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UMass Lowell vs. Hartford Odds & Pick: How to Bet the America East Conference Championship (March 13)

UMass Lowell vs. Hartford Odds & Pick: How to Bet the America East Conference Championship (March 13) article feature image

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: The America East Conference logo.

  • The America East Championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament is on the line when UMass Lowell and Hartford meet for the third time this season.
  • Both teams were longshots to win the conference tournament and excel on different ends of the floor than the other.
  • Tanner McGrath explains why he likes UMass Lowell's offense to shine below.

America East Conference Championship

 UMass Lowell vs. Hartford Odds

UMass Lowell Odds+2.5
Hartford Odds-2.5
Moneyline+130 / -154
Time | TVSaturday, 11 a.m. ET | ESPN2
Odds as of Friday evening and via FanDuel.

It was absolute anarchy in the America East last Saturday.

No. 1 seeded UMBC fell to No. 6 UMass Lowell, while No. 2 Vermont fell to No. 4 Hartford. Heading into the semifinal games, UMass Lowell was +1800 to win this tournament while Hartford was +1400.

Now, one of those two longshots will win the conference tournament championship and earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

If you read my America East Conference Tournament Betting Preview, then you would know I have an 18/1 ticket on UMass Lowell. While that provides a great hedging opportunity, I will remain unbiased and completely focused on capping this individual matchup.

Let’s dig into this Hawks vs. River Hawks Championship game.

The Vermont Catamounts paced the America East in both offensive and defensive efficiency this season, per KenPom. Its why the Catamounts were heavily favored to win this tournament.

Interestingly enough, if you exclude Vermont, UMass Lowell would have led the conference in offensive efficiency while Hartford would have led the conference in defensive efficiency.

It’s going to be the River Hawks' offensive firepower running right into Hartford’s stifling defense. And while UMass Lowell will try to run-and-gun a little more (second in conference in adjusted tempo), Hartford will attempt to grind it out (first in the conference in points per game against at 61.9) on its way to an NCAA Tournament berth.

Whichever team forces the other into its style of play will win this game. UMass Lowell’s defense is too poor to win a defensive battle, and Hartford’s offense is too anemic to win a shootout.

Let’s dig deeper into the two teams' contrasting styles of play.

UMass Lowell | (11-11, 7-8 America East)

The River Hawks are a fast-paced team that loves to drive the ball and draw fouls. UMass Lowell finished first in the conference in free-throw rate (36.6%) and free-throw attempts per game (19.7).

UMass Lowell doesn't shoot a lot from the perimeter, but it's very efficient from deep. The River Hawks led the conference in 3-point percentage this season (36.3%).

Pat Duquette's offensive approach is working. UMass Lowell scored 69.3 points per game this season, good for second in the conference.

However, it was the River Hawks' defense that held them back. UMass Lowell was disastrous on the defensive end, finishing ninth in the conference in defensive efficiency and points per game against.

Either way, the most important part of the UMass Lowell team is senior guard Obadiah Noel. On the season, he’s averaging 20.6 points per game on 49.6% shooting from the field. In his three tournament games so far, he’s scoring 24.3 points per game on 54.3% shooting and 40% shooting from 3.

Noel has been huge in UMass Lowell’s tournament run, and he’ll need to continue this level of play if the River Hawks are to earn a NCAA Tournament bid.

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Hartford | (14-8, 8-6 America East)

Hartford likes to shoot a lot of 3s and play good perimeter defense.

Offensively, it was second in the conference in 3-point attempts this season (23.6), and it scores more than 35% of its points from beyond the arc. However, Hartford only shot 32.3% from 3-point range this season, good for sixth in the conference and 200th in the nation.

Defensively, Hartford led the conference in turnover percentage, steal percentage and defensive 3-point percentage. It also didn't allow easy points at the line, finishing first in the conference in fouls per game (15.4) and second in the conference in free throw attempts per game (15.1).

All-in-all, it was hard to score against Hartford. As mentioned, it led the conference in points per game against this season, but its overall mark of 63.9 points allowed per game was top-40 in the country.

Offensively was not as pretty. Hartford finished eighth in the conference in offensive efficiency and points per game scored. It shot a lot of threes but couldn't make them at a high enough rate to positively affect its advanced offensive metrics.

Betting Analysis & Pick

The Hawks and River Hawks split the two-game series between each other earlier this season.

The games went as expected. Hartford shot 43 total 3-pointers in the two games while holding UMass Lowell to just 8-for-33 from deep (24%). Hartford forced 33 UMass Lowell turnovers in the two games while Obadiah Noel scored 42 total points in the series.

But in the end, it was the charity stripe that decided the winner of both games.

UMass Lowell won the first game by going 18-for-25 from the line against Hartford’s 8-for-12. Then, Hartford won the free throw battle in the second game, going 17-for-21 from the line against UMass Lowell’s 3-for-6.

In the America East this year, UMass Lowell was first in free throw rate and last in defensive free throw rate, while Hartford was second-to-last in free throw rate but second in defensive free throw rate. Therefore, it’s predictable the free throw line would be the great equalizer in this matchup of contrasting styles.

While Hartford is excellent at avoiding foul trouble, I wouldn't expect UMass Lowell to attempt just six free throws against Hartford again.

Obadiah Noel will continue to drive the lane, as he's averaging 8.6 free throw attempts per game this season. Plus, if teammate Connor Withers plays like he did against UMBC (28 points, 9-for-13 from 3) and in UMass Lowell's win over Hartford (20 points, 8-for-8 from the free throw line), it'll be too tough for Hartford's anemic offense to keep up.

I'm banking on UMass Lowell's offensive firepower overcoming the odds and earning that March Madness berth Saturday morning. I'm playing the River Hawks as a short dog and would play them up to a pick'em.

Pick: UMass Lowell +2.5

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