Betting Friday’s Big Ten and Big South Tournament Matchups

Betting Friday’s Big Ten and Big South Tournament Matchups article feature image
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© Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Today, I’ll take a look at the following four matchups in the Big Ten and Big South conference tournaments:

  • Nebraska vs Michigan (-4.5) – 2:25 pm ET on BTN
  • Penn State vs Ohio State (-3.5) – 6:30 pm ET on BTN
  • Winthrop vs Radford (+3) – 6 pm ET on ESPN3
  • Liberty at UNC Asheville (-2.5) – 8 pm ET on ESPN3

Follow me on twitter @jorcubsdan for in-game analysis, injury updates, and second half predictions.

Big Ten Quarterfinals

Nebraska vs Michigan (-4.5)

2:25 p.m. ET on BTN

I mentioned in my Big Ten preview that the Huskers are a difficult matchup for Michigan’s ball screen heavy offense. They are one of the few Big Ten teams that can effectively switch against the Wolverines for 40 minutes. With Tim Miles’ small lineup (aka the Death Lineup), both Isaiah Roby and Isaac Copeland can effectively switching onto Moe Wagner, who had his worst offensive game since his freshman year in the lone meeting between these teams this year. (Nebraska won that game in mid-January by 20 at home).Nebraska’s perimeter just simply matches up well defensively against John Beilein’s famed 2 Guard offense. Husker guard Evan Taylor, who was egregiously snubbed from the Big Ten’s All Defensive team, shut down Muhammad Ali-Abdur Rahkman, and Glynn Watson blanketed Zavier Simpson.

Just as importantly, Miles doesn’t have to play center Jordy Tshimanga since Michigan rarely runs post offense. That allows Miles to keep his best offensive unit on the floor. The Huskers exploited mismatches in ball screen switches in the first meeting, which is typically a Michigan specialty. As a result, Duncan Robinson couldn’t find much run in the first meeting, given his defensive limitations. Robinson, the key to Michigan’s OT win over Iowa yesterday, scored 0 points in just 11 minutes. Without Robinson, Michigan loses a floor spacer off the court.

This all adds up to Beilein likely going zone for perhaps the majority of the game. A zone is the only way he can keep Robinson on the floor. However, the Huskers have performed above average against zones this year. Nebraska’ offense grades out in the 65th percentile nationally, per Synergy.

THE PICK: NEBRASKA +4.5

Penn State vs Ohio State (-3.5)

6:30 p.m. ET on BTN

Mike Watkins’ status is absolutely essential if Penn State wants to beat Ohio State for a third time this season. In Big Ten play, PSU limited opponents to .98 points per possession (ppp) with Watkins on the floor. That number skyrocketed to 1.13 ppp without him, per hooplens.com. The rim protection that Watkins provides is important against any opponent, but especially against Ohio State, which owns the league’s most efficient 2PT% offense. The drop off in paint defense from Watkins to Julian Moore is steep. (Although Moore looked good defensively yesterday, albeit against Northwestern).

So why did PSU have so much success against OSU this year? The most glaring answer is its wing length and athleticism, which can limit Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate. Josh Reaves, Lamar Stevens, and even Tony Carr are all long-armed defenders that can contain penetration from Tate and KBD. When Tate gets the ball, he ALWAYS looks to break his opponent down off the dribble. Reaves completely shut him down in the second meeting, as Tate had just 6 points and 0 free throw attempts. However, the entire structure of PSU’s defense changes without Watkins. Without him, Reaves will have to dig down more on Kaleb Wesson post feeds. That will lead to the floor opening up for KDB and Tate.

In the first meeting, OSU opened up the floor working inside out, hitting 7-15 from deep en route to 1.27 ppp. The Bucks still lost that game thanks to the heroics of Tony Carr. However, it certainly provided a blueprint for Chris Holtmann. That blueprint becomes crystal clear if Watkins can’t go.

THE PICK: OHIO STATE -3.5

Big South Semifinals

Winthrop vs Radford (+3)

6 p.m. ET on ESPN3

Winthrop will try to clinch a remarkable fifth straight trip to the Big South title game, but it will first have to get by No. 2 seed Radford. These two teams split the regular season series.

In the first meeting at Radford, neither team missed from deep, as they combined to shoot 25-57 from deep. Radford ultimately exposed Winthrop’s lack of athleticism on the wings with forward Ed Polite Jr., who shot over and penetrated against Winthrop’s pack line defense with ease.

In the second meeting in Rock Hill, Winthrop struggled with Radford’s full court press, turning it over on 29% of its possessions. However, when Winthrop didn’t turn the ball over, it scored at will. Radford also didn’t light it up from deep against the pack line.

Essentially, this game comes down to three key factors:

  1. Can Radford hit jump shots over the pack line? That’s the key against Winthrop’s defense every time out. The Eagles compact defensive scheme simply doesn’t put teams on the free throw line and doesn’t allow many offensive rebounds. Radford is the league’s best offensive rebounding team, but Winthrop really limited them on the glass in the second meeting. First shot offense is incredibly key against Winthrop.
  2. Can Radford guard Xavier Cooks away from the rim? Radford owns the league’s best 2PT% defense. Scoring at the rim is tough against the Highlanders, but Cooks’ mobility makes him arguably the biggest matchup nightmare in the history of the Big South.
  3. Can Winthrop’s press offense hold up on short rest? Winthrop doesn’t have a true PG this year. Turnovers have plagued guard Adam Pickett all year, and the Broman brothers are shaky ball-handlers. Consequently, Winthrop had the league’s second highest offensive turnover rate in Big South play this year.

THE PICK: RADFORD +3

Liberty at UNC Asheville (-2.5)

8 p.m. ET on ESPN3

Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay made a significant tweak to his defense over the past two games. He still uses his Virginia inspired pack line defense as Liberty’s base, but the Flames have been morphing into a 3-2 matchup zone. That scheme was highly effective against a Campbell team that had shredded the Flames from deep in two regular season meetings. It will also be tough for UNC Asheville to prepare for on no rest.

Liberty also returned its best perimeter defender in Lovell Cabbil last night. He was incredibly effective against Campbell uber-scoring guard Chris Clemons. Cabbil will be called on for a repeat performance against UNCA’s outstanding shooter MaCio Teague.

Top seed UNCA has its own tricky defensive scheme. Its trapping 1-3-1 halfcourt zone highlights Nick McDevitt’s 4 out lineup. Offensively, UNCA might come out a little perplexed by the Liberty scheme change, but with Teague and dead-eye shooter Raekwon Miller, it should eventually figure out the zone. The Bulldogs led the Big South in three point shooting percentage. Add in the fact that they practice against a zone everyday, and it’s not surprising that UNCA grades out in the 87th percentile nationally in zone offense.

This one will likely come down to who can hit more jump shots. I’ll take the Bulldogs’ effective zone offense at home. They are also trying to avenge their only home loss of the season, as Liberty won in OT at Kimmel just two weeks ago.

THE PICK: UNCA -2.5, Under 137.5