalil Shabazz (15.3 PPG, 33.1% 3P) will challenge a Loyola Marymount defense that ranks below average in WCC play in effective field goal percentage, defensive turnover percentage, and 2-point percentage allowed.
The Lions are also 240th in 3-point percentage allowed, and San Francisco generates 40.7% of its points from beyond the arc in conference play (1st among all WCC teams).
Julian Rishwain (36.5% 3P on 85 attempts), Dzmitry Ryuny (34.5% on 142 attempts), and Josh Kunen (36.8% 3P on 57 attempts) will all spread the floor against the Lions. In their two losses to LMU, the Dons shot just 27% (16-of-59) from 3, a number I expect will experience positive regression.
Missouri Valley “Arch Madness” Tournament: Quarterfinals
No. 6 Valparaiso vs. No. 3 Missouri State
This is a great draw for the Bears.
Both of Missouri State’s meetings with Valpo came on the road, and the Bears had little trouble dispatching the Crusaders in either game.
The pair of double-digit victories featured back-to-back 29-point performances from Isiaih Mobley. The sophomore wing is one of the best scorers in all of college basketball and is lethal from anywhere on the floor or from the line. He is the main reason the Bears are the nation’s 13th-best shooting team from inside the arc.
What I also love about the Bears in this spot is that they’ve been covering against the bottom of the MVC for nearly a month. The Bears are 7-1 against the spread in their last eight, besting the closing number by an average of five points per contest.
Valpo enters this one leaking oil. Losers of four of its last six, Valparaiso has been downright uncompetitive at times in the last five weeks. The Crusaders have four losses by 14 points or more since Jan. 31 and have slid all the way into the 300s in the offensive efficiency rankings. For perspective, Missouri State checks in at 56th nationally.
Sun Belt Conference Tournament: First Round
No. 6 Troy vs. No. 3 UT-Arlington
By Ky McKeon
There’s an ancient adage in college basketball that goes: “It’s hard to win basketball games without your best player.”
UT Arlington knows that better than most teams, as its star wing, David Azore, has missed a whopping 14 games this season due to a leg injury and has been limited in a handful more.
The Mavs were just 3-10 against the spread without Azore in the lineup (one of those games he missed was against a D-II opponent) on the heels of an impressive showing in the non-conference portion of the schedule.
UTA covered its first four games of the season with Azore in tow, even competing with power teams like Oklahoma State and Arkansas.
Azore returned to the Mav lineup in full form on Feb. 22, and of course UTA wasted no time getting back to its covering ways. In the three games since Azore has returned, UTA is 2-1 straight up and against the spread.
Azore led the Mavs in scoring and assists last season in addition to being one of the stronger rebounders on the squad. To say that he is massively important would be an understatement.
But his absence perhaps wasn’t all bad. It paved the way for the emergence of junior guard Shahada Wells, a surefire first-team All-Sun Belt selection, and Sam Griffin, a promising sophomore shooting over 40% from 3 in conference play.
With Azore back in the lineup, the Mavs now have an extremely potent three-pronged offensive attack. They should have no trouble scoring on the lowly Troy Trojans, and Troy simply has no interest putting the ball in the basket on the other end of the floor, as evidenced by its league-worst offensive efficiency.
Ohio Valley Conference Tournament: Semifinals
No. 3 Eastern Kentucky vs. No. 2 Morehead State
The top two seeds from the OVC advanced on Wednesday, which means both Belmont and Morehead State have a preparation and rest advantage over Jacksonville State (which won in overtime last night) and Eastern Kentucky (which played past midnight last night).
Let’s take a closer look at EKU vs. Morehead State — two teams led by fantastic freshmen and known for their defense.
EKU survived yesterday thanks to a horrendous shooting night from Austin Peay. The Colonels remain a high shooting regression candidate. Led by outstanding freshman guard Wendell Green, they like to play fast (2nd in Adjusted Tempo) and are known for their full-court press and heavy pressure defense, which forces turnovers at the sixth-highest rate nationally. That could spell trouble for a Morehead State team that has major turnover issues (333rd in the country).
These teams split the first two meetings with Morehead turning it over a staggering 47 times. Even with those giveaway problems, Morehead won at home with ease and blew a big lead in the rematch.
Morehead is also known for its defense — but more specifically its defense in the half court, where it ranks in the 93rd percentile nationally, per Synergy. The Eagles are absolutely suffocating and have an elite rim protector in 6-foot-10 freshman Johni Broome, who can also guard multiple positions. I’m not really sure how EKU will score efficiently in the half court unless bad shots are falling from Green and company.
EKU is arguably the streakiest team in the country. Just look at the first meeting between these two when EKU jumped out to a 9-0 lead, then fell behind 42-25 before rallying late to win 71-68. The Colonels go on huge runs and suffer through endless droughts, so they are an ideal live trading team.
I lean Morehead State here at -1 and may bet them but also might just wait to grab them live or for the 2H if trailing. I also could make the case for betting EKU live in the 2H if it gets down big and needs to really ramp up the pressure against a Morehead team that will cough it up and also struggles at the free throw line.
Take a look at our staff best bets file today for my thoughts on the other OVC game in action today: Jacksonville State vs. Belmont.
Betting Leans: Morehead State -1 | Possible Live Bet on EKU 2H