College Basketball Betting: Saturday Odds and Analysis
by Robert Ferringo - 1/24/2014
Saturday is money day in college basketball. The games start at 11 a.m. on the East Coast and run well past midnight. In between is the overwhelming action of a thousand whistles, winners and those “what-the-hell-happened” moments that make college hoops such a spectacle each winter.
What makes college basketball such a profitable playground for intrepid gamblers is the sheer volume of teams and numbers to play with and against. However, most people don’t have the time to dig deep into the comings and goings in the Sun Belt, Horizon, or Big Sky conferences. So bettors stick to the land that they’re used to. They bet on the major conference teams and the high-profile games, like this Saturday’s key Michigan-Michigan State tilt.
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But by doing that bettors are limiting their options and failing to exploit a major weakness that the sportsbooks have when it comes to college basketball betting.
Besides the purely sporting benefits to diving beneath the surface of college basketball, there are interesting storylines and outstanding matchups that routinely go unnoticed by the average college hoops fan.
Below is a rundown of some of the important games that won’t garner much national attention this Saturday. These games are all interesting because of their impact on regional conference races as well as their rippling effect into the national race for at-large berths into the NCAA Tournament this March.
The spreads posted are my own projections, but you can get updated college basketball odds here:
VCU (-1.5) at LaSalle (Noon)
The Atlantic 10 is ridiculous this year. Parity isn’t even the word. St. Louis leads the league with a 5-0 conference record. But there are six teams right behind them at 3-1. This is a matchup between two of them and, frankly, between the two teams most likely to contend with the Billikens.
VCU has been flirting with the Top 25 all season long, and LaSalle has the core of last year’s Sweet 16 team back. The Explorers won at VCU last year, and they have been excellent at home this season (7-1). VCU is trying to complete a tricky two-game road sweep of Dayton and LaSalle after taking down the Flyers 80-66 on Thursday. The Explorers, on the other hand, are coming off a 15-point bludgeoning at the hands of St. Bonaventure.
Can VCU pick up a crucial road win? Will LaSalle bounce back? Should be an intense game to start the day.
Mississippi State (+9.5) at Mississippi (4 p.m.)
I am not exaggerating when I say that Atlanta sports talk radio spent more time this week talking about SEC football assistant coaches and the Senior Bowl this week than they did discussing SEC basketball. And they did so by ratio of about 40-to-1. Hell, there was more baseball talk this week than there was SEC basketball discussion.
So yeah, if this game is being ignored regionally, it isn’t even on the radar nationally. But it should be because this is a key conference game with a lot of storylines. It is a rivalry game, it is a revenge game (Mississippi State beat Ole Miss two weeks ago), and Marshall Henderson is prominently involved. What more do you need?
But, honestly, this is a swing game for these two squads. Ole Miss is surging and is tied for second in the SEC, just one game off Florida’s pace. Mississippi State is one of the biggest surprises in America and is currently ahead of more heralded teams like Arkansas and Missouri. Coach Rick Ray has done a fantastic job. This one will feature end-to-end action and may be one of the most entertaining games of the day.
Western Kentucky (+6.5) at Lafayette (4 p.m.)
This is one of two really big games in the Sun Belt on Saturday, with Arkansas-Little Rock at Arkansas State the other. I am going to focus on WKU at Lafayette because it should be a more entertaining game and because I think these are two better teams than UA-LR and ASU.
Lafayette will have to pick itself up after a bloody battle with Georgia State on Thursday. That was an intense back-and-forth tilt, and it will be interesting to see what the Ragin' Cajuns have left in the tank. Western Kentucky blasted middling Louisiana-Monroe and is going for a Sugar State sweep.
That loss to GSU was Lafayette’s first home defeat of the season, while WKU has won three straight on the road. Western Kentucky, which has earned back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths, is 9-4 against the spread in its last 13 conference games and pulled an easy series sweep last season. The road team has won three of four in this matchup.
This is also a matchup between two of the best mid-major point guards in the nation in Western Kentucky’s T.J. Price and Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton. That alone is worth a watch.
North Dakota State (-2.5) at South Dakota State (5 p.m.)
It’s a Summit throw-down in the Dakotas. And there is no hate like Dakota hate.
A lot of people don’t realize it, but the Summit League is actually one of the better mid-major conferences in the country. It is currently No. 14 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, ahead of standbys like Conference USA, the Colonial and the WAC. And these are two of the Summit’s best.
The host Jackrabbits have owned this series recently, winning four of the last five straight up and posting a 5-0 ATS mark. That stretch includes a 73-67 win in the Summit League Championship Game last March. Also, the home underdog may be enticing because the team with the points has gone 7-2 ATS in the last nine meetings. SDSU is also 7-3 ATS in its last 10 home games.
Eastern Kentucky (+6) at Belmont (8 p.m.)
These are the two top teams in the Ohio Valley Conference’s East Division. Which, this year, means they are the two best teams in the league. This game is a rematch of a meeting just nine days ago, with Eastern Kentucky winning comfortably (74-63) in its home gym.
Now it’s Belmont’s turn. And the Bruins have been having a great month, winning seven of eight games and vaulting to the top of the league standings. The Bruins have a streak of three straight NCAA Tournament appearances and are one of the top mid-major programs in the country. Eastern Kentucky is the ninth most experienced team in the nation, and it is a now-or-never year for this veteran bunch. A sweep over the OVC’s top dog would send a major statement to the rest of the league and give the Colonels a huge wave of confidence heading into February.
Hawaii (+6) at UC-Irvine (10 p.m.)
The Big West Conference is still very much up for grabs. The assumption has been that either UC-Santa Barbara or Long Beach State will eventually vault to the top of the standings. However, a trio of other teams is also grappling for the crown of this top-heavy league. Irvine and Hawaii are two of them (Cal Poly is the third).
UC-Irvine has won six straight and eight of 10, with their only losses coming at Oregon and at Arizona State. Hawaii has lost only three times since Thanksgiving, with wins over St. Mary’s and Oregon State and a tight loss to Boise State on the resume. The home team has dominated this brief series (4-1 straight up), and Hawaii’s struggles on The Mainland are well known (2-7 ATS slide).
This game pits strength against strength for these clubs. Hawaii has a pair of studs in the post, Christian Standhardinger and Isaac Fotu, while Irvine boasts one of the largest rosters in the country, with 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye leading frontcourt with four guys standing 6-foot-8 or taller. That’s a lot of limbs flying around near the basket.
Again, it should be a battle, and this game’s outcome will have an impact on the Big West race over the next few weeks.
Here are some other games to keep an eye on for their various implications on conference races as well as the national race for NCAA Tournament at-large bids:
Colorado at Arizona State (7 p.m.)
Valparaiso at Cleveland State (2 p.m.)
Notre Dame at Wake Forest (3 p.m.)
Texas at Baylor (1:30 p.m.)
Wisconsin at Purdue (5 p.m.)
Kansas State at Iowa State (1:45 p.m.)
Villanova at Marquette (2 p.m.)
BYU at Gonzaga (10 p.m.)
Robert Ferringo is a lead writer for Doc’s Sport and one of the top college handicappers in the country. Robert has posted 8 of 10 winning college hoops days, 7 of 10 winning college hoops weeks and 15 of 18 winning college hoops months. He has banked nearly $7,000 in profit with his side plays this year and nearly $14,000 in profit since Nov. 11, 2012. Take advantage of our free, no-strings-attached $60 credit to use toward a purchase of Robert’s college basketball selections. CLICK HERE for $60 absolutely free!
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