College basketball schedule today has 57 games
Consider this the precursor to next Thursday, except we have 57 games instead of 16. Today is the biggest day of the conference tournament period and we have a lot of games that have taken a lot of money on the betting board. There has been a ton of steam moving these lines all over the place for a variety of different reasons.
(Note: There are two "early" games today at 3 p.m. ET and 4 p.m. ET) Like I’ve said, I try to focus on games that have good lead time for the article. It’s PT and this isn’t all I’m doing, so I try to get it out as quickly as possible. When the NCAA Tournament rolls around next week, I’ll work on it the night before, but this week, I’m also releasing and writing my MLB season previews. So, I’ll do the best I can and hope that you are considering some of the stats and resources I’ve talked about this season to hit the early games. (Tracking sheet)
Here are some thoughts on the March 9 card (odds from DraftKings):
This is an early tip (3 p.m. ET) relative to the ones that I try to hit, but I wanted to get this game in the mix. The Bruins will be without Jaylen Clark for the first time after he tore his Achilles against Arizona. He’s one of the top defenders in college basketball and a guy that played a ton of minutes for the Bruins. Long-term, I think they’ll be fine, but it will be a little bit of an adjustment.
UCLA won by 14 and by 4 in the two regular season meetings, but the 14-point win was misleading, as the Bruins trailed about 12 minutes into the second half before Colorado went ice cold. The Buffaloes were outscored 33-10 over the final 10:03 of the game. In that game, Colorado was just 6-of-24 on shots at the rim, which is a huge outlier performance for any team.
Colorado led most of the first half in the second meeting on Feb. 26 and even led by a point with 2:30 left, but came up on the short end. Once again, they were 9-of-22 at the rim in that game. UCLA is an excellent team defensively at the rim, but they’re not “hold opponents to 32.6% good” (average 53.6%). Now Clark is gone.
Also, if you’re Mick Cronin and you just lost a star player while being a top-five team in the country, how incentivized are you to make Jamie Jaquez, David Singleton and Tyger Campbell play 38 minutes per game over the next three days? UCLA isn’t going to throw this game by any means, but I don’t know that they’ll go all-out for a No. 1 seed or a Pac-12 Tournament win.
Lastly, Clark was one of the guys on this team that would go to the rim. UCLA takes a lot of mid-range jumpers, but Clark was second to Jaquez in Close Two shot share. They’re going to miss him in that regard as well. I don’t know if the Buffs can pull the upset and UCLA may rally together, but I think they can cover nine points, especially having seen the shooting stats from Wednesday’s games at T-Mobile Arena.
Pick: Colorado +9
MAC Madness started bright and early this morning in Cleveland. The third of four games on the slate is this one between Northern Illinois and Kent State (approximately 4 p.m. ET). After starting with some lopsided losses to Akron, Buffalo and Toledo, the Huskies really got better throughout the season, even without leading scorer Keshawn Williams. The Huskies finished a respectable 9-9 in MAC play and finished second in eFG% offense to Toledo and third in eFG% defense.
The Huskies’ high TO% of 20.1% is influenced a lot by nonconference play. In MAC play, they were at 18.6%, which was eighth in the 12-team conference. They also had a 19% TO% on defense, which was second in the league. They finished third in 3P% and 2P% and third in 3P% against. They’re a terrible free throw shooting team and not great on the glass, but those are really the only two glaring blemishes.
This is also the Huskies’ first appearance in the MAC Tournament since 2019. COVID wiped out 2020 and they failed to qualify in 2021 and 2022. Even though they’re sizable underdogs, they’ll play hard here. Kent State had the league’s best defense, but the offense was pretty pedestrian all things considered. The Flashes were eighth in eFG% offense, seventh in 3P% and fourth in 2P%. They’re going to need to force a lot of turnovers, get offensive rebounds and make shots to cover a spread of this magnitude.
Northern Illinois does get inside with a 40.3% shot share compared to Kent State’s 35.2% shot share on Close Twos per Torvik. I am a little concerned at how Kent State may force them into 3s in a neutral setting, but I also think NIU is pretty well-coached and they did win the first meeting by 10. Now, they had an outlier at 13-of-28 from 3, but they don’t need to do that in order to lose by fewer than 14 points.
Pick: Northern Illinois +13.5
Arizona State steps up in class in a big way tonight against USC. They played Oregon State last night in a game where we cashed +11 and I watched at T-Mobile Arena. The Beavers offense was really bad, but they managed to hang around in the game because Arizona State had a lot of problems with jump shots. I would anticipate more of the same tonight against a fresh Trojans bunch.
These are two top-five defenses in 2P%, but USC was a much better offensive team all around. The Trojans are above the national average (50.2%) on 2-pointers at 51.3%, while Arizona State sits at 48.5%. USC is also 3.3% better on 3-pointers. The Trojans are effective on the interior, but Arizona State does a really good job of packing in defensively and also challenging the ball handlers on the perimeter. USC just has more guys capable of knocking down shots than Oregon State does.
I also like that USC was the top free throw shooting team in the conference at 77.3%. Arizona State forces a lot of turnovers, but USC was the best team in the Pac-12 at taking care of the ball. The Trojans won 77-69 in Tempe and 68-65 in the finale in L.A. In that second meeting, USC gave up 20 offensive rebounds, more chances at the rim and still won. I like their chances to win and cover tonight against an ASU team that played last night and has a hobbled Desmond Cambridge Jr., who has been wearing a walking boot between games.
Pick: USC -4
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