College Basketball Odds for Saturday with Preview and Analysis
by Robert Ferringo - 2/20/2015
Who is mailing it in and who is making a move? That's one of the important questions to focus on over the final two weeks of the college basketball regular season. Some teams are honing in on a postseason run, whether it be their conference championships or an invitational tournament. Other teams can't wait for this long, cold, disappointing season to be over, and they show no signs of coming together to make some noise in March.
Motivation can be a hard thing to predict in basketball players. Especially 19- and 20-year-old ones. But it s a crucial handicapping aspect that bettors need to keep in mind down the stretch run of the season. Here are a few more quick things to keep in mind when breaking down these late-season matchups:
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Final Home Games - Keep an eye out for teams playing their final home game of the regular season. This is particularly true for upperclassmen-laden teams that will get a big boost on Senior Night. Teams like St. John's, Colorado State, Kent State, Sacramento State and Ole Miss are examples.
Fatigue And Injuries - Everyone knows the importance of injuries in handicapping. But this is the time of the season when everyone wants to brush off that ankle or shoulder sprain and fight through their sore Achilles. One thing to look for is a team that relies on their starters for an inordinate number of minutes. Guys logging 35 minutes per game are ready to hit the wall. St. Bonaventure, LSU, Syracuse and Butler are great examples.
Revenge And Records - Revenge is a clear motivational factor for teams. And this is the time of the season when they are getting a second crack at some teams that took them down earlier in the year. Also, some fringe teams have important internal goals like finishing above .500 in league play (for pride) or above .500 overall (for a postseason bid). Keep an eye on teams that are still playing for something personal.
With that in mind, here are some under-the-radar games taking place outside of the Top 25 that I'll be watching Saturday while wishing I was still living in the Northeast, snowy winter terrorscape be damned:
Pittsburgh at Syracuse (Noon, Saturday, Feb. 21)
A month ago the Orange were a slovenly mess of a basketball team and headed toward self-imposed sanctions for some academic issues. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that this team would mail it in on the rest of the year, and they embarked on a 1-7 ATS slide that ended with a loss at Pitt on Feb. 7. But the Orange have won two of three games and are fresh off an upset of Louisville. They have a healthy revenge motivation here, and we've entered the time of the year when teams with nothing to play for can take pleasure in being a spoiler.
Pittsburgh has dominated Syracuse dating back to their time in the Big East. Pitt is 16-5 against the spread in the last 21 meetings, and they are one of the few teams that the Orange's 2-3 zone doesn't seem to bother. Pittsburgh had an up-and-down week, shooting 65 percent in a big win over North Carolina and then shooting just 38 percent in a big loss at Virginia on Monday.
Syracuse has won three of four against the Panthers and they really outplayed Pitt for long stretches back in the first meeting on Feb. 7. But Pittsburgh's bench dominated that one while outscoring the Orange 33-3. Syracuse will need to coax some production out of its reserves if they want to even up this series.
Louisiana Tech at Old Dominion (3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 21)
Conference USA is the Island of Misfit Toys of leagues, and the bottom tier of this league is just atrocious. However, there are some talented teams at the top and both Tech and ODU have flirted with the Top 25 at points this year. Louisiana Tech is 1.5 games ahead of UTEP and two games above UAB for the regular-season crown, while ODU is lurking in the No. 5 slot.
The Monarchs rebounded from another disastrous road trip last week with a 26-point win over Southern Miss Thursday. Old Dominion is undefeated at home this year (14-0), and their average win has come by 14.8 points per game. The Monarchs are 14-5 ATS in their last 19 home games, and this team matches up very well with Tech's perimeter strength. But they are just 2-8 ATS overall in their last 10 games.
Louisiana Tech needed a late layup from Kenny Smith to send their game against Charlotte into overtime, where they were able to pull off a one-point win. The Bulldogs have been somewhat vulnerable on the road, going just 2-3 ATS in their last five road games and getting blasted at UAB back on Feb. 5.
East Tennessee State at Chattanooga (7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 21)
Here we have a little rivalry action down in the Southern Conference. Chattanooga is neck-and-neck with Wofford for the top slot in the league, and the Mocs are coming off a big win over Mercer on Thursday. East Tennessee is the No. 4 team in the league, and they are riding a modest three-game winning streak into this one.
Chattanooga is definitely hot. They've won 10 of 12 games, and their only losses were by three points apiece on the road against Mercer and Western Carolina. They will be amped up for their final home game of the season, and the favorite is 5-2 ATS in the last eight meetings here. The Mocs are a very balanced team with four guys averaging between 10.4 and 14.1 points per game.
ETSU has been one of the worst bets in the sport, going just 6-14 ATS this season. But that could likely lead to them catching more points from the books than they should be.
Georgia at Alabama (8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 21)
These are two bubble teams that desperately need this win because the loser is probably headed to the NIT.Just a few weeks ago Georgia was looking solid and was somewhat of a surprise team in the SEC. Alabama has been wildly-inconsistent all year long, and the whispers about Anthony Grant's job stability are starting to get louder.
Georgia has dumped four of its last six games, including back-to-back crippling home losses to SEC bottom-feeders South Carolina and Auburn. If they miss the NCAA Tournament, that two-game spell will be why. They're shooting just 30.2 percent from 3-point range in their last five games, and that likely won't improve against Alabama's pressure defense.
The Crimson Tide are coming off a sound rivalry win at Auburn, and they have actually been a better team on the road (3-1 ATS) than at home (1-3 ATS). Alabama has dominated Georgia, winning five of the last six meetings, and the home team has won eight of 10 when these two play. But Alabama's shaky, inconsistent offense always makes them a tough team to trust.
Hawaii at UC-Davis (10 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 21)
I know that no one pays attention to it, but the Big West is absolutely loaded this year (relative to the average Big West season). And this matchup is a contrast in styles between two quality teams, with Davis doing its damage as the best 3-point shooting team in the country and Hawaii dedicated to defense and getting to the basket.
UC-Davis has won six straight and 11 of their last 12 games. Their one loss in 2015: an eight-point defeat at Hawaii on Jan. 22. Davis is coming off an upset win over Long Beach State. Corey Hawkins came back after missing three games to score over 20 points (again) and lead the way. Davis is playing with a ton of confidence, and right now this team is on a roll. They are 7-1 ATS in their last eight home games.
Hawaii beat Pittsburgh and Colorado this year, and they took Wichita State to overtime in a one-point loss. The Warriors got wrecked by UC-Irvine on Thursday and continue their annual road struggles. They have gone just 2-4 straight up in their last six road games and 3-7 ATS in their last 10. The Warriors are a bit banged up entering this one. But they might just have Davis' number, and they could catch the home team in a letdown spot.
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