College basketball schedule today has 10 games
Take a deep breath. Maybe spend a little time with the fam. Do what it is that you do to relax because the next two days of college basketball are going to be crazy with the first-round games in the NCAA Tournament. We still have 10 games on the slate for tonight with the NIT and two more First Four games, but it’s a lighter lift than what tomorrow brings.
A few quick notes on the NIT: Several key guys either opted out or rested injuries last night, including Michigan’s Jett Howard and Villanova’s Cam Whitmore and Justin Moore. The line move in the Villanova game was directly tied to those two guys sitting out and Liberty sneaked through with a cover in a very low-scoring game. It is Spring Break on Liberty’s campus, so they failed to sell out the game, even with a visit from a premier program like Villanova.
Youngstown State hosts Oklahoma State tonight, even though the Cowboys are the higher seed. Oklahoma State has staffing issues because OSU is the host of the NCAA Wrestling Championships, so the game is on the road. There is also a scheduling conflict at Sam House State, so they’re on the road at Santa Clara. If Cincinnati wins tonight over Virginia Tech, they’ll play at Hofstra in the next round because of floor repairs. There are some serious quirks to this tournament to keep in mind. (Tracking sheet)
Tim Murray, Matt Youmans and I tackled all four NCAA Tournament regions on separate podcasts, so check those out on the VSiN College Basketball Betting Podcast.
Here are some thoughts on the March 15 card (odds from DraftKings):
Texas Southern has some experience in this First Four environment. They’ve done it three years in a row, first beating Mount St. Mary’s in 2021 and then Texas A&M Corpus Christi last year. Now they face a Fairleigh Dickinson squad that managed to have one of the worst defenses in the country while playing one of the worst schedules in the country.
Bart Torvik has the Knights 362nd in adjusted defensive efficiency and 363rd in strength of schedule. Opponents shot 36.9% from 3 (352nd) and 56.1 on 2s (353rd) this season. Texas Southern is hardly a gifted offensive team, but a pretty solid defensive team all things considered and they scored over a point per possession in five of their last six games to end the regular season before taking down the SWAC Tournament with three stellar defensive efforts.
This is a really undersized Fairleigh Dickinson squad. Their two best players are 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-8. Texas Southern has some size advantages here and I really do think their experience in this game and in this situation is beneficial. With that size, Texas Southern should be able to get inside and get buckets. While they struggled on the whole offensively for the season, they were No. 1 in the SWAC in 2P% in conference action. They played a really grueling nonconference schedule and got blown out a lot.
The offense also took a big leap when junior PJ Henry shook off his January injury and got back in the mix. He scored double figures in each of the last 12 games, including a 41-point game against Alcorn State. I’m on the Tigers in tonight’s First Four game.
Pick: Texas Southern -2.5
This will likely be the last home game for the Bearcats, who, as mentioned above, would play Hofstra on the road with a win because of floor maintenance at Fifth Third Arena. Cincinnati isn’t happy to be in the NIT, but has some motivation, as crosstown rival Xavier won this tournament last year and rode that wave into being a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament this year. That seems like a good enough push for Wes Miller in his pregame speech.
The bigger reason I like UC here is that Virginia Tech was not a good road team. The Hokies were 2-9 SU and were held to 68, 50 and 65 points in their other road games against top-55 teams by adjusted defensive efficiency. Cincinnati ranks 53rd in that department. Virginia Tech shot 36.5% from 3 for the season, but only 31.8% in true road games and 32.6% in road/neutral games. Haslametrics has Virginia Tech ranked 356th in the country in Away From Home rating.
Five of Cincinnati’s losses are in Quadrant I-A games, which were against Arizona, Houston three times and Memphis on the road. Virginia Tech is not on that level. In fact, Torvik has VT ranked 81st in the nation and lists this as a Quadrant III game for the Bearcats.
Both teams say they’re excited to be in the NIT. We’ll see if it holds true, but I like the intangible factors for Cincinnati and also like their chances with a good defense that ranks 71st in 2P% and 46th in 3P% against a Hokies team that struggled badly to score on the road against good defenses.
Pick: Cincinnati -5.5
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