Wake up everyone, IT IS MARCH! Conference tournament season is the best season. It is the best appetizer to the best stretch in sports. It’s the hot wings and calamari of sports.
This past weekend treated us to many March moments. A series of buzzer beaters highlighted the weekend, highlighted by Oakland Fort’s game winning three to give NAU a shocking upsetting win Eastern Washington.
We had American climbing back from 20 points down only to lose in overtime against Lafayette. On the same note, you have a 11-22 Lafayette team now playing in the Patriot league final.
The craziness of March has just started. Monday treats us to a slate that will only add to that. We are previewing the Sun Belt final as well as the conference semifinals in the Colonial and the WCC.
Without further to do, let’s breakdown the slate. As always, here to remind you that I am not a professional handicapper. Whether you fade or tail, we encourage you to wager responsibly.
Sun Belt Final
Louisiana vs. South Alabama
Line: Louisiana -1
South Alabama has been the hottest team in the country during conference tournament season. The Jaguars came into the tournament winning seven out of their last nine. This past weekend they beat top seed Southern Miss by 17 and James Madison by 11.
Isaiah Moore has taken his game to another level. He has scored in double figures in his last 10. He is really carrying the offense.
On the other side, Louisiana is looking for the redemption. In last year’s Sun Belt title game, the Cajuns were the No. 8 seed Cinderella that fell short. Now it’s time for Louisiana to take care of business here.
I’ve been riding with South Alabama through the course of their run, but it ends here. The Cajuns beat the Jaguars twice during the regular season. I think they have a big advantage on the boards. They out rebounded the Jaguars by 10 in both matchups. Physical play down low will be crucial with each team playing on tired legs.
I think Louisiana is going to have sense of urgency to finish what they couldn’t last year. Jordan Brown is the best player in the league and he is going to show us why tonight.
The Pick: Louisiana -1
Towson vs. Charleston
Spread: Charleston -5
Is Charleston an at-large team? We may have to find out because Towson is going to be put a lot of stress on the Cougars. Towson is at full strength, and leading scorer Nicholas Timberlake has been playing on fire. Timberlake was 8-for-11 from the field and scored 19 against Delaware.
Towson took Charleston to overtime at home and lost by eight on the road. The two teams play contrasting styles. Towson lives in the half court they slow the ball down and find the open shooter. Charleston likes to run.
It’s going to be a fun game, but I think Towson will be the team that controls the tempo here. Both teams are stellar at rebounding and will keep each other off the offensive boards.
This is a big game for Charleston. If they win, I think their tourney hopes are clinched. I can see them being a little tight after a weekend break. So I’m going to take the under here. Both teams start somewhat slow, and I can see this game being played in the high 60’s.
The Pick: Under 149.5
BYU vs. Saint Mary’s
Spread: Saint Mary’s -7
BYU’s first-ever WCC conference game was a road game in Mororga in 2012. Will their last ever WCC game come against the Gaels?
The Cougars have something to say about that. The final games of the series between BYU and Saint Mary’s have lived up to the all time classics. Aidan Maheney hit a game winning fade away step back in the closing seconds to beat BYU in Provo. The Gaels needed a 27 point breakout performance from Logan Johnson to secure a six point home win against BYU.
While Saint Mary’s is primed to win its first WCC tourney in several seasons, I can see BYU playing spoiler here. BYU has shown flashes of brilliance and stretches of mediocrity. I think they show the former. They won their first two tournament games by double digits. Despite being undersized they are competitive on the boards. Their scoring is not centrally sourced from one player.
In their final stand, BYU makes Saint Mary’s sweat and keeps things close here. Take BYU and the points.
The Pick: BYU +7
Gonzaga vs. USF
Spread: Gonzaga -14
USF is coming off an incredible double OT upset victory against Santa Clara. The Dons disappointed during the conference season, but they are making up for it in the conference tournament. Dons legend Khalil Shabazz had 38 points against Santa Clara.
The Dons’ three-guard attack of Shabazz, Marcus Williams and Tyrell Roberts is dangerous. There is a scenario where they can hammer Gonzaga with threes. On the defensive end, there is no chance of stopping Gonzaga. The Dons don’t have a big that can compete with Drew Timme. Gonzaga shot 60% from the floor in their 99-81 win in early February.
Mark Few is going to use the last couple of conference tournament games to round his team into form. Gonzaga has covered six out of their last nine against the spread. I can see Gonzaga realistically putting up 90 in this one. There is going to be too much fire power for the Dons to handle. Gonzaga by a million.
The pick: Gonzaga -14