Betting Breakdowns: Michigan-Penn State, Fresno State-UNLV, more

Betting Breakdowns: Michigan-Penn State, Fresno State-UNLV, more article feature image
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Jan 13, 2018; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach John Beilein reacts during the second half of a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Today I’ll take a detailed look at the following four matchups:

  • Seton Hall at Providence +1 (6:30 p.m. ET)
  • Texas Tech at Oklahoma State +4 (7 p.m. ET)
  • Michigan at Penn State -2.5 (7 p.m. ET)
  • Fresno State at UNLV -1.5 (10 p.m. ET)

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

Seton Hall @ Providence (+1)

6:30 p.m. ET

Both teams are currently on the right side of the bubble, but the loser will move dangerously close to the wrong side. Seton Hall hasn’t been able to defend in Big East play, while the Friars can’t find consistent offense. So what gives tonight?

The first meeting in Newark was actually the last time Seton Hall held a Big East opponent under 1 point per possession (ppp). That was back on Jan. 31 and PC played with a banged up Kyron Cartwright, who had the worst game of his career. He was held scoreless on nine shots with four turnovers and just two assists, posting an offensive rating of 8.

Providence head coach Ed Cooley needs Cartwright and his other two senior starters Jalen Lindsey and Rodney Bullock to step up tonight. That veteran trio is coming off a truly dreadful performance. They combined for just 11 points on 3-of-23 shooting in a loss at Butler on Saturday.

If you’re looking to get right offensively, Seton Hall is the defense you want to play. The Pirates’ guards struggle to defend dribble penetration, which Cartwright must exploit the second time around.

In the half court, you’ll see a lot of HORNS triple staggers that bring Bullock and Alpha Diallo up to the top of the key to force Angel Delgado and Ish Sanogo out of the paint. Unfortunately for the Friars, that wasn’t effective in the first meeting, as Delgado and Sanogo are two of Hall’s best defenders. They both generally recovered nicely against that action (although Diallo finished with 25 points when Cooley adjusted to roll him to the rim off the first screen). This is a game where Cartwright must take over, but he’s been maddeningly inconsistent lately.

Offensively, the Pirates look to get the ball into the paint and crash the offensive glass. Despite its collective length, PC isn’t particularly strong in rim defense, allowing a middling 61.4% at the rim, per hoop-math.com. However, it has been a solid defensive rebounding team. With Cartwright not 100% in the first meeting, Khadeen Carrington went off for 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Again, Cartwright is the key on this end of the court, as well.

Cooley is 8-1 in Big East revenge games the past two seasons, with the sole loss coming to Villanova last year. PC gets it done at the Dunk.

PICK: Providence +1

Texas Tech at Oklahoma State (+4)

7 p.m. ET on ESPNU

There’s no question that the status of Keenan Evans is of utmost importance for Texas Tech tonight. When Evans left the Baylor game with a toe injury, the Red Raiders’ motion offense was completely moribund, as Evans is one of the most valuable players in the country. Per hooplens.com, TTU scores 1.12 ppp in Big 12 play with Evans on the floor, but only a miserable .86 ppp during the rare occasions he hasn’t been on the court. Evans and Jarrett Culver completely took over down the stretch in the first meeting against Oklahoma State in Lubbock, helping the Red Raiders rally back for a win after trailing by 15 in the second half.

First year Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton preaches defense. He employs the same pressure-and-denial scheme that Brad Underwood tried to install in Stillwater last year. However, the OSU defense has been the root of the Pokes’ issues, as they’ve allowed a league-worst 1.13 ppp in Big 12 play. However, if Evans is out tonight, the Cowboys defense will be effective. Evans is the only Red Raider capable of making the reads within Beard’s motion offense.

Texas Tech still will have shot makers without Evans, but Brandone Francis and Culver can’t make the necessary passes needed for the offense to be effective. After listening to Beard’s presser, it sounds like it’s an issue of pain tolerance for Evans. There’s no structural damage to his toe, but Beard might choose to rest him with Kansas on deck.

On the court, the Pokes have the athleticism across the board to matchup physically with the Red Raiders, which was evident in Lubbock. However, Tech could still win this game simply with its defense. While Evans has massive value on the Tech offense, the defensive efficiency splits are negligible with or without him. In fact, TTU is actually .04 ppp better without him in Big 12 play.

PICK: Oklahoma St +4, under 140.5

Michigan at Penn State (-2.5)

7 p.m ET on BTN

Penn State finds itself in a must win situation at home against a hot Michigan team. This is an interesting matchup because I’m not sure how either defense will contain the each offense’s main action.

PSU is a mixed bag in terms of pick-and-roll defense, which is vital against John Beilein’s “2 Guard” offense that forces switches, while methodically waiting for a mismatch.

The Nittany Lions are excellent in terms of guarding the ball handler in pick and roll. Tony Carr, Nazeer Bostick, and particularly Josh Reaves all have athleticism and length. PSU would be firmly in the at-large field if Reaves was eligible against Northwestern, Minnesota, and Indiana — all tight losses. He is one of the most valuable players in the Big Ten.

However, Mike Watkins can’t chase Moe Wagner in pick-and-pop situations, which is when the Michigan offense is most lethal. Beilein will most assuredly exploit that matchup as often as possible.

On the other end, PSU uses their length and athleticism on the wing and at the 4 to break defenses down in one-on-one matchups. That could cause Michigan’s defense trouble. Zavier Simpson is an excellent isolation defender for Michigan, but he’s just 6 feet tall. PSU’s Carr, Bostick, Reaves, and Stevens all run between 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-8, with athleticism in spades.

Charles Matthews hasn’t been a reliable individual defender on the wing for Michigan. Additionally, the defensive struggles of Duncan Robinson and Wagner’s are well documented. Beilein might have to turn to his freshmen wing duo of Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers, both of whom possess the athleticism to at least potentially matchup with PSU.

PICK: Penn State -2.5, Over 135.5

Fresno State at UNLV (-1.5)

10 p.m. ET on ESPN3

UNLV has responded well to losses under Marvin Menzies this year, but boy was that a loss at San Diego State on Saturday. Maybe it was the early start time, but UNLV never got off the bus in a 38-point waxing. UNLV will face a similarly stiff test tonight against Fresno, as Bulldog head coach Rodney Terry modeled his program after Steve Fisher’s rebuild at SDSU.

The Bulldogs are physical and athletic like the Aztecs of old, but that style doesn’t translate as well on the road.  In the first meeting, UNLV big Shak Juiston got in early foul trouble, which prevented Menzies from running his dual big lineup with Juiston at the 4 and potential lottery pick Brandon McCoy at the 5.

With Juiston presumably staying out of foul trouble at Thomas and Mack, Terry has some choices to make. Does he stay with an offensive lineup of Terrell Carter and Bryson Williams? Or does he sub in more defense with undersized but effective post defender Sam Bittner? Williams and Carter shot a combined 18-of-26 for 38 points in the first meeting. Fresno routinely pounded the post against McCoy, as Menzies always leaves his bigs on an island defensively. Since then, McCoy has had a defensive awakening, but his post defense still remains unpolished.

UNLV has won this year when it has overwhelmed teams with its speed and athleticism. It has struggled against MWC teams that can match it in that regard. It fortunately caught Nevada and San Diego State when not fully healthy. Fresno State can certainly match the Rebels in the physicality department. Bulldogs get the road win.

PICK: Fresno State +1.5

YTD: 476-434-9

2H: 57-43-1

Top photo: Michigan coach John Beilein

Photo via Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports