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NCAAB THURSDAY MATINEE - ANALYSIS AND PICKS FOR 3 EARLY CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT GAMES



Appalachian St vs Alabama St

Sunbelt Conference Tournament

12:30 Eastern


It's the most wonderful time of the year--college basketball conference tournaments! For the next couple of weeks, we get meaningful games and a lot of daytime basketball.


South Alabama had a rough January, going 3-5, but since then they've pulled it together to finish the regular season on a 7-2 run. This team has one of the things I like when we get to tournament time, which is the ability to win games on both ends of the floor. In their final 9 games they went over 75 six times and held opponents under 65 in all but two.


Appalachian State isn't a bad team. They're 9-7 in 2023 and finished the year alternating wins and losses for their last six. They've been relatively competitive, even against the better teams in the conference.


USA won the first game between these two 74-57 at home. I don't expect the gap to be that wide, but USA has the edge in every statistical category except for offensive rebounds and free throw attempts. They also come into the tournament playing better basketball.


Pick: Alabama State -3.5 (-110) BetMGM


Note: This line is only on BetMGM as far as I can tell. -4.5 seems fine to me, but beyond that I'd look for a chance to get in live.




Illinois St vs University of Northern Iowa

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament

1:00 Eastern


Next up we head to the Missouri Valley. Neither one of these teams is very good. Illinois State comes in winning 1 of their last 7. Not to be outdone, UNI has won 1 of their last 9! In the most recent game between these two juggernauts, UNI took home the win with a 65-63 squeaker in Cedar Falls. UNI won the first matchup as well, 66-60.


There are a couple of reasons I'm taking the points in this one. First, UNI's recent form. Yes, some of their losses have come against the best teams in the conference, but they also lost by 23 to S Illinois and 12 to Evansville. Those are bad losses. Illinois St doesn't boast a great run to close out the season, but they do have 3 wins in their last 9.


The second reason is that Illinois St has already played UNI close twice this year. It's tough to beat a conference team three times in one season unless it's a mismatch. I think this game will be close, so I'll take the side with the points.


Pick: Illinois State +3.5 (-110) DraftKings




Evansville vs Indiana St

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament

3:30 Eastern


We wrap up this early game preview with another one from the Missouri Valley as the Purple Aces take on the Sycamores.


If you think a team with a name like the Purple Aces would be good, you would be wrong. Evansville won a single game in conference play--over UNI (now you see why I said that loss is so bad!). Not only did they almost reverse sweep, they got crushed doing it. 11 of their conference losses were by 15 points or more.


On the other side, Indiana State is a very dangerous team. They dropped their last two games of the season, but were on a 7 game-winning streak before that. They scored 79 or more in 8 of their final 9 games and limited opponents to 71 or less in 8 of 9 as well. This is another team that can score and play defense.


Yes, this line is wide, but so is the mismatch. Indiana State beat Evansville by 18 twice already this year and I don't see that changing here. Beating a team three times in a season is tough. Unless that team is terrible.


Pick: Indiana State -17 (-110) BetRivers

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