College Basketball Odds & Picks For Saturday’s Conference Tournaments: Patriot League, NEC, Colonial, Missouri Valley & America East
Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: Missouri State Bears forward Gaige Prim (44).
We’ve arrived. It’s the final weekend of the college basketball regular season. We’ve weathered the last 101 days of ups and downs, but our destination has finally broken the horizon.
After nearly two years spent in waiting, Selection Sunday is now just eight days away.
Today is the penultimate day of the college basketball regular season. From here on out, it’s all postseason, all day, every day, culminating in the glorious return of the NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile, the low- and mid-major conferences have roused a sleeping giant. Conference tournament season has begun to coax inspiration from the hardened hearts of those who have kept college hoops at arm’s length away.
If you intend to start firing on college hoops this year, then consider this your last call.
College Basketball Odds & Picks
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Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.
Boston University vs. Colgate
By Matt Cox
I urge you to search far and wide for a team as dominant as Colgate within their respective conference. Seriously, keep looking …
Boston certainly drew the short end of the stick, one of three Patriot teams thrown in Colgate’s regular season pod. The Terriers struck out in all four at-bats against Colgate this season, coming within 10 points of the sizzling Raiders just once.
The silver lining in this misfortunate preseason draw is that BU knows Colgate like the back of its hand. Granted, it didn’t seem to matter two weekends ago when Colgate swept BU in Hamilton, NY. But peeling back the layers of that onion reveals why the Terriers offer serious value in today’s Quarterfinals showdown.
In the first leg of that aforementioned back-to-back series, Boston held a comfortable 30-22 lead late in the first half. Colgate ultimately blitzed the Terriers after the break, but BU managed to squeak inside the closing number of +11.5.
The next day, it was nearly deja vu. The Terriers opened as an 11-point dog and once again played the white-hot Raiders to a stalemate for the first 20 minutes. This time, when Colgate hit the second-half turbo boosters, the Terriers curled into the fetal position, waiving the white flag once the game was out of hand.
Don’t expect BU to roll over so easily this time. The Terriers open as a double-digit dog — a spot that’s proven to be a gold mine in conference tournament settings.
Just this past week, we’ve seen Milwaukee (won outright at Wright State), SIU-Edwardsville (covered vs. Belmont) and Kennesaw State (covered vs. Liberty) as 10-point underdogs (or longer) scrap and claw until the final whistle.
Given the prominence of these recent precedents, look out for early money pouring in on BU. Strike while the iron’s hot – that is, any number above +11.
Pick: Boston University +13
Mount St. Mary’s vs. Wagner
The Northeast Conference kicks off its four-team tournament on Saturday afternoon.
Mount St. Mary’s will travel to take on the No. 1-seed Wagner Seahawks in what will be a slow, grind-it-out game. Mount St. Mary’s plays at a 356th-ranked tempo while Wagner isn’t far behind with the 316th-ranked tempo in the nation according to KenPom.
The Mountaineers own the top defensive efficiency mark in the NEC and secure defensive rebounds better than anyone else in the conference.
These teams met twice in the regular season, and the Wagner defense held the Mountaineers to a combined 35.1% from the field, 27.8% from 3, and allowed an average of 47 points per contest.
Meanwhile the Wagner offense played strong in both games, converting on 41.1% from the field and 40.8% from 3-point range. Yet despite reasonable offensive numbers, the Seahawks still averaged 59 points because the pace was so slow.
Pick: Under 123
Towson vs. Elon
By Pat McMahon
The opening game in the CAA tournament is between No. 8 seed Elon and No. 9 seed Towson. The two squads come in with a combined conference record of just 7-16, so don’t expect to see the prettiest basketball in this game. However, there is still value to be found in this matchup, and I believe it lies on the favorite.
Neither team is particularly strong on offense, but the Phoenix are much better on the defensive end. Elon ranks 185th in opponent effective field goal percentage, while Towson is just 282nd, per Team Rankings. The Phoenix are particularly strong at defending the 3-pointer, limiting opponents to 31.9% from deep. This bodes well for them against a Towson offense that really struggles from distance, shooting a lowly 29.6% from beyond the arc.
While the Phoenix don’t exactly shoot the lights out as a team, they are streaky and have the ability to get hot. Four Elon players average 35% or better from deep, including guard Hunter McIntosh (37.1%), who likes to let it fly, attempting about eight 3-point shots per game. Towson is one of the worst teams in the nation at defending the 3, giving up 38.9% from behind the arc. If Towson allows a couple of Elon shooters to get hot, it will be a long night for the Tigers.
Elon also has the advantage of playing more recently. The Phoenix squeezed in their regular season finale last Saturday: A win at UNC-Wilmington. Towson, on the other hand, hasn’t taken the court since Feb. 14, so some rust should be expected. This looks like a mismatch on the court and a really good situational spot for the Phoenix, so I think they’re worth a play up to -5.
Pick: Elon -4
Hartford vs. Vermont
If you read my America East Tournament Preview, you would know that I don’t consider Hartford a threat to Vermont. I think Vermont is the more talented team and will definitely win this game.
However, looking at how Hartford has played Vermont in the past, I also think taking the Hawks and the points is the best bet in the America East on Saturday.
In the last three games between Hartford and Vermont, Hartford is 0-3 straight up but 3-0 against the spread. That includes losing by 2 points as 7.5-point underdogs and losing by just 1 point as 13-point underdogs.
Hartford is a tough team. While Vermont paces the America East in defensive efficiency, Hartford is in close second place, per KenPom. The Hawks are also first in the conference in points per game allowed (61.9) while the Catamounts rank second (62.9).
Therefore, I’m expecting a grind-it-out, tight game between the Hawks and the Catamounts. I believe Ryan Davis and the Catamount offense will win this game in crunch time, but I’m banking on the Hawks sticking within the spread.
Pick: Hartford +8
Missouri State vs. Drake
Things were already trending in Missouri State’s direction before a double-digit quarterfinal victory over Valparaiso. The Bears have now won eight of the last nine games outright and are catching a wounded Drake team that backed into the semifinals by virtue of a COVID-19 outbreak within the Northern Iowa program.
It’s time to acknowledge three things when it comes to Drake.
The first is that with a full and healthy deck, Drake was on track to do big things in March.
The second is that regardless of what happens from here on out, the gambling community will always have the Bulldogs’ ungodly start at the betting window that saw them reel off 13 straight covers to open the season.
But finally, the third and most painful fact that needs to be addressed: This run is over.
First Drake lost ShanQuan Hemphill (14.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg), and now Roman Penn (11.2 ppg, 5.5 apg) is done for the season with a foot injury. This team’s offensive ceiling has come down a few rungs, and Missouri State is the team to take advantage of that.
Isiaih Mosley now has four 20-point performances or better in his last five games. With Mosley lighting it up, Gaige Prim can work the glass and the interior of defenses with ease. Prim averaged 19 points and 15 rebounds against Drake in their two meetings this season and should be good for another double-double in this spot.
I loved Missouri State at +750 to win the MVC and I’m not backing off them now. I would play this all the way up to Missouri State-5.5.
Pick: Missouri State -1.5