Monday, March 4, 2024

College Basketball Odds & Best Bets Today: Conference Tournament Schedule, Picks for Saturday

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A whopping 13 NCAA Tournament tickets are punched today as the college basketball slate is loaded with conference tournament championships. Read on for our college basketball best bets for Saturday based on the top NCAAB odds.

Several conference tournaments went chalk and pit the No. 1 vs. No. 2 seeds in Saturday’s championship game, as we look at the conference championship odds. In the case of the Big East tournament, this is the 10th all-time No. 1 vs. No. 2 seed meeting in the 41-year history of the tournament played at Madison Square Garden as Marquette meets Xavier; however, it’s just the first time it has happened since 2004.

Conversely, it is anything but chalk in the Big Ten tournament as two double-digit seeds (No. 10 Penn State and No. 13 Ohio State) crashed the party in the semifinals.

Here are our college basketball best bets for Saturday (odds via FanDuel, PointsBet, and Caesars; pick confidence based on a 1-to-5-star scale).

Saturday’s college basketball conference tournament schedule and odds

(Odds via DraftKings)

  • Texas vs. Kansas (-2)
  • Xavier vs. Marquette (-1.5)
  • Arizona vs. UCLA (-1)
  • Utah State vs. San Diego State (-1.5)

College basketball conference tournament best bets for Saturday

  • Spread: Purdue -6.5 vs. Ohio State (-120 via FanDuel) ⭐⭐⭐
  • Spread: Kansas -1.5 vs. Texas (-110 via Caesars) ⭐⭐⭐
  • Total: Missouri team total Over 74 vs. Alabama (OFF) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Total: Arizona-UCLA Over 148 (-110 via PointsBet) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Upset: Xavier ML vs. Marquette (+110 via FanDuel) ⭐⭐⭐
  • Upset: Virginia ML vs. Duke (+122 via Caesars) ⭐⭐⭐

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College basketball top picks

Spread: Ohio State vs. Purdue -6.5 (-120 via FanDuel) ⭐⭐⭐

It was hard to envision Ohio State as anything but a one-and-done team in the Big Ten tournament after its 3-14 start in league play. Still, five wins in its last six games have bubble teams everywhere worried that OSU could be one of the biggest bid stealers on Selection Sunday.

However, Purdue swept the regular season series from the Buckeyes, even though Ohio State was very competitive in a two-point home loss in early January. The Buckeyes held Boilermakers center Zach Edey to 16 points (tied for his fourth-lowest scoring output in Big Ten play this season) despite leading rebounder Zed Key playing just four minutes before suffering his shoulder injury. However, this is a three-star play, as Purdue scored 1.6 points per possession in which Ohio State doubled the post in that game, per Synergy. The Boilermakers then blitzed the Buckeyes by 27 points in the return game at Mackey Arena in mid-February.

This will become a four-star play if Ohio State forward Brice Sensabaugh is again ruled out due to knee soreness. He missed Friday’s win over Michigan State but was a matchup problem when scoring 41 combined points in two games against Purdue this season. We are laying the extra juice at FanDuel as it is the only one of our best March Madness betting sites offering a spread lower than seven points.

Spread: Kansas -1.5 vs. Texas (-110 via Caesars) ⭐⭐⭐

Kansas has been excellent in revenge spots this season, avenging all four losses to Kansas State, TCU, Baylor, and Iowa State when given a chance in the rematch. Granted, head coach Bill Self has been on the sidelines for all of those games, and the Jayhawks had multiple days to prepare, but KU seems to be playing with a chip on its shoulder in Self’s absence this tournament, winning its first two games by 30 combined points.

Kansas lost to Texas by 16 points in the regular season finale, but that was a charged-up Austin atmosphere on Senior Night. Even still, that was the first of Jayhawks forward Jalen Wilson’s three 20-point double-doubles. He is good enough to put his team on his back and avenge a loss to the Longhorns, especially with Texas likely being without forward Timmy Allen (10.5 points, 5.5 rebounds per game), as he has missed the last two games due to a lower leg injury.

Total: Missouri team total Over 74 vs. Alabama (OFF) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Alabama held Missouri to 64 points in their first meeting, which was tied for the Tigers’ lowest-scoring output of the season at the time. Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats had been 0-2 in trips to Columbia before that victory and pushed all the right buttons to thwart Missouri’s high-powered offense. However, the Tigers were missing leading scorer Kobe Brown (16.2 points per game, 20.5 PPG in his last two). And without his inside presence, the team had no threat inside the arc and settled for 28 3-point attempts, of which they made three.

We expect more inside-outside balance to make all the difference offensively for Missouri on Saturday. In addition, its SEC-leading 3-point percentage (35.0%) suggests the Tigers are due for significant positive regression from the 10.7% it shot from beyond the arc in their first meeting with the Crimson Tide. 

With a spread of -9 and an O/U of 157, Missouri has an implied team total of 74 points, and that is where we are comfortable playing this number when that prop becomes available.

Total: Arizona vs. UCLA Over 148 (-110 via PointsBet) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

As we look at our Arizona vs. UCLA picks, the Bruins are already without forward Jaylen Clark, who is out for the season with an Achilles injury. Add center Adem Bona to that list of Bruins players who may miss Saturday’s Pac-12 championship game, as he left Friday’s win over Oregon due to a shoulder injury and did not return. 

UCLA held Arizona to 65.5 points per game in splitting two regular-season meetings, 17.8 points below the Wildcats’ season average. However, Arizona has a much higher offensive ceiling in this third meeting without Clark (arguably the Bruins’ best perimeter defender) and Bona to help defend the Wildcats’ massive frontcourt. 

This is a four-star play as Clark and Bona have UCLA’s two highest Defensive Bayesian Performance Ratings (DBPR) per EvanMiya. In addition, the team has allowed .80 points per possession when on they’ve been on the floor together this season, per Synergy.

Upset: Xavier ML vs. Marquette (+110 via FanDuel) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Xavier’s Final Four odds and national championship aspirations were dealt a huge blow when forward Zach Freemantle (the team’s third-leading scorer and leading rebounder) was ruled out for the remainder of the season due to a foot injury. However, the lack of frontcourt depth did not hurt the Musketeers when facing Creighton center Ryan Kalkbrenner. The team held the Bluejays to just 42.4% shooting inside the arc (14-for-33) and out-rebounded Creighton by 17 after losing the rebounding battle by seven in their previous meeting. 

Playing smaller should help Xavier against Marquette, as the Golden Eagles are smaller than most teams in the Big East and rank 160th in average height in the country. In their last meeting, the Musketeers raced out to an early 13-point lead through the game’s first 12 minutes at Marquette. We expect Xavier to hold the lead this time at a neutral site after scoring 1.21 points per possession against a Creighton team that ranked No. 1 in league play in adjusted defensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage defense, and 2-point shooting percentage allowed.

Upset: Virginia ML vs. Duke (+122 via Caesars) ⭐⭐⭐

Duke is amid a season-long eight-game winning streak, largely coinciding with head coach Jon Scheyer’s decision to move Jeremy Roach off the ball and hand the lead guard duties over to Tyrese Proctor. But perhaps no team in the country is better at preventing dribble penetration than Virginia, led by the feisty backcourt combination of Kihei Clark and Reece Beekman. 

We love Virginia’s experience in this situation as the fourth-oldest team in the country, as it should be able to withstand the pro-Duke Greensboro crowd. The Cavaliers entered Friday’s semifinal win over Clemson with the lethal combination of 60.4 points per game against average (best in the ACC), 16.0 assists per game (most in the ACC), and 8.5 turnovers per game (fewest in D-I). 

Virginia is 4-0 ATS at neutral sites this year, but we are backing its +122 moneyline odds at Caesars, the only sportsbook offering higher than +120.

College basketball best bets made 3/11/2023 at 7:30 a.m. ET.

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