College Basketball Odds and Analysis: Saturday Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 2/13/2015
Saturday is THE DAY in college basketball, and this weekend is no exception. There are 137 games scheduled for Valentine's Day, and the overwhelming majority have big fat bull's eye spreads attached to them. There are several marquee Top 25 games stealing the headlines, such as Baylor-Kansas and Duke-Syracuse. But there is plenty of value to be found for intrepid bettors looking to dip below the surface for other games of import.
Each week I try to pinpoint and give a quick primer on some games that are a bit under the national radar. These are the games that the true Hoop Heads like myself are interested in each week. And not only are they important for helping to shape the edges of the national college basketball portrait, but they are also fertile breeding ground for profitable wagering opportunities.
(I would also like to take this time to point out that the Villanova-Butler game might be the most underrated, least talked about game featuring Top 20 teams of the season. That's going to be a great game and one you need to watch. It's at 6 p.m.)
Here are the games to keep an eye on this Saturday in between faux-romantic gestures that you've blatantly ripped off from books and movies in the desperate attempt to prove to your significant other that you are a warm, attentive, not at all disgusting boyfriend or husband:
Oregon (+6) at UCLA (3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14)
This one isn't an elimination game, in terms of The Big Dance, but it is getting pretty close. Oregon has quietly positioned itself in the at-large fringe while UCLA is making a loud, late charge toward some national recognition.
The Bruins have won five of six games and will be looking to avenge an 18-point beat down in Eugene just a few weeks ago. UCLA has handled Utah and Stanford in recent outings, and they look like a team that no one will want to play over the last month of the year because their young talent is starting to come together. The Bruins absolutely have to have this game. They have the Arizona road swing on deck before finishing out with three very winnable games at home. The path to 20 wins requires a win over the Ducks.
Oregon didn't do anything in the nonconference portion of the season, and after getting swept by the Washington schools in mid-January they were an afterthought. But they've won six of their last seven - including back-to-back road wins - and they would love a season sweep of the Bruins. Oregon is young and they are small. They will want to push the pace and harass UCLA point guard Bryce Alford. Turnovers and the play of stud Oregon guard Joe Young are the keys to this game being either a nail-biter or a blowout.
Seton Hall (+7) at Providence (4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14)
The Pirates are an absolute mess right now. One guard just left the team midseason. Their two leading scorers, Sterling Gibbs and Isaiah Whitehead, apparently hate one another, and in-fighting is on the verge of sabotaging Seton Hall's season. This is a bad time for a road trip.
The Pirates started the year 12-2, had a cup of coffee in the Top 25, and are one of just two teams in the country to beat Villanova this year. They survived a period without Whitehead, and his return was going to spark their late-season push. Instead they have lost three straight and six of eight, and this team could be on sliding to the CBI.
Providence is coming off a hard-fought loss to Villanova this week, and they have lost three of four themselves. This is a tough team with two of the best players in the Big East in LaDontae Henton and Kris Dunn. But those guys need some help. And this team needs to find some wins, quickly, or they could find themselves on the March chopping block as well. Providence is 7-2 against the spread at home, but the road team has been the play in this series (13-6 ATS).
LSU (+2) at Tennessee (4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14)
The Tigers are in a savage letdown spot after their near miss against No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday. Can you think of a worse place to trudge to than Knoxville, Tennessee? Me neither. And LSU will be matched up against a team that they haven't beaten in this decade.
LSU is coming out of a three-game homestand, and they are one of the flakiest teams in the country. Their two big men, Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin, are potential pros. But their guard play is horribly erratic, and they should struggle against Tennessee's in-your-face defense and slow pace.
The Volunteers have been massive overachievers this season. But after gutting their way to an upper-division place setting this team has come undone. The Vols are just 2-4 in their last six games, including a rugged overtime win over in-state rival Vanderbilt on Wednesday. So what is going to win out in this game: Talent or Emotion?
North Dakota State (+7.5) at South Dakota State (5 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14)
I can't blame you for not being up to date on your Summit League rivalries. But I'm here to tell you that it is always good fun when the Bison and the Jackrabbits get together. These games are genuine barnburners. And this will be a hot one as they play a game that will likely determine the conference champion while the rest of the country continues its confusion over why the Dakotas are not actually one big state.
NDSU held on to win the first meeting, 72-69, back on Jan. 4 but the visitors took the cash against a 4.5-point spread. The Bison (NDSU) have actually won three straight in this series, and they enter the game having won five straight overall. They have only one guy on the roster taller than 6-foot-6, and this team likes to play fast and chuck 3-pointers.
South Dakota State isn't much bigger, but they try to play like it. They are more willing to go to the basket and will try to pound NDSU into submission. The Jackrabbits have been overachieving all season long. But they've won nine of 10, and you know they want to snap that losing streak to their rivals. The home team has won six of seven in this series, and the favorite has been the right side in recent years (5-3 ATS).
Colorado State (+6.5) at San Diego State (8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14)
This is another crucial game in a mid-major conference that will go a long way in deciding the league championship. Both CSU and SDSU have spent time in the Top 25 this year, and they are a combined 40-10 on the season. This one might not be pretty, thanks to SDSU's defensive style, but both squads are capable of playing at a high level.
Colorado State won the first meeting 79-73 in Fort Collins on Jan. 24. That has been the overriding theme of this rivalry: the home team has won eight of nine matchups. The Rams have one of the best big men in the West in J.J. Avila, and he will try to fend off a horde of long, athletic SDSU forwards in the paint. How he acquits himself - and whether CSU can hit some threes on the road (28.4 percent on the road this season) - will determine how this one plays out.
San Diego State has not lost at home this year (14-0), and the favorite is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings. The Aztecs just beat the piss out of Wyoming, the team tied with Colorado State for third place in the league, by a whopping 26 points on Wednesday. Here is a remarkable stat about their defense at home: the Aztecs have held seven straight visiting D-I opponents to fewer than 50 points. The last team to score 50 - and it was exactly 50 - was San Diego Christian back on Dec. 27.
Old Dominion (+4) at UTEP (9 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14)
Neither UTEP nor Old Dominion is in the top slots in Conference USA. But these two, along with Louisiana Tech, are the two most talented teams in the league. This is their first and only meeting this season.
Old Dominion is looking to snap a four-game road losing streak. That includes a horrible loss to Texas-San Antonio this week as they were likely looking ahead to this game. UTEP has won five straight games. It hasn't been pretty (they are just 1-4 ATS in those games and 1-6 ATS over the last three weeks), but they continue to rack up W's.
These two teams are a combined 5-15 ATS in their last 20 games overall, so something has got to give for one of these two. But, honestly, if it is 9 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14 on Valentine's Day and you are watching Old Dominion-UTEP I have to tell you that you're doing it wrong.
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