Friday, January 23, 2015

Saturday College Hoops Viewing/Betting Guide, Part I

Last Saturday did not go well. I can't stress that enough. I only wrote like 4 lines for each game, and I really didn't do enough research. Or maybe some days are just destined to be horrible and that's just how the cookie crumbles.

The ESPN slate shows 137 total Divison 1 basketball games are on the table for tomorrow. That includes 3 in the ACC, 3 in the American, 5 in the Big XII, 2 in the Big East, 5 in the Big Ten, 5 in the Pac-12, and 7 in the SEC (which, as of last night's Arkansas-Alabama game, is my new favorite conference to watch).

I don't think it would be healthy to bet on all 30 of those big-conference games (that's definitely approaching problem territory). But I do think we can all agree that it'd be cool to have a nice 12-noon-to-2-am agenda of basketball games.

Like last week, the lines are not up as I'm first going through these games. I'll give you some early thoughts and hopefully there will be some lines we like tomorrow morning.

In chronological order, here is part one (afternoon games):

#1 Kentucky @ South Carolina, 12pm, ESPN

The Wildcats have really only played 3 road games this year. They won 58-50 at Louisville, which is clearly a much better team than SC. Kentucky won 70-64 in 2 overtimes at Texas A&M, which was a very flukey game. UK shot just 28.1% from the field (including just 25% on two-point shots) and the turnover battle was an even 12 to 12. Generally, the Cats are shooting a lot better than that and cramming the passing lanes enough to generate turnovers.

As for the Cocks, they have only played 8 games against top-100 RPI teams. They beat Iowa State (15), blew out Oklahoma State (27), squeaked by Alabama (53), and blew out Clemson (96). They also lost by 4 points three times in games against Baylor (20), Tennessee (44), and Florida (79), and got crushed by Ole Miss (65).

The SEC can be really tough to bet on for two reasons (1) every team is going to throw everything they have at Kentucky to try to take shots at the king (2) it seems like every non-UK team is capable of winning/losing every game against each other.

The non-elite teams that have been able to keep it close against Kentucky (Columbia, A&M, and Vanderbilt) have done so by keeping it close in three areas: shooting percentage, rebounds, and turnovers. For what it's worth, Columbia doesn't totally fit that mold because the stats make it seem like they should have gotten killed. Somehow, UK only beat 'em by 10 because the Cats shot 2-17 from three. That's what I'd consider flukey.

So for A&M and Vandy, the key was keeping their shooting percentage close to Kentucky's, keeping the offensive and total rebounds close to Kentucky's, and keeping the turnover battle close. If the Cocks can't do those three things, they will lose by 20. If they can, they might only lose by 8 or 10 (Jesus, this team is good).

So the question is, "Can the Cocks get the job done?" They are 121st in the country with a 44.0% field goal percentage, and 8th in the country with a 36.9% opponents' field goal percentage. That looks promising, and not too surprising for a Frank Martin team. But in their last 6 games (5 SEC games and their win over Iowa State), they have averaged 41.3% shooting and 42.7% against. That's inconclusive.

Moving on, let's look at rebounding. For the season, the Cocks are 35th in offensive rebounding rate (Kentucky is 192nd in defensive rebounding) and 70th in defensive rebounding rate (Kentucky is 1st in offensive rebounding rate). They have a very narrow advantage on the boards in their last six games, averaging 11.0 to 9.5 offensive rebounds and 33.0 to 31.8 total rebounds. Kentucky, in their five conference games, have averaged 39.2 rebounds for and 32.4 rebounds against - although a lot of that is their domination of Mizzou on the boards.

I can't really tell if the rebound totals are going to be close enough to SC to have a chance, so let's look at the third component: turnovers. Kentucky normally wins that battle, but it's going to be crucial for SC to keep it within 2-3 (or maybe even win) if they have a chance to keep it close. UK is 17th in the nation in assist/turnover ratio (1.398) and 50th in turnovers per possession (16.9%). SC is 127th in assist/turnover ratio (1.022) and - gulp - 235th in turnovers per possession (19.9%).

Obviously, this depends on where the spread opens, but I'd take Kentucky to win by double digits. If it gets above 12 or 13, I would be hesitant because they're on the road.

(Kentucky -13 is going right into the tease bag)

#11 Kansas @ #17 Texas, 2pm, CBS

I hate that Kansas is ranked this low, but it's probably pretty accurate. They lost on the road to Temple and Iowa State. They beat Baylor and Georgetown on the road, and beat Tennessee, Michigan State, Florida, Utah, UNLV, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma at home.

Texas, in the other corner, lost to Stanford, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State before their two most recent wins - a big win at home over West Virginia and a big win on the road at TCU.

I expect Texas to be favored in this game. I also expect them to win because they have four big men that average at least 5 points and 5 rebounds, whereas Kansas relies on Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander down low (forward Jamari Traylor has 8 points and 4 rebounds total in his last 3 games).

You would therefore expect Kansas to have an advantage in the backcourt, but both teams have 4 guards averaging 4.5 points or more. However, Kansas guards Frank Mason and Kelly Oubre are probably going to be the two best guards on the court.

I think this is going to be a great game because both teams have deep rosters with a lot of talent. We'll have to see where the line opens.

(Line is Texas -3, hate it)

TCU @ #18 West Virginia, 2pm, ESPNU

Both teams are coming off embarrassing losses to Texas (TCU by 18 at home, WVU by 27 at Texas). I think the Mountaineers are going to win this game BIG. They've had all week to stew over the loss, and TCU just isn't good enough to handle that on the road.

(WVU -9 is great tease bag material)

Florida State @ North Carolina, 2pm, ESPN

UNC is going to be a huge favorite, that's for sure. And they may very well cover - FSU has lost some big games this year:

  • Providence won 80-54 (neutral court)
  • Notre Dame won 83-63 (@ Notre Dame)
  • Syracuse won 70-57 (@ Syracuse)
  • Pitt won 73-64 (@ Pitt)
  • NC State won 72-63 (@ FSU)
And here is how the Tar Heels have done against "teams that are as shitty as Florida State (RPI 135)":

  • Beat Ohio State (RPI 54) 82-74 on a neutral court
  • Beat UCLA (RPI 73) 78-56 on a neutral court
  • Beat Florida (RPI 79) 75-64 on a neutral court
  • Beat NC Central (RPI 83) 76-60 at home
  • Beat Clemson (RPI 96) 74-50 at Clemson
  • Beat William & Mary (RPI 119) 86-64 at home
  • Beat Wake Forest (RPI 138) 87-71 at Wake Forest
This is going to be ugly. I'd love to be able to take the Heels by less than ten. We will see where it opens, but I'm in for anything up to about 12 points. 

(UNC -15.5 is too many points)

UCLA @ Oregon, 4pm, CBS

Some bullets for you:
  • UCLA scores 72.4 points per game (75th-most in the country)
  • Oregon scores 77.6 points per game (22nd-most)
  • UCLA allows 69.5 points per game (91st-most in the country)
  • Oregon allows 70.7 points per game (67th-most)
  • UCLA is 11th in the country with 61.1 field goal attempts per game
  • Oregon is 7th in the country with 62.0 field goal attempts per game
I'll take the over, thank you very much. I honestly don't know how high it would have to be for me to not take it. 158? 160? Even higher? 

Michigan State @ Nebraska, 4pm, ESPN

It's a team that plays good defense against a team that plays good offense (and can also play some defense). I have no clue who Vegas thinks is going to win, but I think we could be in for a classic Big Ten game where the total stays under 100 and everyone watching the game is miserably bored. I'm leaning toward teasing MSU and the under, but we will see. 

(MSU -3 is up now, we will have to see about the o/u)

Part two (night games) coming later. 

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