Under the Radar Betting Angles for Tonight’s Big Sky and MEAC Matchups
© James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
No tickets to the dance will be punched tonight, but there are some intriguing angles worth exploring in the following Big Sky and MEAC conference tournament matchups:
- Portland State vs Eastern Washington -3.5 (11:05 p.m. ET on BigSkyTV)
- Weber State vs Northern Colorado -2.5 (5:30 p.m. ET on BigSkyTV)
- Savannah State vs NC Central -1 (6 p.m. ET on ESPN3)
- North Carolina A&T vs Norfolk State -2 (8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3)
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Portland State vs Eastern Washington (-3.5)
11:05 p.m ET on BigSkyTV
Portland State excelled on Saturdays in the Big Sky regular season, when it could use its relentless full court press against teams with tired legs from the Thursday turnaround. However, it was mediocre at best on Thursdays (3-5) against teams that could better deal with its relentless press. While EWU didn’t know if it would play PSU or Sacramento State until last night, the logic still applies. EWU will have fresh legs to deal with the press against a Vikings team playing on back-to-back days.
PSU’s three Thursday wins came against Idaho State, Montana State, and Southern Utah (in OT). Not exactly a murderer’s row of Big Sky foes. In those eight Thursday league games, PSU allowed 1.12 points per possession (ppp). In contrast, PSU had a 6-4 record on Saturdays, while only allowing 1.06 ppp. PSU and EWU split the regular season series. EWU won on a Thursday and got ran out of the gym on a Saturday.
I’ll take the hot and rested Eagles to handle the PSU press tonight. I expect another huge day out of EWU’s incomparable senior guard Bogdan Bliznyuk (20.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 4.1 apg).
THE PICK: EWU -3.5
Weber State vs Northern Colorado (-2.5)
5:30 p.m ET on BigSkyTV
UNC blew a pair of double digit leads in a season sweep at the hands of Weber State. The Bears improbably lost in Ogden a month ago after holding a five point lead with 30 seconds remaining.
Both offenses have plus matchups, as neither defense can defend dribble penetration. UNC has a pair of dribble drive creators in guards Andre Spight and Jordan Davis, while Weber features outstanding guard Jerrick Harding. It should come as no surprise that UNC head coach Jeff Linder structures his offense and defense exactly like Weber State’s, as he served as an assistant for head coach Randy Rahe at Weber for two seasons.
Weber State has been a sieve on the defensive end since that Feb. 10 win over UNC. During that stretch, the Wildcats have allowed 1.10 ppp. The source of their issues has been in pick and roll defense, specifically at the point of attack. That’s extremely problematic against the Bears, who run pick and roll at the seventh highest rate in the country, per Synergy.
The Bears meanwhile had some issues in post defense against UNC big man Zach Braxton, who shot a combined 17-27 from the field in the two previous meetings. Look for UNC to attack the rim early and often to try to get Braxton in early foul trouble, which has plagued the big man in the past.
Ultimately, the Bears are a hot team playing with energy after a postseason ban last year. This tournament is the reason why a senior like Anthony Johnson took a redshirt last year. UNC is playing on back-to-back days, but Linder had the luxury of emptying his bench early against hapless Northern Arizona. Legs shouldn’t be an issue.
THE PICK: Northern Colorado -2.5, Over 149.5
Savannah State vs NC Central (-1)
6 p.m ET on ESPN3
When preparing for Savannah State, you have to figure out how to make the country’s fastest team in terms of tempo play in the halfcourt. You also have to figure out how to chase them off the three point line. In the only regular season meeting between these two teams, the Eagles did the former, but not the latter.
NCCU limited Savannah State to 74 possessions, the second slowest MEAC game of the season for the Tigers. However, SSU still shot 12-39 from deep, while the Eagles only hit six of 30. That three point disparity was the difference in the game. NCC had no issues with SSU’s relentless full court pressure, turning it over just 11 times (only 15% of its possessions). That’s a phenomenal rate against head coach Horace Broadnax’s zone press.
The crux of the game lies in NCC’s ability to pound the ball inside to bigs Raasean Davis and Zac Douglas, as SSU owns the worst 2PT% defense in the entire country. While the Eagles turned the first meeting into a mostly halfcourt game, they couldn’t get behind SSU’s zone defense enough. They simply can’t settle for 30 three point attempts again.
NCCU was also oddly ineffective on the offensive glass. I don’t think we see those struggles again against an SSU team that ranks as one of the nation’s worst defensive rebounding teams. Ultimately, I think we see a more aggressive NCCU team on both ends of the floor. Its stellar transition defense should flip the script in the rematch, ending SSU’s surprisingly successful season.
THE PICK: NCCU -1
North Carolina A&T vs Norfolk State (-2)
8:30 p.m ET ESPN3
Similar to Savannah State, head coach Jay Joyner’s NC A&T Aggies have been one of the biggest surprises in the MEAC (and in the entire country). NC A&T won only one game against D1 competition last year, but a new motion offense and an effective 1-3-1 zone defense helped Joyner’s squad finish with the MEAC’s No. 4 seed this year.
The first and only meeting between Norfolk State and the Aggies went down to the wire, with NC A&T senior guard Devonte Boykins hitting a late game winning three That game actually marked the debut of Joyner’s 1-3-1 zone, which effectively stymied the Spartans. Norfolk State also plays a zone defense, known by head coach Robert Jones as “floppy defense” (essentially just an amoeba zone).
So which team has the better zone offense? Norfolk State, which finished as the best three point shooting team in the league. The Aggies meanwhile have struggled from distance, shooting below 30% on the season.
That first meeting was also played under bizarre circumstances, as the game was cancelled twice because of snow in Greensboro. The Spartans were also still finding their identity in the wake of a series of injuries to key players. Steve Whitley was particularly struggling as the defacto point guard. In the game prior, the Spartans actually had an embarrassing loss to D2 Elizabeth City University, which was an impromptu game scheduled because of the snow delays. Since that loss to the Aggies however, the Spartans have gone 10-3. Norfolk State will also benefit from playing in front of a hometown crowd at Scope Arena tonight.
THE PICK: Norfolk State -2
Photo credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports