College Basketball Betting: Previewing This Weekend’s Key Matchups
Now that the holidays are over, college basketball’s conference play is in full swing. Let’s preview some of the key matchups for Saturday and Sunday.
Auburn at Mississippi State – Bruce Pearl would be the first to tell you his undefeated squad is in for some difficult times in 2020. The Tigers have had it rather easy from a schedule perspective (only one KenPom top 50 opponent) but based on what I’ve seen, the SEC is way down this year. In fact, with the exception of Arkansas and by default Vanderbilt, I don’t see one team that is clearly improved, including Auburn. Mississippi State hung 96 points on Kent State in Nick Weatherspoon’s second game back — a good sign for an offense that had struggled in his absence. Despite their 12-0 record, War Eagle is only 6-6 ATS which suggests market has them right. Would be shocked not to see MSU close -2.5 or -3 just based on the “due” factor for Auburn.
San Diego State at Utah State – Speaking of undefeated teams, San Diego State heads to Logan with a perfect 14-0 mark. And unlike Auburn, there are a handful of quality wins including BYU, Creighton, and Iowa. You do wonder whether not not the 3-point disparity (37.3% for SDSU, 27.3% for opponents) is going to hold up. It won’t but overall, Dutcher has the Aztecs back to playing elite level defense which has helped slow the pace of their games considerably. Utah State was able to beat Florida despite losing Neemias Queta (knee) early in the game. Utah State was NOT able to beat UNLV without Queta. In fact, they were killed on the glass (-12) in a 70-53 loss. He’s a difference maker hence why San Diego State shot 36.7% from 2-point range in last year’s three meetings. No word on when he’ll return though reports indicate it isn’t a long-term injury.
LSU at Tennessee – You never want to overreact to one game, but this box score should concern bettors.
With Lamont Turner out for the year, this team has zero chance of consistently scoring in the half court. Hell, they couldn’t score when he was healthy. With all that being said, this matchup screams of Rick Barnes coaching circles around Will Wade. Look no further than what East Tennessee State’s Steve Forbes did to Wade’s Tigers a few weeks back. The Pirates packed it in, slowed it down, and walked out of Baton Rouge with a 74-63 victory. Barnes may order his team to not take a shot with more than five second left on the shot clock!
Iowa State at TCU – With or without Tyrese Haliburton, losing to Florida A&M at home was embarrassing on a number of levels. It also calls into question Steve Prohm whose transfer-heavy recruiting methods have been more miss than hit since taking over in Ames. I don’t know what to make of TCU; its best win came by a single point at home against UC Irvine. I do trust Jamie Dixon’s team will improve over time, but depending on where this line comes out, it may be a good spot for the Cyclones, especially with Haliburton expected back. KenPom has the Horned Frogs laying -5. I’d expect it to be closer to -3.
Oregon at Utah – The dreaded back-to-back elevation trip hasn’t been kind he Ducks. They’ve lost the second game their last six attempts when they’ve faced Colorado and Utah including a 73-51 loss to the Buffaloes in Boulder last season. The Utes have wins over BYU and Kentucky but also lost to Tulane and Coastal Carolina. And the Huntsman Center wasn’t exactly a house of horrors last season as Utah lost five home games. Oregon is the far better team and unlike the last two elevation trips, they failed to win the first game (lost at Colorado on Thursday, 74-65). Bounce back or historically bad spot a conundrum for bettors.
Creighton at Butler – I may be in the minority, but I don’t think Butler is deserving of its no. 7 KenPom ranking. The Bulldogs led St. John’s 42-19 and were at one point down by five with three minutes to go. Keep in mind, the Red Storm didn’t have Mustapha Heron. My main issue with Butler is its defensive numbers aren’t sustainable and the offense relies a ton on Kamar Baldwin to create when plays break down. Against Southern, UL-Monroe, and St. John’s, Butler averaged 0.96 ppp. The fact that Butler has embraced a win-with-defense mantra is great and the reason why they sit 12-2. But let’s see how they fare against teams that play with pace and can shoot like Creighton, Villanova, and Marquette.
Alabama at Florida – Only Florida can score 62 vs. a Neemias Queta-less Utah State squad and then hang 102 vs. Long Beach State. I’ll go on record with saying that the Gators won’t score over 85 the rest of the season. Although their team total vs. Alabama will be close to 80. The Crimson Tide don’t mind trading buckets and I can easily envision Mike White calling multiple timeouts after his squad races down the floor and jacks a contested 3-pointer after only one pass. I mention this game because I care about you, the reader: Florida is one of the toughest handicaps both side and total in college basketball. They have talent, horrible half court offense, excellent defense, and a coach who I don’t think the players fully respect.
UCLA at Washington State – In high school, I had a prick coach who was a Bobby Knight disciple. He’d pull typical Knight-type shit like kick us out of practice for being sluggish or tell us stories about past players who would slap the floor on defense. I remember him taking away our jerseys, saying something along the lines of “we didn’t deserve to wear the scarlet and gray.” I mention this because apparently that old school shit works! Cronin was so pissed after the loss to Fullerton, he did everything short of void everyone’s scholarship. And sure enough, they beat Washington, 66-64. I like Cronin in part because I don’t play for him. And for now, his main focus is just getting his pillow soft roster to buy into playing hard and defending. Saturday has to be a big letdown spot, no? Wazzu still smells of Ernie Kent but I could see the Cougars winning a grinder.
Michigan at Michigan State – No real opinion on this game other than if you are thinking under, get to it as quickly as possible. Oddsmakers opened Michigan State’s game vs. Illinois 147.5 and it closed 144.5 and it still went under by 12.5 points.