College Basketball Odds & Picks For Saturday Night: Atlantic 10, Sun Belt, Southern, WCC & Summit Tournaments
Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Tommy Kuhse (12).
- It's March, which means there's even more college basketball conference tournament action after a full day's worth.
- Our staff broke down five more games from the A-10, Sun Belt, SoCon, WCC and Summit ahead of the late tips.
- Check out each individual pick complete with a full breakdown and odds below.
Selection Sunday is only eight days away.
Today, we’ve already been through a lot, from bad beats early in the slate to late-afternoon triumphs. Now, we keep it rolling late into the night.
With the NCAA Tournament making its glorious return in the coming days, it’s only right.
Our staff came through with five more of their best bets for Saturday’s conference tournament games, including the A-10 semifinal between Saint Louis and St. Bonaventure and the nightcaps that include Saint Mary’s vs. Loyola Marymount and South Dakota vs. Western Illinois.
Buckle up. Because it only heats up from here.
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Saint Louis vs. St. Bonaventure
The Saint Louis Billikens will meet the No. 1 seed St. Bonaventure Bonnies in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Both teams won handily yesterday, with Saint Louis beating UMass, 86-72, while St. Bonaventure took down Dayton, 73-68.
Saint Louis was forced to pause play for 34 days earlier in the season, which never really allowed it to get into a groove. It suffered some uncharacteristic losses when it returned, and that really hurt this team’s chances at an at-large bid.
It may need to pick up a few more neutral-court wins or win the A-10 Tournament in order to make it to the NCAA Tournament, while the Bonnies should have a strong enough resume for an at-large bid.
That may be the difference-maker in this game, along with the Billikens’ Big 3 of Javonte Perkins, Jordan Goodwin, and Hasahn French. I’m backing Saint Louis as a small favorite and the more desperate team.
Arkansas State vs. Georgia State
By Ky McKeon
Georgia State was the odds-on favorite to win the Sun Belt this preseason, led by a three-headed dragon for a backcourt in Kane Williams, Justin Roberts, and Corey Allen. The Panthers dominated their non-conference slate, even beating presumed Tourney team Georgia Tech in four overtimes on opening night.
But Sun Belt play got off to a rocky start. GSU found itself just 2-4 after six contests and near the bottom of the league standings.
Since that start, it’s been smooth sailing for the Panthers. Head coach Rob Lanier must have stolen some of MJ’s Secret Stuff or something because Georgia State hasn’t lost in nearly a month. The Panthers finished conference play on a six-game winning streak and enter the Sun Belt tournament as the hottest team in the league.
All this to say, GSU is playing how we expected it to play: very, very well.
Tonight, the Panthers, owners of the Sun Belt’s No. 1 offensive attack, match up against the worst defensive team in the league in Arkansas State. The paint should act like a revolving door for the Panther attack, an attack that is heavily predicated on the pick-n-roll.
GSU uses the second-most possessions via pick-n-roll in the country, per Synergy, and Arkansas State ranks outside the top 200 in points per possession allowed via that action. The likes of Roberts, Allen, and Williams should have not trouble slicing and dicing this Red Wolves defense off ball screens.
As an added angle to this side tonight, we’ve seen a bit of a trend early this conference tourney season that favors rested favorites against “larger” underdogs on a back-to-back.
I’m not one to put a ton of confidence in trends, but if that’s your thing, you’ve got that going for you, too, if you throw some money on the Panthers tonight.
VMI vs. Furman
Today, tourney favorite Furman will begin its chase for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1980.
The Paladins have a tricky first opponent on paper in the VMI, which boasts a very dangerous offense that ranks 40th in Effective FG percentage and in the 95th percentile nationally in overall Points Per Possession, per Synergy.
The Keydets like to play fast and shoot a high frequency of 3-pointers, which they hit at a top-25 rate in the country.
It was VMI that actually won the only regular-season meeting between these two teams when it pulled out a one-point victory at home back on Jan. 20.
That said, VMI has been much better in its home gym this year. Also, it hasn’t played in two weeks as a result of COVID-19 issues within the program. Teams coming off 14-or-more-day breaks this season have not fared well overall at 74-93-3 ATS (44.3%), failing to cover by an average of 1.6 points per game.
It could especially spell trouble for a VMI offense that requires a lot of timing and rhythm, as it may be completely out of after this recent pause. There’s also the great unknown of whether or not any key contributors will be available after a COVID-19 break.
On the other side of the ball, VMI likes to press at times and fall back into a myriad of zone looks. That is not a recipe for success against Furman, which has shooters and ball-handlers all over the court.
After Furman lost in its first game in the SoCon tournament last year, I expect this experienced Paladin squad to come out with hyper-focus against a team that isn’t in the best situational spot.
I’d look at Furman at anything under -8.
Loyola Marymount vs. Saint Mary’s
By Mike Randle
Saint Mary’s plays at one of the slowest paces in college basketball, ranking 348th out of 357 teams in adjusted tempo, per KenPom.
In their first meeting, the Gaels escaped Los Angeles with a 65-61 win, taking advantage of LMU’s insane 27 turnovers. Even if the Lions can reduce that number to just 15, they have a good chance to pull the upset.
Senior guard Eli Scott (18.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG) is playing at an incredibly high level, fresh off his 24 points, 14 rebounds, and four assists in the 70-66 win over San Francisco.
LMU features multiple players who can get hot from 3, shooting 37.1% as a team. The Gaels allow opponents to shoot 37% from deep, which was exposed in their last regular-season game at BYU (9-of-19 3P).
The Lions will again be without forward Keli Leaupepe (10.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG) due to a foot injury but still managed to out-rebound San Francisco, 31-19, in the quarterfinal win.
LMU is the best rebounding team in the WCC, ranking first in both offensive and defensive rebounding efficiency, per KenPom. Look for the Lions to keep the momentum off last night’s win and take advantage of a low-possession game against Saint Mary’s.
The Gaels are a notch below their usual talent standards, and the Lions have been very competitive under first-year head coach Stan Johnson. The 4.5 points is too much for an LMU team that could find itself in the WCC semifinals.
Western Illinois vs. South Dakota
By Jim Root
Because they’re facing the end of their seasons, I like backing dogs in tournament settings, especially when the days rest situation is even, so let’s roll with the Leathernecks here.
I was tempted by Omaha getting a larger number, but the Mavericks are so depleted that I cannot bring myself to trust them.
Speaking of depleted, we have to talk about South Dakota. The Coyotes made a name for themselves all season behind the prolific scoring tandem of Stanley Umude and AJ Plitzuweit; the duo combined to score 40.3 points per game.
Unfortunately, Plitzuweit went down with a knee injury in the season’s penultimate contest, sapping this squad of some scoring punch. Umude went for an absurd 39 points in the finale without his running mate, but the options beyond him are extremely limited, and the Coyotes lost by 12 to North Dakota State.
USD simply has not had enough time to rediscover a new identity sans Plitzuweit.
Western Illinois, meanwhile, can really score. Division III transfer Will Carius has been a revelation, opening up the floor with his shooting from the frontcourt, and towering center Tamell Pearson should be able to find success against USD’s smaller interior.
Plus, WIU has shown marked improvement in recent weeks, an entirely reasonable occurrence considering new coach Rob Jeter turned over almost the entire roster in the offseason (dead last nationally in KenPom’s minutes continuity metric).
Without Plitzuweit for the Coyotes, the ever-improving Leathernecks should be able to hang around and could even pull off the upset.