With conference tournaments underway, March is in full swing. We are here covering the conference tournaments in Vegas, and we are also adventuring in the sports betting scene. Saturday is a big slate, and there are picks that offer some value.
*As always we are sports bloggers, not bettors. These picks are for entertainment purposes only. All lines come from the Westgate sports super book. All times Eastern.
Missouri Valley Conference Semifinals
Bradley (-2.5) vs Drake
CBS Sports Network, 3:30 p.m.
Underdogs have ruled the Missouri Valley Conference so far. Drake pulled the upset of the tournament using an 18-0 run in the second half to obliterate Northern Iowa’s tournament hopes. In that game Northern Iowa shot an uncharacteristic 5-25 from 3 and Drake shot 47% from three. Drake has a hard time defending the three-point shot all year, ranking 328th in the country in defensive three-point percentage.
UNI had plenty of good looks, but they were unable to capitalize, and Drake was fortunate to catch them on a bad shooting night. That would happen against Bradley, who shoots 36% from behind the arc. Bradley is the best defensive team in the country, and it thrives playing defense in the half-court. Elijah Child and Darrell Brown have been on this stage before. Trust the Bradley Braves to take care of Drake and make their second consecutive appearance in the Arch Madness final.
The pick: Bradley (-2.5)
Northeast Conference Semifinal
Saint Francis (-5.5) vs. Sacred Heart
ESPN 3, noon
Sacred Heart is trying to make its first NEC finals appearance since 2008. Sacred Heart’s two-point win over Mount St.Mary’s snapped a six-game postseason losing streak. Unfortunately for Sacred Heart, they may not have enough to get over the hump against Saint Francis. The Red Flash have been playing on fire winning 9 out of their last ten games. Saint Francis guard Keith Braxton is the best player in the tournament, in their win against Bryant Braxton finished with 24 points, eight rebounds, eights assists and four steals in the Red Flash’s win over Bryant on Wednesday. He is one of two players this season and 16 over the last decade to finish with 24/8/8/4 in a game. Saint Francis is 20-9 ATS overall, and they are 4-1 in their previous 5 games as a home favorite. The Red Flash are the pick in this one.
The pick: Saint Francis -5.5
Mountain West Championship
San Diego State (-6.5) vs. Utah State
CBS Sports Network, 8:30 p.m.
The Mountain West final will be the original game on the slate. A win for San Diego State would help them lock in a one seed, while Utah State will make its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
Both offenses have been humming during the Mountain West Tournament. The Aztecs scored 81 and made 15 threes in their semifinal win against Boise State. Sam Merrill has been leading the charge for the Aggies, scoring 27 in Utah State’s comeback win against New Mexico and then following that up with 29 in their win against Wyoming. There should be a lot of fireworks in this matchup, and both defenses will have trouble.
San Diego State guards will be able to beat Utah State off the dribble. Utah State will have to pack the paint to prevent drives, which will allow opportunities for SDSU shooters. If Utah State tries to play San Diego State straight-up, Malachi Flynn, Yanni Wetzell and KJ Feagin will feast in the paint. Sam Merrill will still be able to carry Utah State’s offense. Neemias Queta will have a mismatch down low with Nathan Mensah out of the lineup for SDSU.
Both games went over the total in their previous two matchups. Expect this game to be close throughout. Instead of picking a side, enjoy the game and enjoy watching these teams putting on a firework show in Vegas.
The pick: over 131.5
West Coast Conference Quarterfinal:
Pepperdine (+7) vs. Saint Mary’s
ESPN2, 12:30 a.m.
This is a very interesting matchup. Most analytical signs point to Saint Mary’s dominating this game. The Gaels play at a slow pace that will frustrate Pepperdine’s rhythm: The Gaels’ second-ranked three-point shooting offense faces off against Pepperdine’s 347th ranked three-point defense. we saw Saint Mary’s dominated the Waves at Firestone Fieldhouse.
However, you can throw the numbers out the window in conference tournaments, especially when it involves Pepperdine playing in the Orleans Arena. The Waves have the talent to win this game. When they are playing well defensively and they make their threes, Pepperdine can hang with anyone in the league. The Waves have won four out of their last five WCC conference tourney games, with their one loss being to Gonzaga after playing three straight days.
The Waves are coming off of an 84-73 dominating win against Santa Clara. If you are going to spot me 7 points with Colby Ross on a neutral court, I’m going to take them. The Waves could shock late Saturday night, and Gaels fans might have to sweat on Selection Sunday again.
The pick: Pepperdine +7 and ML +250.
Stephen F. Austin, -10.5
UMass vs. Rhode Island: under 142
Western Kentucky (pick ‘em)