Reynolds: Oregon-Utah and Other Situational Spots I’m Betting on Thursday
Feb 15, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oregon Ducks guard Payton Pritchard (3) dribbles the ball against the Southern Calfiornia Trojans during an NCAA basketball game at Galen Center. USC defeated Oregon 72-70. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
It seems as if no lead is safe so far in March. I was fortunately on the right side of the latest March meltdown when Notre Dame came back from 21 down for us last night. Whether good or bad, you can’t dwell in this gig. Moving on.
The analysis below contains my nine favorite spots on Thursday’s card 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 a number of first-half angles, go back to the well with a few teams from yesterday, and of course highlight the best revenge spots of the day. The eight listed games tip between noon and 11:30 p.m. ET.
(Note: I added one late-night play to the bottom of this file at 7:30 p.m. ET)
Louisville +8 (vs. Virginia)
12 p.m. ET on ESPN
Back to the well with Ville. Double revenge is in play for the Cardinals, who somehow lost the second meeting against Virginia on Senior Night. Expect a ferociously hungry and focused Louisville team today. I’m sure you’ve seen the highlights by now, but if not …
Even with a loss today, UVA would still have a stranglehold on a No. 1 seed in the tournament. Virginia certainly won’t phone it, but it might not be able to match the intensity of a motivated and angry Louisville team. The Cardinals looked great yesterday in a win against Florida State and should carry some of that momentum into today’s noon tip against a potentially rusty and flat UVA squad. Louisville will not only be more familiar with the gym, but also playing its second straight game at noon ET. I will also look 1H here.
Boston College First Half +2.5 (vs Clemson)
2 p.m. ET on ESPN
Also going back to the well with BC first half. Third game in three days with a team that doesn’t have a lot of depth is worrisome, but I think adrenaline overcomes fatigue for at least the first half. The Eagles lost their only game against Clemson by four points on Jan. 3, but did overcome a 19-point deficit to actually tie the game with a minute to go.
On the surface, a double bye appears to provide a significant edge in a tournament setting, but I actually think it could be a detriment to the Tigers here. BC is in game mode, used to the arena and has built major momentum, while Clemson may have to potentially shake off some early rust.
North Dakota First Half +6 (vs Montana)
3 p.m. ET
UND was dead and buried in its first round Big Sky game vs. Montana State. It trailed by 19 points (no lead is safe!) with 10:36 left in the second half, and its only lead of the game came with 00:00 showing on the scoreboard.
It might seem like a good spot to go against a team that got unbelievably lucky to move on to the quarterfinals. But I’m going to ride the Fighting Hawks in the first half. They should come out playing freely, with nothing to lose after their recent great escape. The double-revenge angle is in play here, as well.
Montana will have all of the pressure on its end, as the Grizzlies are not only expected to win this game, but the entire tourney.
Colorado First Half +5 (vs Arizona)
3 p.m. ET on PACN
These two split the regular season series, but I like that Colorado has a game in hand here. The Buffs might also come out a little extra fired up due to a skirmish late in the game vs. Arizona State. (Tra Holder took exception to a lob dunk in the final seconds and shoved a Colorado player.) Arizona always has the crowd edge in Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament, but I could see the Wildcats starting a little slow, especially with the noon local tip-off.
UMKC +12.5 (vs. Grand Canyon)
3 p.m. ET on ESPN3
The ultimate hold-your-nose play. UMKC lost at abysmal Chicago State on Saturday. Yes, the same Chicago State that only won two games this season against NAIA schools Silver Lake College and East West University. Moreover, before the win over UMKC, Chicago State had lost 40 (!!!) straight games against Division I-A programs dating back to January 2017. Who on Earth would want to bet the UMKC Kangaroos? Ahem. UMKC was swept by GCU this season so the revenge angle is there. Plus, I think GCU might not take the Roos too seriously here, which could allow UMKC to hang around.
Northern Colorado -2.5 (vs. Weber State)
5:35 p.m. ET
Double revenge spot for NoCo, as it lost (and didn’t cover) both meetings vs. Weber State this year. The Bears blew second-half leads in both games, including one that they lost in overtime. There is a reason the No. 5 seed is favored against the No. 4 seed that swept them. Northern Colorado is simply a better team. Having the game in hand already in the Big Sky Tournament could very well pay dividends here.
San Diego State -3.5 (vs. Fresno State)
5:30 p.m. ET on CBSSN
The Aztecs certainly weren’t feeling the love going into Valentine’s Day with a disappointing 13-10 record (5-7 in conference). Then, they beat Wyoming to start a six-game winning streak, which included wins over Boise State and Nevada to close out the regular season. SDSU is playing its best basketball of the season and will now get a double-revenge opportunity against Fresno State to open the Mountain West Tournament. Keep riding the hot hand of SDSU.
Butler -1 (vs. Seton Hall)
9:30 p.m. ET on FS1
Hard to believe that Butler, with wins over Villanova and Ohio State, would be close to the bubble, yet here the Bulldogs are. They get a third crack at a much-needed win in the greater New York area after ending the regular season with losses at St. John’s and at Seton Hall. Butler was swept by the Hall this season so double revenge is in play.
Ultimately, you have two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions, with Seton Hall winning four of its past five and Butler losing five of its past seven. Yet Butler, which was swept by the Pirates, is favored on a neutral court in this game? Hmmm.
Oregon -2 (vs. Utah)
11:30 p.m. ET on FS1
Oregon looked vulnerable late last night against Washington State and was very fortunate to escape in overtime. Usually when a team gets a scare against inferior team, it comes out super focused next time out. Quack Quack.
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.
Top photo: Oregon guard Payton Pritchard; credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports