Betting Oklahoma-Kansas State, Plus Five Other Evening Matchups
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Today, I’ll take a look at the following Saturday night matchups that will impact the proverbial bubble and mid-major pecking order.
- Kansas State at Oklahoma -6 (6 p.m. ET)
- Old Dominion at Western Kentucky -2.5 (7 p.m. ET)
- Harvard at Penn -4.5 (7 p.m. ET)
- Murray State at Austin Peay +5.5 (8 p.m. ET)
- St. Bonaventure at VCU +2 (8 p.m. ET)
- Idaho at Weber State -2.5 (9 p.m. ET)
Follow me on twitter @jorcubsdan for in-game analysis, injury updates, and second half predictions. I pulled all lines from Pinnacle at the time of writing.
Kansas State at Oklahoma (-6)
6 p.m. ET
Bruce Weber and his outstanding backcourt essentially provided the blueprint for defending Trae Young, and the rest of the Big 12 has followed suit. KSU limited Young to a season-low 73 offensive rating, thanks to 8-of-21 shooting and a season-high 12 turnovers. So what did KSU do defensively that was so effective? The Wildcats hard-hedged with Makol Malwien and Dean Wade on every single ball screen. That forced Young to make quick reads over length, which led to a plethora of bad decisions.
However, things have changed drastically for both offenses since that KSU win. Oklahoma is no longer running Young off ball screens every time down the floor. Lon Kruger has adjusted to Big 12’s defensive adjustments by running more of the famous “Sooner Rocket” play with Brady Manek, and the good ol’ fashioned stack HORNS. The Sooners basically run more set plays designed to keep teams from swarming Young. Unfortunately, it hasn’t really worked, as the Sooners have lost six in a row and are now in risk of missing the tourney.
Bruce Weber has also changed his offense. KSU is running far less of Weber’s well known motion offense, as Big 12 defenses were keen on how to stop it in rematches (and after seeing it year after year). Weber has adjusted by running more pick and roll with a trio of outstanding guards and a lethal roller/pick-and-popper in Wade. OU’s bigs have had trouble defending in pick and roll all year, but Kruger is finally sacrificing offense with Manek for defense with Kris Doolittle. I would expect a better defensive effort from the Sooners tonight, but at the cost of one of Young’s favorite outlets.
PICK: Under 157.5
Old Dominion at Western Kentucky (-2.5)
7 p.m ET
ODU’s offense is operating at an unprecedented level of efficiency for the Jeff Jones era. The Monarchs have always featured incredibly stout interior defense and baseline denial under Jones, but ODU is averaging 1.18 points per possession (ppp) during its current six-game winning streak.
ODU struggled in its zone offense in the first meeting at home, shooting just 4-of-14 from 3 against WKU’s 1-3-1. The Hilltoppers, meanwhile, shot lights out (10-of-16). ODU simply couldn’t guard Justin Johnson’s floor-stretching ability.
However, a few things have changed since that seven-point WKU road win. ODU guard BJ Stith has turned into a more consistent perimeter shooter, while Jones has shockingly mixed in an aggressive 1-3-1 zone himself. WKU has struggled all year against zones, as it relies on a penetrate-and-kick offense from Lamonte Bearden and Darius Thompson. That offense does lead the league in efficiency, but they just don’t matchup well against zone.
The Monarchs may have tired legs after a barnburner at Marshall, especially considering the brutal Huntington to Bowling Green travel. So I think we will see a lot more of that 1-3-1 from ODU, which has excelled in limiting penetration. It’s also a defense the Hilltoppers didn’t see in Norfolk.
PICK: Old Dominion +3
Harvard at Penn (-4.5)
7 p.m. ET
This could be an Ivy League championship preview, as the Palestra would even serve as the backdrop. The Crimson will play on back-to-back days on tired legs after defeating rival Princeton in OT last night. It also sounds like guard Bryce Aiken is doubtful at best for Harvard.
In the first meeting (a Harvard win), Chris Lewis didn’t pick up a single foul in 31 minutes, scoring 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting. He also provided valuable rim defense against Penn’s dual big lineup of Max Rothschild and AJ Brodeur. When Lewis can stay on the court, Harvard is the best team in the Ivy. The Crimson are 15 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court, per hooplens.com’s efficiency splits.
Penn’s offense is stellar, as it has the best passing bigs in the league surrounded by capable shooters. However, it doesn’t draw enough contact, which hurts against foul-prone Harvard. If Penn shoots only nine free throws again, it will suffer a regular season sweep at the hands of Harvard. Additionally, Penn struggled defensively to contain Harvard’s simple ball-screen defense. Crimson guard Christian Juzang has also upped his offensive game of late, which makes Aiken’s absence less of an issue.
PICK: Harvard +4.5
Murray State at Austin Peay (+5.5)
8 p.m. ET
The Racers can clinch an outright OVC title outright with a win, while APSU is locked into the No. 3 seed. That said, APSU won’t roll over in this heated rivalry, even if the Racers bring more fans to Clarksville.
The Racers completely dominated the first meeting, which was surprising given that Jalen Dupree was suspended just before tip. He’s MSU’s best rim protector, which is critical against an extremely post-heavy APSU offense. Averyl Ugba got his for the Govs at the rim in Dupree’s absence (Dupree is back, but still in the doghouse), but the phenomenal Racer backcourt of Jonathan Stark and Ja Morant completely picked apart APSU’s half court defense.
Matt Figger came to APSU out of the Frank Martin school of defense. His teams try to deny everything on the perimeter. That simply didn’t work against Stark and Morant, who drove right past the gambling Govs. Extending pressure against the Racers is a death wish. Not surprisingly, MSU scored at 1.18 ppp in a game they controlled throughout.
PICK: Murray State -5.5, Over 145
St. Bonaventure at VCU (+2)
8 p.m. ET
Every game is a must-win for the Bonnies at this point, and I think they have a great shot at the Stu tonight. VCU’s press defense isn’t effective, but head coach Mike Rhoades continues to stick with it. Pressing Jay Adams and Matt Mobley just simply won’t work.
No one has really tried to go full-out pressure against the Bonnies because they’re built to attack the rim from four different positions. In fact, per Synergy, Bona has only seen the press on 98 possessions this year.
On the defensive end, SBU head coach Mark Schmidt likes to use a pack-line-principled scheme, while mixing in some 1-3-1. VCU struggles with its zone offense, as it shoots just 32% from 3 in A10 play. Additionally, while Bona is undersized in the post, LaDarien Griffin and Amadi Ikpeze have recently played extremely solid rim defense. That is key since VCU features the league’s best rim scorer in Justin Tillman.
PICK: St. Bonaventure -2
Idaho at Weber State (-2.5)
9 p.m. ET
I’ve mentioned this before, but Idaho has been dominant offensively on the back end of the Thursday-Saturday Big Sky turnaround. It is simply very difficult to prep on short rest for the Stew Morrill motion offense that Idaho head coach Don Verlin runs. However, this little nugget comes with a few caveats. The Vandals are not only on the road, but Weber State head coach Randy Rahe runs the same offense, as he was a Stew Morrill assistant himself for 13 years. Scheme unfamiliarity simply isn’t an issue for WSU like it is for so many other Big Sky opponents.
Additionally, Idaho is potentially without Perrion Callandret, who reinjured his surgically repaired knee on Thursday. Callandret has seen a diminished role this year, but he still helps move Vic Sanders off the ball within the motion offense.
Rahe restructured his traditional dual big offense this year, finally joining the stretch 4 revolution with the addition of highly touted Brekkott Chapman. Chapman has had foul issues all year, but that likely won’t be an issue against an Idaho offense that doesn’t draw much contact by nature. Chapman could have a huge game against Idaho’s morphing pack line/zone defense.
PICK: Weber State -2.5
Photo via Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports