College basketball schedule today has 23 games
Conference tournaments are winding down, as we’re just one day away from Selection Sunday. Championship games and semifinals are all we’ve got on the docket for Saturday, so these are hugely important games that mean a lot to teams, whether they are fighting for an improved seed or a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Once again, there are some early starts and I’ve done the best I can to find some games that have some lead time. (Tracking sheet)
Here are some thoughts on the March 11 card (odds from DraftKings):
The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the MAC will meet for the conference’s lone berth in the NCAA Tournament this evening in Cleveland. Kent State was a very, very slight favorite in the conference tournament futures market at most places and it makes sense that we’ve got a pick ‘em scenario here at most books. DraftKings is really the only book showing Kent State as a favorite, while Caesars has Toledo at -1. The rest of the odds screen reads mostly PK.
We’ve got defense vs. offense here. Kent State was the best defense in the conference and a top-50 unit per Bart Torvik. Toledo was the best offense in the conference and a top-10 unit per Torvik per the adjusted offensive efficiency metrics. The downside for the Rockets is that they come into this game ranked 269th in adjusted defensive efficiency, while Kent State still boasts an above average offense.
We only got one data point between these teams during the regular season and it was a 12-point Kent State win at home in the third game of MACtion for each team. It was a lot closer than the final score would indicate, though Kent led most of the game. Kent State got a lot of extra possessions via turnovers (11-7) and offensive rebounds (20-10). Those are two things I expect once again in this game. Kent’s TO% on defense is 22.9%, which ranks in the top 10. Toledo has taken good care of the basketball on the whole, but there aren’t many teams in this league that force takeaways.
Toledo has had six teams in the Tod Kowalczyk era that have finished the season in the top 100 and none of them have made the NCAA Tournament. Rob Senderoff has had one - this year’s version. The Golden Flashes went dancing in 2017, but haven’t since. I’ll take the better defense and the better coach here, along with the team that I think will get some extra possessions along the way in this winner-take-all game. I picked Kent State to win the tournament in my MAC preview and I’ll see that through.
Find Kent State PK (or the rogue +1 if you can).
Pick: Kent State PK
Jaylen Clark was hurt in the regular season finale against Arizona, but he had an impact in the 15 minutes he played with 11 points and four steals. In the first game, he had six offensive rebounds (10 total), three steals and 12 of UCLA’s 52 points. This is the game where they could really miss him, as the rest of the Pac-12 just isn’t on the level of these two teams.
Neither one of these teams broke much of a sweat in the semifinals, but I do feel like this is also the type of game where playing three games in three days could have an impact. With Clark out, the Bruins have had to go a little bit deeper into their bench for contributions. Also, that win against Colorado was a bit misleading, as the Buffaloes really hung in there well until Tad Boyle’s tirade and double tech. UCLA didn’t miss a free throw down the stretch to open up an insurmountable lead.
UCLA took great care of the basketball this season and played a tough schedule, but they are still 169th in 2P% and 106th in 3P%. Arizona, meanwhile, is a top-12 team in both categories. UCLA could just be their kryptonite with a couple of tough offensive performances, but Clark is probably the conference’s best defender and he won’t be there against this highly-efficient offense today.
Pick: Arizona +1
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