Afternoon Situational Bets on the Last Supersized Saturday Slate
© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
It’s really a bittersweet betting day. It’s sad in that this will be the last time this season we see a massive Saturday college hoops card. On the other hand, there are some great situational bets on what should be an epic day with 109 total games on the docket, highlighted by Carolina-Duke tonight.
I picked out my five favorite spots on the Saturday afternoon card that I like from a situational handicapping perspective (see bottom of the story for a full situational glossary). I will touch on a few revenge spots to continue with the theme from yesterday and also cover some “Fat & Happy” angles. The five listed games tip between noon and 2:30 p.m. ET.
Texas +5 (vs. West Virginia)
12 p.m. ET on ESPN
We find the Mountaineers in a “Fat & Happy” spot (won and covered three straight). Texas looks like it will not have the services of Mo Bamba again for the regular season finale in Austin. The Mountaineers drilled Texas by 35 (86-51) with Mo Bamba playing on Jan. 20. If you recall, WVU blew a sizable lead in the second half to Kansas in the game prior. Also, Texas had just pulled off its biggest win of the season vs. Texas Tech. The result was not surprising.
Texas is desperate to get another win to improve its at-large chances, as the Horns currently sit right on the bubble. UT showed me a lot by staying inside of the number at Kansas the other night without Bama. Shaka’s team simply doesn’t quit. I think they come out inspired today at home looking to avenge that embarrassing loss in Morgantown against a potentially flat, fat, and happy West Virginia squad.
Florida -4 (vs. Kentucky)
12 p.m. ET on CBS
Kentucky is currently playing its best basketball of the season. The Cats have averaged 88 points per game during their four-game winning streak. In the process, UK got “Fat & Happy” and “Home & Happy” by winning three of the four in Lexington.
While Kentucky does have revenge from a close home loss to Florida earlier this season, this is Senior Day in Gainesville for two seniors, including Chris Chiozza, who has had some “high highs” and “low lows” during his time in the Swamp. I generally like to fade home teams on Senior Day, but I think it will serve as a huge motivator in this specific case. Either Auburn or Tennessee will win the SEC regular season this year, but make no mistake, Kentucky is still seen as the measuring stick. I think Florida (specifically Chiozza) will be up for the challenge.
Robert Morris +8.5 (at Wagner)
2 p.m. ET on ESPN3
Regular season NEC champion Wagner must be thinking that the Northeast Conference Tournament has really opened up after No. 2 seed Mount St. Mary’s (who lost to Robert Morris) and No. 3 seed St. Francis (PA) were both upset in the quarterfinals. However, that could potentially cause some mental complacency or added nerves. Don’t forget that this Wagner team has lost in the semifinal or final at home in the Northeast Conference tournament in four of the past five years. That will surely be on its mind.
Today’s game will feature the top two defenses in the NEC. Wagner beat Bobby Mo by 13 points in both meetings (although they trailed by 10 at half in the second meeting). In these low-major conferences where the talent gap isn’t as significant, it is even more difficult to beat a team three times in the same season. I think Robert Morris will be up for the challenge and this stays tight.
Wofford +3 (vs. Mercer)
2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3
Mercer won and covered both regular season meetings, so we have a double revenge angle in play for the Bears. It was a tale of two conference seasons for these teams. Wofford (who won at North Carolina earlier in the season) started 6-1 in the conference before finishing a pedestrian 5-6 down the stretch. On the other hand, Mercer started 3-7 before a win over Wofford on Feb. 3 (73-65) triggered its current eight-game winning streak. If you believe in momentum, then Mercer is your play. If you think, as I do, that the one-and-done conference tournament format is a completely different animal, then take a closer look at Wofford.
Mercer got hot when it fell off the radar, but that is certainly no longer the case, especially for Wofford, which just lost at home last Sunday by a single point to this same Mercer club. “Recency revenge” is at play here. There’s definitely some line value on the surface, as well, considering Mercer was a -3.5 home favorite (and +2.5 on the road six days ago). I just don’t see how this line should be Mercer -3 on a neutral court. I make it closer to a PK.
Syracuse -1 (vs. Clemson)
2:30 p.m. ET on ACCN
Syracuse looked like it had steadied the ship two weeks ago with a big win at Miami, which got it back to .500 in the ACC after a 1-4 start. However, the Orange followed that win up with three consecutive losses to North Carolina, at Duke and at Boston College.
Now, Cuse probably finds itself on the wrong side of the bubble. Fortunately for the Orange, they play in the ACC and have another chance at a marquee win. And similar to the Florida game above, we have an unranked favorite, which I always like to take in the right spot. I think Cuse matches up fairly well with a Clemson team that hasn’t impressed me much on the road in conference play (3-5 with the three wins coming over Georgia Tech, Boston College, and Wake Forest by an average of 4.6 points).
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.
Photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports