Bryant vs Liberty Odds, Picks: Bulldogs to Keep Game Close
Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Doug Edert
Bryant vs Liberty Odds
-108o / -112u
-108o / -112u
This is arguably the best mid-major game of the season.
Bryant and Liberty are two high-powered attacks led by elite bucket-getters. Both schools are projected at the top of their respective conferences, and both have the firepower to make noise in March.
However, this is also an interesting contrast in styles. Bryant plays at one of the fastest tempos in the nation, while Liberty prefers to slow the game to a snail’s pace.
Either way, both will launch 3s and score points. Plus, both teams are working with defenses that need significant improvement.
So, which team has the edge? How should bettors attack this matchup?
The Bulldogs are the team to shake things up in the America East. The conference has become slow-paced and sluggish underneath Vermont’s reign, but Bryant’s up-tempo, run-and-gun style of play is here to change that.
Bryant boasts four elite offensive players in Sherif Gross-Bullock, Charles Pride, Antwan Walker and Earl Timberlake. Combined, the quartet is averaging 62.4 PPG and 26.4 RPG.
That makes Bryant a little top-heavy — the Bulldogs are 331st in bench minutes — but Jared Grasso has a vision and is executing it. An 8-3 record with a win over Syracuse is a solid resume.
Defensively, Grasso runs a zone scheme that isn’t very effective. Bryant is sub-250 in defensive efficiency and sub-335 in 3-point rate allowed.
Put it all together, the Bulldogs are fifth nationally in scoring (89.5 PPG) and 287th in scoring defense (73.5 PPG allowed).
Essentially, the Bulldogs are high variance. If the Bulldogs make 3s and their opponents miss, they can upset a team like Syracuse. On the flip side, when the shots aren’t falling and the opposition’s are, they can suffer a home loss to Brown.
The good news is the 3s have been falling. After finishing sub-300 in 3-point shooting last season, the Bulldogs are 125th this year, canning 34.7% of their deep shots. That will lead to wins.
Defensively, the 3s have also been falling. The Bulldogs are 288th in 3-point defense, with opponents canning 36.8% of their deep attempts.
Predictably, ShotQuality projects them for almost no positive or negative regression. This is the Bryant style of play, and we’ll be handicapping it for the rest of the season.
For what it’s worth, I like backing high-variance teams as big SU or ATS underdogs. This isn’t the worst spot for that.
Everything for Liberty starts at point guard. Darius McGhee is arguably the best scoring guard in the nation, currently dropping 21.5 PPG while leading the nation in shot percentage (39.6%) with a true shooting percentage over 61.3%.
McGhee is a human flamethrower, firing off-the-dribble and spot-up 3s and making them at an absurd clip. He’s shooting 41.4% from deep this season.
𝟮𝟬𝟬𝟬 career points … and counting for Darius McGhee! pic.twitter.com/G3l6tR1Hm2
— Liberty Men's Basketball (@LibertyMBB_) November 26, 2022
However, the Flames did return three other starters to flank McGhee, and there’s plenty of depth at the wing position. It’s the final season for Liberty in the ASUN, and the Flames are looking to take advantage with a conference title.
Ritchie McKay runs a pack-line defense that, similar to Bryant’s zone, needs improvement. The Flames have been effective on the interior and against pick-and-roll action so far (.607 PPP allowed, 85th percentile), but they’ve been shredded up by spot-up scorers (1.00 PPP allowed, 10th percentile) and off-screen action (.939 PPP, 37th percentile).
Liberty also has a lot of troublesome secondary statistics.
The Flames are bad on the offensive boards, turn the ball over plenty and allow tons of free throws. While Liberty is excellent in transition (1.397 PPP, 99th percentile), the Flames haven’t created any opportunities (10.2 transition PPG, sixth percentile).
Playing fast isn’t Liberty’s game, but the Flames often seem confused about their identity. They looked discombobulated in losses to Northwestern and Oral Roberts, putting up 38 turnovers to 26 assists in the two games.
Liberty is still the top dog in the ASUN, but I’m unconvinced McGhee’s shoulders can carry an oft-inconsistent team that far.
Bryant vs. Liberty Betting Pick
Liberty just doesn’t have zone killers. The Flames rank in the 46th percentile in PPP against zone defense (.935).
Plus, I have some issues with Liberty’s overall construction. The Flames turn the ball over a ton and generally play poor perimeter defense. And they looked really bad in losses to Oral Roberts, Northwestern and Southern Miss.
Defensively, Bryant isn’t much better. But the Bulldogs are rebounding well and are good on the ball. And Bryant is less reliant on one player than Liberty, with a more well-rounded offensive roster that includes three premiere mid-major scorers.
Grasso knows this opponent as they play so similarly. I think the Bulldogs have some advantages and will keep this one close.