Saturday’s 12 Best College Hoops Situational Spots
Jan 30, 2018; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs forward Rayshaun Hammonds (20) blocks a shot by Florida Gators guard Jalen Hudson (3) during the first half at Stegeman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
There are a number of unique situational spots on the last massive regular-season Saturday slate. I will touch on bubble teams, conference tournament implications, and a few coaching angles, with games that start at 12, 1, 2, 4:15, 6:16 7, 8, 8:30, 9 p.m. ET.
Let’s dive in to the 12 games (and 13 bets) that I feel present the most value from a situational handicapping perspective.
I included a glossary of five of my favorite situational handicapping angles at the end of this piece. Spreads are as of 6:20 a.m. ET from 5Dimes. YTD: 10-10
Maryland PK (vs. Michigan)
12 p.m. ET on ESPN
Maryland’s NCAA tournament hopes were left for dead a couple weeks ago, but now the Terps at least have a little life. They are still probably on the wrong side of the bubble, but this is a chance to get a high-quality win to build momentum ahead of MSG next week. Michigan finds itself in a “Fat and Happy” spot and just might close as the ranked underdog. Additionally, the Wolverines are already locked into the 4-5 matchup next Friday afternoon in the B1G tournament.
DePaul +3.5 (vs. Marquette)
12 p.m. ET on MASN2
Marquette beat St. John’s on Wednesday night in its first game without star guard Markus Howard. You will frequently see teams step up in the first game without a star or quality starter, as everyone else steps up. You see this frequently in the NBA. It’s the next game that often poses the problem. There isn’t much to like about DePaul this season, but it has a good shot against the Big East’s worst defensive team laying points on the road.
Louisville +4 (at Virginia Tech)
1 p.m. ET on CBS
Can’t be afraid to go back to the well with a team that burned you in the previous game. The Cardinals looked like they packed it in during the second half at Duke. David Padgett, whose brother-in-law passed away just a few hours before Wednesday’s game, kept the Cardinals in Durham for two days before taking the bus ride to Blacksburg on Friday. The Cards find themselves in that dreaded spot of toeing the line between “Last Four In” and “Last Four Out.” I expect a good effort from Louisville off that bad performance, banding together to get one for coach.
Illinois State +12.5 (at Loyola Chicago)
2 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Potential massive letdown spot for Loyola on senior day after clinching the outright Missouri Valley title on Wednesday. Illinois State has battled injuries all season, but seems to finally have a fully healthy roster. The Redbirds were picked as preseason co-favorites (with Missouri State) to win the league, but have had a disappointing season. Playing the conference champs before “Arch Madness” should have their full attention.
SIU-Edwardsville-Eastern Illinois Under 141
4:15 p.m. ET
This is a pretty obscure game on a loaded card with many marquee matchups, but we have a unique situation on our hands. The Ohio Valley tournament (aka “Music City Madness”) only takes eight teams (out of 14 in the league). A berth in the tournament will be on the line in this matchup, essentially a pretourney elimination game. I can see both teams taking longer possessions than usual with so much on the line. Should be more hesitation and nerves as well.
Syracuse +13 (at Duke)
6:15 p.m. ET on ESPN
A definite failure last time fading Duke in a “Fat and Happy” spot Wednesday, but must maintain a short-term memory. Give credit to North Carolina for scoring 1.20 points per possession against Syracuse’s No. 2-ranked defense in the ACC (although Cuse did cover against the closing number). This is simply too many points in what should be a much lower scoring game than UNC-Cuse.
UAB +9.5 (at MTSU)
7 p.m. ET on FACEBOOK
MTSU is finally ranked after winning nine in a row and 14 of 15. The Blue Raiders are in the “Fat and Happy” spot for the first time this season. After fighting all year for respect out of a midmajor conference, they could come out flat after getting that elusive ranking, which also creates added pressure. Nevada lost in double overtime at Wyoming on Jan. 24 in this exact situation.
IPFW +2 (vs. South Dakota State)
7 p.m. ET
South Dakota State clinched the Summit League championship with a win over its Mount Rushmore State rival South Dakota on Thursday. Now the Jackrabbits have to get over the championship celebration and the emotion of senior night for four seniors to get up for a road game against a Fort Wayne club that was swept last year and lost by a bucket on the road to SDSU earlier this season.
Pepperdine -1 (vs. Portland)
8 p.m. ET on theW.tv
Okay, so why is a 4-25 team favored? And why am I betting them?
Well, this is the last game for coach Marty Wilson in Malibu, as he was already told he would not be retained. If ever there was a spot for the hard-playing but often injury-plagued Waves to get a win, it’s here. Since the announcement of the firing, Pepperdine has covered all three games (vs. BYU, at Gonzaga, and at Saint Mary’s) against the WCC’s top three teams. It now should take advantage in a “drop in class” spot against a Portland team coming off a disappointing national TV home loss vs. BYU.
BYU +5 and Under 143.5 (vs. Gonzaga)
8 p.m. ET on ESPN2
The WCC’s two best defensive teams meet at the Marriott Center in the regular-season finale. Gonzaga is in a “Fat and Happy” spot as usual in WCC play. After a 4-0-1 ATS start, the Zags have covered only two of their last 12 games. The lines have definitely caught up to Gonzaga. On the other side, this is the best defensive team that Dave Rose has ever had at BYU, but the Cougs still need that signature win for any bubble chances. The crowd should be rocking in one of the better games of the day.
Florida -2 (vs. Auburn)
8:30 p.m. ET on SECN
Back in November, Florida looked like a potential Final Four team in the PK80 event in Portland. Now the Gators finds themselves fighting for an at-large NCAA tournament bid after losing three straight. This is “circle the wagons” time for the unranked favorite Gators at home Saturday night.
UTEP -2 (vs. Southern Miss)
9 p.m. ET
This is the last home game for four UTEP seniors that have been through a lot of ups and downs, highlighted by their coach Tim Floyd retiring six games into this season. I ordinarily look to fade teams on senior night, but not in this case. This is likely the final opportunity of a very tough season for a “feel-good” moment.
Glossary of situational handicapping terms
1) Fat and Happy: I look for this angle from the second week of January through conference tourneys. It entails going against a ranked team on a winning streak of three or more games. As teams win, the lines, perception and power ratings all rise, which may offer value on the other side. In the rare occurrence of two ranked teams on these streaks, I look closely at the underdog.
2) Hangover: When a team loses a marquee game or has a long winning streak end, it can have a negative carryover effect.
3) Letdown: We see this all the time after a team follows up a huge win on national television by laying an egg in its next outing against a somewhat nondescript opponent.
4) Sandwich: When a team plays an inferior opponent in between two high-profile opponents and/or rivals.
5) Drop in Class: This situation involves a team playing an inferior opponent after a losing streak against quality teams. I call this “Drop in Class” because it’s comparable to a horse being defeated in a stakes race and then dropping in class for a tag in an allowance race.
Editor’s note: The opinion on these games is from the individual writer, and is based on his research, analysis and perspective. It is independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.
Pictured in top photo: Florida guard Jalen Hudson
Photo via Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports