NCAAB Conference Tournament Odds, Picks: Our Late-Game Best Bets for Saturday, Including San Francisco vs. Santa Clara
Oliver McKenna/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Santa Clara’s Carlos Stewart.
It’s been a great day of college basketball, but it’s far from over.
We still have plenty of conference tournaments in action, and our staff came through with six best bets for tonight’s games.
So, whether you’re looking for an early evening showdown to bet in the SoCon Tournament or you’re a night owl watching late-night WCC Tournament action, we have you covered.
Check out all six of our best bets for Saturday’s late college basketball conference tournament games below.
Saturday’s Late College Basketball Best Bets
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college basketball staff is targeting from today’s late conference tournament games. Click the team logos for one of 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.|
Sacred Heart vs. Merrimack (NEC)
As always with Merrimack, the key to beating the Warriors is to beat their zone defense. Merrimack runs more zone than any team in the country — yes, including Syracuse — and it’s aggressive nature forces plenty of turnovers.
So, how is Sacred Heart’s zone offense?
The Pioneers are 353rd nationally and second-to-last in the NEC in PPP against zone defense, with a pathetic .754. Sacred Heart scored a combined 90 points across 125 zone possessions in its two matchups with Merrimack, good for .72 PPP.
These two split their regular-season matchups, with both teams dropping their home games against the opponent. But the context is important.
Merrimack was a pathetic 3-13 entering the first meeting with Sacred Heart. Then the Warriors cranked up the heat. They won 12 of their final 14 games, including beating SHU by 12 as short underdogs.
All the momentum lies with Merrimack entering the tournament semifinals.
Additionally, Merrimack shot only 11-for-21 from the charity stripe in the first game. While Merrimack is not a good free-throw shooting team, its 68% mark indicates the Warriors were just a bit unlucky.
Finally, while Merrimack’s offense is disgusting, the Warriors can score by pressuring the rim with big man Jordan Minor (17.3 PPG, 51.5 FG%). As a result, Merrimack took more shots at the rim than any other NEC team.
Meanwhile, Sacred Heart a poor rim-protecting team, and the Pioneers are only trending downward.
Image via CBB ANALYTICS
Minor scored 33 points across the two meetings, and I expect him to score in bunches while Sacred Heart’s offense stalls in the half-court. Meanwhile, the Warriors should cruise to a comfortable win and an NEC title game bid.
But given how low-scoring this game should be, I wouldn’t play the Warriors higher than -5 (-110).
Pick: Merrimack -4.5 (Play to -5)
Chattanooga vs. Samford (SoCon)
To be short and concise, I’m buying in on the momentum and narrative building around the Mocs.
A disappointing regular season has the potential to be easily dismissed with a SoCon tournament title run. And the return of Jake Stephens has this Chattanooga team believing such a run is imminent.
The on/off splits showing the efficiency of the Mocs with Stephens available highlight an eye-popping difference. The Mocs are 19 points better with Stephens on the floor per 100 possessions. He’s simply one of the most valuable players to his respective team of any in the country.
Chattanooga would not have been the No. 7 seed in the SoCon had Stephens been available throughout the entirety of league play. Consequently, Samford will not be excited to see the Mocs in a quarterfinal matchup.
Many may point to the difficulty of winning four games in four days in a conference tournament setting as a reason to avoid backing the Mocs. However, I believe Chattanooga is a reinvigorated bunch with Stephens in the lineup. The Mocs know they can throw all the poor results of the season out and pour all their energy into earning an automatic bid by winning a potential back-to-back SoCon title.
If pain management is a worry for Stephens and his hand injury, I would anticipate he will fight like hell to overcome the pain knowing every game could be his last as a collegiate athlete.
Chattanooga could ultimately fall short of earning four victories in four days, but I’m backing it to advance to the semifinal by winning for the second consecutive day in this contest against 2-seed Samford.
Pick: Chattanooga +2 (Play to PK)
North Dakota vs. Oral Roberts (Summit)
By Ky McKeon
North Dakota overs have been printing money the past two months. A whopping 13 of UND’s last 14 contests have gone over the point total.
The reason for the scoring outburst is two-fold:
1) UND is playing faster offensively than it did at the beginning of conference play, and
2) Shots are falling for and against the Fighting Hawks. Since Jan. 14, UND boasts the Summit’s third-best offense and third-worst defense, per BartTorvik.
Oral Roberts loves to play fast and will happily oblige to North Dakota’s uptempo style. The Golden Eagles have a top-25 offense in the country, per KenPom, and have run through Summit defenses like the Juggernaut runs through walls.
North Dakota isn’t stopping the ORU attack tonight and will be heavily reliant on the 3 offensively. If the Hawks maintain their recent shooting streak, this game should play into the 80s.
Pick: Over 156.5 (Play to Over 158)
Idaho vs. Northern Arizona (Big Sky)
By Jim Root
The opener of the Big Sky Tournament presents a strange situation. After a 10-21 (4-14) campaign, Idaho fired its coach after its regular-season finale. The buzzer had barely stopped going off before Zac Claus’ job status switched to unemployed.
How does that affect the team?
To that I say: how has it been affecting the team? Idaho has lost four straight games by 10-plus points. That includes a 22-point beatdown at home to this Northern Arizona team just two weeks ago. In a grinding half-court game that saw just 61 possessions, NAU undressed the fading Vandals.
Beneficial 3-point shooting splits helped, but that comes with the territory here. NAU is a potent perimeter shooting squad (37.8% in league play, 3rd in the Big Sky). Idaho is not (30.7%, dead last). Led by Virginia Tech transfer Jalen Cone (83 made triples), the Lumberjacks’ perimeter barrage should continue against the Big Sky’s worst defense.
Perhaps the coaching change and the start of the postseason inspires an Idaho resurgence. I don’t buy it, though. NAU is better and will prove it.
Pick: Northern Arizona -4 (Play to -5)
Northeastern vs. Delaware (CAA)
By Doug Ziefel
The action cranks up for Day 2 of the Colonial Tournament, and the nightcap of the slate is set to be a barnburner.
Northeastern and Delaware battled hard in each of their two regular-season meetings, as four combined points separated the two squads.
What’s interesting about each of their meetings is that they had vastly different scoring outputs. Northeastern took the first meeting at home by a score of 59-58. Then when the series shifted to Delaware, the Blue Hens won, 81-78.
So, what did oddsmakers do? They opened the total just under the average for those two games at 138. Now, you look at the two external factors that point toward the over: this game is in DC, and both teams have had a whole week of rest and preparation for this matchup.
The ride from Delaware is much shorter than the one from Boston, so expect the crowd to be more blue than red. Then each of these teams should be raring to go and have solid plans of attack.
The Huskies are led by junior guard Jahmyl Telfort, who’s proven he can score from anywhere on the court. He should have the green light here, as the Huskies will be cleaning up the majority of misses on the offensive glass.
As for the Blue Hens, their trio of scorers should be able to find success in the paint. Northeastern has allowed its opposition to convert over 56% of their looks from close range, and Delaware’s top three options have each made over 60% from that area this season.
With both teams primed for offensive success and the numbers slightly in our favor, look for this game to go over the total.
Pick: Over 136.5 (Play to 137.5)
San Francisco vs. Santa Clara (WCC)
The WCC Tournament is the most adventurously formatted tournament in college basketball’s litany of tournament structures. Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s, as the top two seeds, are advanced directly to the semifinals, with the next highest-seeded teams placed in the quarterfinals, leaving an absolute gauntlet for higher-seeded teams to advance.
In reality, it does what any high mid-major conference tournament should do: reward regular-season success and protect its at-large teams from the chance of embarrassing loss.
That format gives 3-seed Santa Clara the chance to face 6-seed San Francisco right after the Dons outlasted Pacific in a 70-possession game at 8:30 p.m. local time last night.
Santa Clara has been a clear step ahead of San Francisco all season long, particularly down the stretch when the Broncos ended the regular season with seven straight wins. Santa Clara swept the season series, with both victories coming by double-digits.
This line would be more intriguing without the rest differential, but that factor makes the Broncos the pick here.
Pick: Santa Clara -3
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