NCAAB Conference Tournament Odds, Best Bets: Our Top Picks for Saturday’s Afternoon Slate, Featuring Indiana State vs. Bradley (March 4)
Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Cooper Neese (Indiana State)
Afternoon conference tournament action on Saturday includes the Big South and Missouri Valley Conference semifinals, the America East beginning its event and two Sun Belt quarterfinals.
With that in mind, our staff has four best bets — one for each conference — to help you formulate your college basketball betting card.
Dive in below and get the top NCAAB conference tournament odds, best bets and picks for Saturday afternoon’s slate, including Indiana State vs. Bradley.
Saturday Afternoon’s 4 NCAAB Conference Tournament Best Bets
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college basketball staff is targeting from Saturday afternoon’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.|
USC Upstate vs. UNC Asheville (Big South)
By Matt Cox
USC Upstate advanced to the Big South semis on one of the most improbable endings you’ll see.
A late turnover fumbled away by Gardner-Webb wound up in the hands of sophomore sharpshooter Jordan Gainey, who proceeded to hit a fallaway banker from the corner to lift the Spartans over the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
OH. MY. MARCH. 😱😱
The bank is OPEN for Jordan Gainey with .1 seconds to go to give USC Upstate the WIN!@HerculesTires x @UpstateMBB pic.twitter.com/6a6zmkQm2U
— Big South Conference (@BigSouthSports) March 3, 2023
Now, less than 24 hours later, the top dog in the league is waiting, led by pro-level unicorn talent Drew Pember. These UNC Asheville Bulldogs fondly remember their last loss of the year, which came on Feb. 4 at the hands of Upstate.
Yesterday, UNCA limped out of the gate in its quarterfinal tilt against Charleston Southern, allowing a feisty Buccaneers squad to run out to an 11-0 lead. The Bulldogs quickly responded with a monster run of their own and led comfortably at the break.
With USC Upstate high off that emotional win, expect the favorite to come out hyper-focused, as the Spartans won’t be sneaking up on anyone today.
UNCA’s shooting regression metrics look ominous, but the situational edge should negate that, along with having the best player on the floor in Pember.
Pick: UNC Asheville 1H -3 (Play to -4)
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South Alabama vs. Southern Miss (Sun Belt)
If you read my Sun Belt tournament preview, you would know that South Alabama was my pick to win this tournament and steal a bid.
The Jags are running so hot and have built so much momentum entering the tournament. Plus, they’re led by the tournament’s best player in Isaiah Moore.
South Alabama struggled slightly against App State, but Moore and dominant interior presence Kevin Samuel (12 points, 15 rebounds, six blocks, three steals) eventually overpowered the Mountaineers and cashed every number (spread closed USA -4.5).
Kevin Samuel has 12 points. 13 rebounds. 6 blocks. 3 steals.
What a game. pic.twitter.com/VPZ1OdQDQ1
— Mid-Major Madness (@mid_madness) March 2, 2023
So, I expect the momentum to continue and for the Jags to topple the top overall seed, Southern Miss.
While USA was building momentum behind a 7-2 regular-season finish with one of the nation’s top-25 efficiency marks, Southern Miss enters the tournament on a 2-2 skid.
And while Southern Miss unexpectedly won the Sun Belt regular-season title, it was primarily because of a nine-game winning streak between Jan. 14 and Feb. 11. Six of those wins came at home.
Southern Miss went just 8-7 against the spread away from home this year. The Golden Eagles are away from home today with zero momentum, and they’re playing against the league’s hottest team.
Not only that, but South Alabama almost swept Southern Miss this season.
The Jaguars fell short early in the season, losing by four on the Eagles’ home court. However, USA shot just 5-for-26 from 3 that game.
The Jags avenged that unlucky loss with a dominant 31-point victory over the Eagles in Mobile. The Jags finished with 19 assists and shot 55.9% from the field while holding the Eagles to their lowest point total of the season.
It makes sense, too, as this is a favorable matchup for USA.
Southern Miss plays a lot of press defense, but Moore’s savvy ball-handling shreds presses to the tune of 1.015 PPP (90th percentile).
And then the Eagles try throwing out a matchup zone look, but Samuel’s savvy high-post play shreds zones to the tune of 1.095 PPP (90th percentile).
The Jaguars have a great matchup and all the momentum, and I smell an upset bid here.
It’s also worth mentioning that the ShotQualityBets model makes USA a 3.3-point neutral-court favorite, giving us plenty of value on a short ML price.
Pick: South Alabama -114 (Play to -130)
Indiana State vs. Bradley (MVC)
The MVC semifinals are here after an exhilarating round of quarterfinal matchups.
Indiana State outlasted Belmont behind an incredible 33-point performance from Cooper Neese and an offense that shot 57.1% from beyond the arc.
If you read my MVC Conference Tournament betting preview, Indiana State’s ability to catch fire from deep should be no surprise.
On the other side, Bradley got all it wanted from Bowen Born and Northern Iowa. The Bears used their advantage on the glass to outlast an undersized Panthers squad.
Senior center Rienk Mast put on a clinic, shooting 9-of-15 from inside the arc on his way to a 30-point outing.
Now Bradley will take the nation’s fifth-longest active winning streak into a semifinal matchup with an Indiana State team it defeated, 78-67, in the regular season.
That game was a perfect bounce-back spot for the Bears after they were blown out by Drake on the road. As a result, Bradley had five players score in double figures, including Ville Tahvanainen, Ja’Shon Henry and Zek Montgomery off the bench.
For Indiana State, that matchup saw one of its worst shooting performances of the year — a 20% performance from beyond the arc.
I expect both teams to regress back toward the mean in this MVC semifinal matchup.
Additionally, I expect Indiana State to improve dramatically on the glass. The Sycamores rank third in the MVC in offensive rebounding percentage defense, which will be critical against Mast, who recorded five offensive rebounds against Northern Iowa in the quarterfinals.
Offensively, Indiana State has the tools to have success against a Bradley defense that ranks No. 1 in the MVC in Adjusted Efficiency. The Sycamores rank fourth nationally in mid-range shooting percentage, an area in which Bradley ranks outside the top 140 defensively.
This ability to create on the interior will open up the perimeter for a Sycamores offense that has shot the 13th-most 3s in the country.
Given these advantages, I expect this game to be close throughout, so give me the points with a rolling Sycamores team.
Pick: Indiana State +2.5 (Play to +2)
Maine vs. UMass Lowell (America East)
I have been preaching for Maine in this spot since my America East Tournament preview dropped. I even went on Big Bets on Campus with Stuckey to advocate for my Black Bears.
Maine has been the laughingstock of the America East for a decade. The Bears are basically like the Georgetown of the low majors.
However, the Bears ditched coach Richard Barron for Chris Markwood, and it’s been the best offseason coaching hire of any team in the country. Markwood has turned around this program in unimaginable ways.
The Bears did go through rough patches, including an eight-game losing streak that coincided with an 0-5 league-play start.
However, the Bears flipped the season around and finished 7-4, capping off the year with a double-clutch buzzer-beater to beat Bryant.
Kristian Feierbergs puts the shot back up and in AT THE BUZZER for Maine to beat Bryant 66-64 in their final regular season game of the season pic.twitter.com/TBQWXRaMwT
— NCAA Buzzer Beaters & Game Winners (@NCAABuzzerBters) March 1, 2023
The Bears have all the momentum, and they’re also the one team that UMass Lowell didn’t want to see in the first round.
Maine is a brutal matchup for Lowell.
First, the crux of Maine’s success this season is based on a hyper-aggressive defensive scheme that led the conference in defensive turnover rate. Point guard Kellen Tynes was named the AE Defensive Player of the Year after leading the nation in steals per game (3.3).
Tynes is a dynamic two-way playmaker, and is the best thing to happen to Maine basketball since the turn of the century.
For the first time in program history, the America East Defensive Player of the Year award comes to Orono 😤
Congrats to Kellen Tynes for being named the Defensive Player of the Year!!#blackbearnation pic.twitter.com/S6Z2m5uHNj
— Maine Men’s Basketball (@MaineMBB) March 3, 2023
Meanwhile, the River Hawks are a horrendous ball-handling team. Ayinde Hikim is a good point guard, but he finished the season with a 23.9% turnover rate, while the team finished seventh in the AmEast in offensive turnover rate.
But the River Hawks didn’t need ball handlers because they were dominant down low. MALO built the best team in program history on the back of the conference’s best frontcourt, Max Brooks and Abdoul Karim Coulibaly.
However, so much of Lowell’s offense came through the post, and it was one of the nation’s worst spacing teams.
That’s bad news against a Black Bears defense that led the AmEast in rim-scoring PPP allowed and was second in post-up PPP allowed. Maine boasts a surprisingly stout interior defense for how aggressive it is.
Maine used its matchup advantages to play the River Hawks tight in Lowell (72-70 loss) and beat them in Orono (75-70 win).
The Black Bears have issues creating consistent offense, but their defense will keep this game close. However, if X-factor Gedi Juozapaitis hits shots, Maine could win this thing.
Either way, it’s worth taking a shot on the Bears as 11-point road dogs in the tournament’s first round. I’d play them down to +10.5, as I expect them to avoid a double-digit loss.
Pick: Maine +11 (Play to +10.5)
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