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It looks like a nice card to continue with our recent revenge theme from this past weekend. Below, I’ll pick out my eight favorite spots on Wednesday’s schedule that I like from a situational handicapping angle (see bottom of the story for a situational glossary of a few of my favorite angles).
Today, I will specifically touch on the back-to-back advantage, double revenge spots and even quadruple revenge in the Southland conference tournament. The eight listed games tip between 2 and 9 p.m. ET.
Boston College First Half +1.5 (vs. NC State)
2 p.m. ET on ESPN
BC plying in the early game on Tuesday (while NC State had a bye) gives the Eagles an edge early in the tournament. This also sets up as a revenge spot for BC, which lost by 16 at NC State a few weeks ago in Raleigh in the only meeting with the Pack this year. BC pounded Georgia Tech’s solid interior D (fifth in ACC in 2PT defense) in the paint on Tuesday (26-of-46 FG), while only shooting 2-of-14 from 3. I like to back good shooting teams off poor 3-point shooting performances, especially in the same building the next day. The familiarity will help.
Air Force +10.5 (vs UNLV)
2 p.m. ET
I think UNLV may have mentally packed it in after five straight losses. The Rebels started their losing streak by getting their doors blown off at San Diego State (by 38 points) and then no-showing at home in a hangover spot against Fresno State. Oh, and don’t forget about the controversial ending at New Mexico then two more uninspired performances to close the year against their ranked Silver State rival (and conference champion) Nevada and at Utah State. This team looks like it can’t wait for the season to end. I can’t see the motivation being there for an 11 a.m. local tip against a team it defeated twice this season (although both were competitive). Air Force is playing its best ball of the year and should definitely have the motivational and focus edge in a double revenge spot.
Arkansas Little Rock +3.5 (vs. Appalachian State)
3 p.m. ET on ESPN3
Another double revenge spot here for No. 12 seed Little Rock, which lost by five in OT at Appalachian State and then at home by a bucket on their senior day. Little Rock finished last in the Sun Belt, but it is coming off a shocking OT win at Louisiana Lafayette, which won the league by FOUR games. It’s been a tough season (7-24; 4-14 in the #FunBelt) for UALR, but I think that last upset win might give them the “Hey, why not us” attitude going into the conference tourney. Also, similar to Air Force, Rock is playing its best ball of the year. Peaking at the right time.
Texas A&M Corpus Christi +2.5 (vs. New Orleans)
6 p.m. ET on ESPN3
I’ve covered a few double revenge spots already, but how about a quadruple revenge spot for Corpus Christi, which lost both meetings this year by nine and six points. It also lost two OT games to New Orleans last year, including one in the Southland championship. New Orleans danced all the way to Dayton, while TAMUCC made it to the finals of the College Insider Tournament.
Corpus Christi is a much younger team this season, but you have to think that loss in the Southland final is still a fresh wound. Furthermore, TAMUCC had to win its last two conference games just to get the last spot in this tournament. We saw a similar situation last week with Eastern Illinois in the Ohio Valley. It had already been in one-and-done tournament mode and ended up winning its first conference tourney game.
Notre Dame -1.5 (vs. Virginia Tech)
7 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Close to a “win and in” situation for the Irish, who looked a bit sloppy late against a horrendous Pitt team on Tuesday. I think that subpar performance gives us some slight value today. Keep in mind, Bonzie Colson has only been back for three games. He will get more into the flow and improve his fitness the more he plays. Virginia Tech won the only regular season meeting by five in South Bend (Jan. 27: 80-75). However, neither Colson nor point guard Matt Farrell (pictured above) played that night. ND should have a significant situational edge (revenge, desperation, familiarity with sight lines) over a VT squad that essentially has sealed its NCAA bid. I think Notre Dame got caught looking ahead yesterday, as I’m sure its eyes have been focused on the Hokies all week. Head coach Mike Brey should have his troops in line tonight.
St. John’s -4.5 (vs. Georgetown)
7 p.m. ET on FS1
St. John’s looks like it will get its best player, guard Shamorie Ponds, back from injury, while the status of Georgetown’s top forward Marcus Derrickson is still very much in doubt. This is a double revenge spot for the Red Storm, after losing by three and four (2OT) in the regular season. Both of those meetings also came in January, when the Johnnies were really struggling. I’m not exactly high on Chris Mullin or Patrick Ewing (or 99% of star players who are coaches for that matter), but I at least know that Mullin is a fierce competitor who doesn’t want to go 0-3 against Ewing.
UTEP +2.5 (vs. UTSA)
7:30 p.m. ET
Double revenge for UTEP, which lost both meetings against UTSA by four points. However, the total points scored were 122 and 126, which is at a pace more to UTEP’s liking. As a general rule, I subscribe to the theory that it’s easier to slow down a fast team (UTSA No. 30 in tempo) than it is to speed up a slow team. This is potentially the last game for four UTEP seniors, who have been put through the ringer during their time in El Paso. The program has a murky future — at least in the short-term — but I think UTEP will put forth a good effort one last time. Also, UTSA recently lost its best player in freshman guard Jhivvan Jackson (18.4 ppg) for the season.
Iowa State +6 (vs. Texas)
9 p.m. ET on ESPNU
Double revenge also applies here. Texas likely solidified its NCAA bid with a huge overtime win on Saturday in Austin over West Virginia. This has been an emotional season for the Horns, as they have had to deal with a teammate’s cancer diagnosis and a recent suspension of guard Eric Davis (related to the FBI probe). They’ve also essentially played the last three games without star big man Mo Bamba. During that span, they had a big comeback to beat Oklahoma State, showed good effort at Kansas on its senior night, and won in OT over West Virginia in the home finale. Texas’ emotional tank could be on empty against an Iowa State team it swept in the regular season. I foresee Texas exhaling a little too much after that WVU win and coming out flat against an Iowa State team playing with nothing to lose. The Cyclones can get their revenge in a major letdown spot for UT.
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: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports