NCAAB Conference Tournament Odds, Best Bets: Our Top Picks for Sunday’s Slate, Featuring Delaware vs. Towson (March 5)
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: Chris Biekeu (Towson)
Three auto-bids will be given out on Sunday (ASUN, Big South and MVC) and it’s also the regular season’s final day.
But for the sake of this piece, our staff is targeting seven conference tournament games beyond the three finals.
Dive in below to get the top NCAAB conference tournament odds and best bets for Sunday’s slate, including Delaware vs. Towson.
Sunday’s 7 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 Sunday’s conference tournament 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.|
American vs. Lafayette (Patriot League)
In the quarterfinal round, my best bet was fading a Lafayette team I thought was left for dead. The Leopards responded by blitzing rival Lehigh on the road, jumping out to an early 25-point lead.
Lafayette shot the lights out that night, making eight of its first 10 field goals to put the game essentially out of reach by the first media timeout.
Though the well came up dry with that pick, I’m dipping back in.
Lafayette’s shooting barrage against Lehigh didn’t even last the entire game. After the Leopards’ lead peaked just before halftime, the offense dried up and Lehigh mounted a comeback, winning the second half by 16.
Without the same level of shooting luck here in the semifinals, Lafayette will have a harder time. These teams split two meetings this season, each winning on the road.
When the Leopards won in D.C., they shot 43% from deep. Lafayette doesn’t have enough alternative answers offensively when shots aren’t falling. The Leopards finished last in the conference in offensive efficiency.
American is a high-variance team, but its best is very competitive in the Patriot League. The Eagles managed to hand Colgate its only loss in conference play and lost by just one in their first meeting with the league champ.
They’ll likely have their eyes on taking Colgate down once again if they can survive Lafayette.
Pick: American +3
South Alabama vs. James Madison (Sun Belt)
I’ve been riding South Alabama throughout this tournament, and I’m heading back to the well and taking the red-hot Jaguars to win another Sun Belt Tournament game.
On defense, USA runs an elite drop coverage scheme spearheaded by big man Kevin Samuel. That bodes well against James Madison, as the Dukes are a heavy pick-and-roll offense and may struggle to score against two-on-two ball-screen coverage.
I’m hoping USA’s drop coverage throws James Madison in circles.
Meanwhile, it’s hard to beat the Jaguars when Owen White is hitting everything in sight.
South Alabama pulls off the upset against Southern Miss.
South Alabama outscored Southern Miss 52-34 in the second half pic.twitter.com/RdSHtrOTBj
— JMU Sports News (@JMUSportsNews) March 4, 2023
South Alabama has more momentum than any team in the country. Behind dynamic post-heavy point guard Isaiah Moore — who plays similarly to Jalen Pickett and Hunter Maldonado — the Jags have won 10 of their past 12 games while ranking 21st in adjusted efficiency nationally during the streak.
Moore and the Jags attack through the post at the third-highest rate in the Sun Belt and are the third-most efficient post-up offense by ShotQuality’s metrics.
Meanwhile, James Madison is the ninth-ranked post-up defense by the same metrics.
The Jaguars have a solid on-court matchup and are running hotter than any team in the nation. I’m betting USA rides that momentum into a Sun Belt title game appearance, and I would bet the Jaguars at -2 (-110) or better.
Pick: South Alabama +1.5 (Play to -2)
McNeese State vs. Texas A&M-Commerce (Southland)
By Jim Root
Behold, a rarity in the Southland: two teams that prefer to play in the half court!
In one of the country’s quickest conferences, both Texas A&M-Commerce and McNeese State are exceptions.
This is especially true on the offensive end, where teams have more control. Commerce ranks 283rd in average possession length (KenPom), while McNeese checks in at 249th in the same statistic.
In league play, the two squads rank 10th and eighth in that measure.
That was evident in both contests this season. The first meeting had 162 points, but that’s heavily skewed by overtime. Regulation barely cleared 60 possessions, and if we see that pace again, this number is exceedingly viable.
In the second meeting, pace quickened somewhat (66 possessions), but neither team could buy a bucket. That one resulted in a 60-58 win for McNeese State, sailing under the total.
The market clearly agrees here. KenPom has this game at 143 total points, but the market has actually bet the total down from a 137.5 opener. That gap shows bettors and books taking a position, but I believe the under still has value despite the discrepancy.
Naturally, overtime is again a risk with the spread near a pick’em. But beyond that concern, the handicap clearly points to the under.
Both teams want to grind in the half-court, and neither gets to the free-throw line frequently.
Pick: Under 137 (Play to 135)
Chattanooga vs. Wofford (SoCon)
I have latched onto this Chattanooga run as my best bet in the SoCon the last two days, so I must be going back to the well today, right?
Well, I have a bit of hesitation.
The market has started to catch onto how much better the Mocs are when Jake Stephens is on the floor. Despite entering the SoCon Tournament as the No. 7 seed, they sit as a 4.5-point favorite in this semifinal matchup against Wofford.
Stephens can likely be credited with giving his teammates both a physical and an emotional boost since his return. He has scored 21 points in both of Chattanooga’s first two SoCon Tournament matchups vs. VMI and Samford.
Even when he isn’t scoring, he requires enough defensive attention to free his teammates up for open looks.
My angle for this game will need to be a little more nuanced. I think the spread with Chattanooga laying 4.5 points is pretty spot on, so I’m instead looking to take the under.
This is Chattanooga’s third game in three days, and the third since Stephens’ return to the lineup. Without changing its style of play completely, I think Chattanooga will be content to slow the tempo and play through Stephens in the half-court.
Neither team is known for its defensive prowess, so scoring efficiency will likely be there on both ends.
I will still take the chance on the under, relying on both teams to conserve energy by playing at a slower pace.
Pick: Under 150.5 (Play to 149.5)
St. Thomas (MN) vs. Western Illinois (Summit League)
By Ky McKeon
Due to an arbitrary “transition” rule that nobody fully understands, St. Thomas was unable to participate in the Summit League Tournament last season after making the leap from the Division III ranks.
With their debt paid, the Tommies will make their postseason debut tonight, and though they can’t attend the Big Dance, they can still make noise in the conference tourney.
Per Bart Torvik, since Feb. 1, the Tommies rank as the nation’s 146th-best team. A solid 5-2 record against the spread since that date suggests how well St. Thomas has fared down the stretch.
Western Illinois is trending in an opposite direction analytically, ranking 327th nationally since Feb. 1.
These teams split the season series, each winning at home. The Tommies can find an edge pressuring WIU’s shaky ball handling, while the Leathernecks can exploit St. Thomas on the glass.
Ultimately, we’re going with St. Thomas for two reasons.
Firstly, the Tommies can shoot and are willing to let the ball fly. Conference 3-point numbers belie the team’s true shooting ability — it can get hot in a hurry.
Secondly, WIU plays essentially a six-man rotation, meaning any foul trouble could spell doom. The Tommies rack up trips to the line at the league’s second-highest rate and forced four WIU players to pick up four fouls in their previous contest.
In a close game, this could make all the difference.
Pick: St. Thomas -3.5 (Play to -4)
Northern Arizona vs. Eastern Washington (Big Sky)
By Jim Root
Efficiency across the entire sport of college basketball has been well above the past few seasons. 3-point shooting has finally ticked up after the NCAA moved the line back during the 2019 offseason, and overs have seen a resulting surge.
That’s the key to this handicap, where Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona should both score at will against flimsy opposing defenses. Tempo may not point to an obvious shootout — neither team really aims for a track meet — but both have potent offenses.
Eastern Washington makes its hay in the paint. In league play, the Eagles shot a staggering 63.2% inside the arc, by far the best in the conference. NAU lacks height and rim protection in a major way. Per KenPom, the Lumberjacks are 355th nationally in block rate.
On the other side, NAU has quick guards that can give EWU’s taller perimeter players problems. Jalen Cone is a devastating sniper, and freshman Oakland Fort is coming off arguably his best game of the season against Idaho (13 points, 3-of-4 from deep).
EWU’s primary guards all stand 6-foot-5 or taller.
The two regular season meetings show mixed results. The first matchup had 155 points — as both teams scored as expected — but the second turned into a rock fight — as NAU shot just 5-of-26 (19.2%) from beyond the arc.
I’m banking on the efficiency of the first matchup, particularly with EWU’s interior onslaught.
Pick: Over 151.5 (Play to 153)
Delaware vs. Towson (CAA)
By Doug Ziefel
Yesterday, we targeted Delaware‘s matchup for the over, which came in.
However, tonight we are picking on the Blue Hens again, except in the opposite direction.
The Blue Hens battled hard last night against Northeastern to squeak out an overtime victory, and just 24 hours later, they will turn around and face a well-rested Towson team.
As we went over yesterday, the Blue Hens’ offense runs through Jameer Nelson Jr. and Jyare Davis. While they were ultra-productive yesterday, they also each played over 39 minutes.
In addition to Delaware’s tired legs, Towson proved to be a solid defensive team in conference play. The Tigers finished fifth in adjusted efficiency and fourth in effective field goal percentage allowed in Colonial play.
On the other end of the court, the Blue Hens’ tired legs could certainly be a factor, but Towson’s tendency to take perimeter shots could allow the Blue Hens to have quick defensive possessions, as they will likely key in on this level of the court.
In the end, I’m expecting Delaware’s tired legs to hamper its offensive production significantly, which, when combined with the 3-point shooting variance we could see from Towson, will drive this game under the total.
Pick: Under 140.5 (Play to 138.5)
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