The conference tournament season is a wacky time in college basketball, and history has shown these games can be very difficult to pick. But we think we've found a pair of good plays for Monday, one from the Metro Atlantic tournament, the other from the Summit League gathering.
The Big One in the MAAC
Top-seeded Iona and third-seeded Manhattan meet with an NCAA tournament bid on the line in the MAAC tournament title game on a neutral court in Albany.
The Gaels won the MAAC's regular-season title for the second season in a row, going 17-3 in conference play. They lost their regular-season finale to St. Peter's, but that didn't really matter, having already sewn up the league crown. Iona then held off Siena in the conference tournament Saturday 74-71, then beat Monmouth Sunday 95-77.
The Gaels also won the MAAC title last season, but lost in the conference tournament championship game to – you guessed it – Manhattan, missing out on the NCAA tournament bid. Iona surely won't let that happen again this time around, right?
Manhattan finished in a tie for third place in the MAAC this season at 13-7, then beat Marist Saturday 74-58 and St. Peter's Sunday 65-48. In fact, the Jaspers are 6-1 SU over their last seven games, and 5-1 ATS over their last six contests.
Iona has already taken two games from Manhattan this season, by scores of 70-67 and 79-75. Close games, yes, but Gaels victories both. And while the old adage claims it's very difficult to beat the same team three times in one season, we like Iona's chances of completing the sweep Monday night.
The line on this game opened with Iona favored by 3.5 points, then moved to -4 in the early betting. We'll go with Gaels as our NCAA Basketball Pick, the better team at what still seems like a very reasonable spread.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Iona -3.5 at Bookmaker
Showdown in the Summit
The two- and three-seeds in the Summit meet in the semifinals of the conference tournament as North Dakota State and Oral Roberts hook up on a neutral court in Sioux Falls.
The line on this one opened at ND State at -3, and that number was holding steady in early betting.
The Bison finished in a tie for first place in the Summit's regular-season standings with South Dakota State at 12-4, and entered this conference tournament as the two seed; the Eagles finished third at 10-6.
North Dakota State lost two of its last four regular-season games, and went 0-4 ATS in the process. The Bison then opened play in this Summit League tournament by beating Denver Saturday 61-50.
Oral Roberts has won three in row, after nipping Indiana-Purdue Sunday 58-56.
These two teams have split two games already this season, each winning and covering on their home courts. But the Eagles cost the Bison solo possession of the league championship with their 74-58 victory over ND State 11 days ago. Also, ORU out-shot North Dakota State from the floor in those two games combined 50 percent to 39 percent.
The Bison might have revenge in mind heading into tonight's game, after what the Eagles did to them 11 days ago, but the revenge factor doesn't always work out in the direction one might think. Ultimately, in looking for value on the NCAA Basketball odds, we see a three-point spread, but a rather generous offering on the moneyline. We like the underdog to win this game outright.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Oral Roberts +140 on the moneyline at 5Dimes