I had a reader request on Thursday afternoon for some insights into how I’d break down and handicap a college basketball game. With a best bet already on the site for the marquee battle between Villanova and UCLA from Greg Peterson, I thought I’d look at the other really good game in the 11 p.m. window between SMU and No. 13 Oregon.
The first thing I want to do this early in the season is see the line movement. There are a lot of sharp bettors out there that know more than me at this point in the season. What are their thoughts and how have they been embodied by the line movement?
This line has ticked up gently from -6.5 to -7, with a couple of -7.5s or 7s with extra juice on the board. The total has fallen a couple points from 146 to 144. Sharp money appears to be on Oregon and the under.
Next, I look at who is back and who has transferred in. Oregon, who made a Sweet 16 run last season, lost seniors Chris Duarte, Eugene Omoruyi and LJ Figueroa. Will Richardson is back, Jacob Young transferred in from Rutgers and De’Vion Harmon came in from Oklahoma. Those were two of the most important players for their respective teams last season.
SMU brought in a quality scorer in Zach Nutall from Sam Houston State, but the AAC is definitely a different animal compared to the Southland Conference. Tim Jankovich also brought in Marcus Weathers from Duquesne and Tristan Clark from Baylor. Kendric Davis is an excellent returning starter for the Mustangs and it really helps to have an experienced, talented point guard in games like this, especially against a Dana Altman team.
The Stats (becomes a more important factor as sample sizes increase)
Oregon racked up 1.286 points per possession in the 83-66 win over Texas Southern to open the season, but did allow 1.023 PPP in the game. Oregon had issues on the defensive glass that led to some easy putback points for the Tigers. The Ducks played that game to 65 possessions. Usually the better team is able to dictate the tempo of the game. My guess would be that we see a slower game in this one.
SMU played one of the worst teams in the country to open the season with an 86-62 win over McNeese State. The game was played to 81 possessions, as SMU managed 1.056 PPP and allowed .761 PPP. SMU got to the rim a lot against McNeese State, something that should be tougher to do against Oregon. Of their 46 two-point attempts, 32 were at the rim.
Looking at these factors, along with some of the other things I consider, is there enough to make a play? Well, I tend to agree with under bettors. SMU wasn’t terribly efficient on offense in a high-possession game against a team ranked 325th by Bart Torvik and 331st by Ken Pomeroy. Oregon is 29th for KP and 35th for BT.
The Ducks could very well cover the number, as their offense should be more efficient, but also, there are a lot of new faces. In a tougher, more physical game with fewer possessions, I’d lean to the under 144 here. As always, shop around for the best prices.