How to Bet Both Wednesday CIT Semifinal Games
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Nobody cares about these lower tier tournaments until you have a week break in NCAA Tournament action. Now, they are cherished each night on what are paltry betting slates. The CBI best of three championship started Monday, the NIT semis yesterday and the CIT today. Plus, we have baseball getting underway across the country tomorrow. Plenty of action to get you through the lull between the Elite Eight and Final Four.
Let’s dive right in and look at both CIT semifinal matchups.
Illinois-Chicago at Liberty -6 | O/U: 144.5
7 p.m. ET on CBSSN
Liberty will host UIC in a battle of the Flames at the Vines Center. From a scheme perspective, this is a fairly difficult matchup for UIC, which relies on pushing the ball to the rim in transition as often as possible. Per hoop-math.com, UIC attempts shots at the rim and in transition at the 48th- and 42nd-highest rates in the country, respectively. That’s a difficult dual feat to pull off against Liberty, as head coach Ritchie McKay has installed a Virginia-influenced pack line defense in his second go round in Lynchburg. (Although the Flames have mixed in a 3-2 matchup zone of late as well.) Liberty simply doesn’t allow much at the rim (27th lowest FG%) or in transition (54th lowest attempt rate). Consistent jump shooting and precise halfcourt execution is the way to beat the Liberty defense.
While those field-goal rates in transition at the rim don’t give much hope for UIC, all is not lost. While it prefers to work quickly and inside out via penetrate-and-kick action, UIC can shoot. In CIT play, UIC has shot 20-of-47 from 3, mostly thanks to guards Godwin Boahen and Tarkus Ferguson.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that UIC has played more efficiently on both ends without 6-7 forward Dikembe Dixson, who skipped the CIT to prep for his professional career. It has been a net eight points per 100 possessions better when Dixson has been off the court, per hooplens.com. UIC’s ball movement and defense have flourished without Dixson, but he would have been a valuable individual matchup against Liberty’s pack line. That duty will now fall almost squarely on Ferguson’s shoulders.
Speaking of personnel changes, the return of a healthy Lovell Cabbil has spurred Liberty’s CIT run. Cabbil has battled knee injuries all year, but the time off since the end of the Big South season has allowed him to get right. When healthy, he’s McKay’s most important player because of his court vision and perimeter defensive pressure on opposing ball handlers within the pack line. In his first game in nearly three weeks, Cabbil tallied 13 assists and just two turnovers against Central Michigan in the CIT quarterfinals. The turnover-prone Ferguson could run into issues against Cabbil’s pressure. Ferguson has dominated smaller guards in this tournament, but Cabbil poses a different kind of challenge at 6-3.
Defensively, UIC protects the rim at an elite level, thanks to 6-9 forward Tai Odiase, who owns the country’s 11th-highest block rate. As a team, UIC allowed the country’s sixth-lowest FG% at the rim. Liberty does attempt shots at the rim at a top 75 rate nationally. However, it also spreads the floor on the perimeter and has excellent inside out ball movement from high post Myo Baxter-Bell to shooters Ryan Kemrite, Caleb Homesly and Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz. UIC really stays at home on shooters, rarely over-helping with Odiase waiting at the rim to defend penetration.
In terms of pure structure, neither offense is really built to take advantage of the opposing defense. This should be a grind from start to finish.
THE PICK: Under 144.5
Sam Houston State @ Northern Colorado -10.5 | O/U: 150
9 p.m. ET on CBSSN
There are a few aspects in the second CIT semifinal matchup that don’t bode particularly well for SHSU. First, the Bearkats haven’t played a game in altitude this year. They did play at Idaho, but Greeley, Colorado is almost double the elevation (5,000 feet) above sea level.
Second, the Bearkats struggle defending both dribble penetration and at the rim. That’s troublesome against Northern Colorado, which attacks the rim relentlessly, especially off the bounce with the outstanding backcourt duo of Andre Spight and Jordan Davis. Only seven teams in the country run more ball screens for its ball handlers than UNC. Also, only nine teams spend more time in isolation than the Bears, per Synergy. SHSU’s backcourt isn’t particularly strong defending either, especially since UNC can attack with both guards.
To compound the issue, SHSU will potentially play without its best on-ball defender in guard Marcus Harris, who missed the quarterfinal matchup with UTSA after getting hurt against Eastern Michigan. Finally, the Bearkats aren’t really built to exploit the glaring weakness in UNC’s defense in the post. SHSU mostly runs a 4 out scheme with center Chris Galbreath, who isn’t an efficient threat at the rim. As a result, head coach Jason Hooten rarely runs post offense.
While I just painted a grim picture for the Bearkats, they’re not entirely lost in the mountains of the Colorado Front Range. I mentioned UNC’s poor rim defense in the post, but the Bears are also susceptible to guard penetration. That is precisely the strength of SHSU’s offense, particularly from John Dewey. UNC allowed the lowest 3-point attempt rate in the country, but the Bearkats don’t really look to score from the perimeter.
I’ve also noticed Hooten has made some nice defensive adjustments in this tournament. The Bearkats have been switching 1-5 defensively, while using less zone press than when I watched them more extensively earlier in the year. Attempting to press UNC would certainly backfire. Setting up halfcourt defense against a UNC team that likes to push the tempo is key.
Ostensibly, playing for a tournament title is why seniors such as Tanner Morgan and Anthony Johnson chose to redshirt last year. UNC was ineligible for postseason play last season, and fell just short in the Big Sky tournament in a heartbreaking OT loss to eventual champion Montana. In terms of “intangibles”, UNC will certainly have the motivational edge. That said, both offenses have exploitable matchups and I think this game could easily get into the 80s.
THE PICK: Over 150