College Basketball Betting Odds & Picks: Stuckey’s 5 Favorite Spots to Target on Saturday
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Chris Lykes
While I cannot wait for March, I’m going to cherish this last full Saturday slate prior to the start of conference tournaments.
Where has the time gone?
Coming up with your final card on these Saturday’s can be a bit overwhelming, so hopefully I can help push or pull you toward or away from a particular side you had on your radar.
Below are the five spots I had circled for February 26, and some notes on numerous other games.
2 ET on CBS
Nobody in the country is hotter against the spread than the Razorbacks, who have covered nine consecutive games. All of their recent success can be traced back to a lineup change made prior to a 44-point blowout against Missouri.
Including that victory, the Hogs have won 12 of 13, with their lone loss coming by a single point on the road at Alabama.
Meanwhile, Kentucky has been no slouch either, and finds itself in the thick of the race for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Cats have flashed their depth in their last two wins against tournament teams (Alabama and LSU), as they were without guards TyTy Washington Jr. and Sahvir Wheeler.
However, those two wins came at Rupp Arena. I don’t think UK can get away with its absences on the road in a hostile environment against a scorching Arkansas team that leads the SEC in overall defensive efficiency in league play, per KenPom.
Wheeler and Washington will likely be listed as game-time decisions once again, but I’m guessing John Calipari takes a cautious approach and holds both out. There are bigger fish to fry in March, and health should be priority No. 1, especially since the Cats have won the last two outings without them.
With that assumption, I’m looking to back Arkansas overnight prior to any line movement in a home-hype spot. I could be wrong on Washington and/or Wheeler, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take on an Arkansas club that could still win in Fayetteville even against a healthy Kentucky squad.
4 ET on Stadium
The Mean Green have been on an absolute roll during their 13-game winning streak. However, this might be the perfect time to sell high on Grant McCasland’s group, which has been flirting with losses in close games in recent weeks.
We could get a bit of an inflated number here for a team that grinds games to a halt — North Texas has the slowest adjusted tempo in the country.
The Mean Green also struggle at the charity stripe, ranking outside the top-300 in the country. That could come into play here late, and ultimately swing a cover or leave the backdoor open if necessary.
Plus, the Bulldogs have major revenge in play here. As a No. 1 seed, they lost in the semifinals of last year’s C-USA Tournament to North Texas. Then, earlier this year, they dropped another one to North Texas at home by one after blowing a 17-point second-half lead.
In a game where points should come at a premium, I think Kenneth Lofton Jr. & Co. can find enough offense to keep this tight throughout.
6 ET on BTN
After two straight road losses, Rutgers comes home to the friendly confines of the RAC, where it has dominated in league play. In fact, the Scarlet Knights are 6-0 SU and ATS at home against teams ranked inside the KenPom top-30 this season.
I’m looking to buy the mini dip. I know Wisconsin has revenge from an earlier-season loss in Madison against Rutgers, but I just think it’s a bad matchup.
Rutgers can really out-tough Wisconsin at multiple positions, and most importantly, it has an excellent individual defender in Caleb McConnell to stick on Johnny Davis. In the first meeting, McConnell blanketed Davis as well as anybody has all year, holding the potential Player of the Year to just 11 points.
While I do think Wisconsin comes out motivated for this one, it could get caught peeking ahead to a massive Big Ten showdown next week against Purdue.
The Badgers have also over-performed their underlying metrics this season, so the regression monster could be looming around the corner. Per ShotQuality, the Badgers have won four more games than their projected win total to date.
Trust in home Rutgers.
6 ET on ESPNU
I know the advanced metrics love Loyola Chicago once again, but there’s just something that remains off with this team to my eyes. You do have to give the Ramblers credit for blowout wins, but demolitions of Evansville certainly impress their ratings more than they do me personally.
Northern Iowa has been on a roll of late, with the one slip-up coming on the road at Loyola. Not only do the Panthers have revenge, this will decide the regular season Valley title in front of what should be a raucous crowd.
I’m hoping to get the Panthers as a dog here, which is when I prefer to play them given their high-variance nature. UNI shoots a ton of 3s and also gives up plenty of looks from beyond the arc, so it’s a team I try to stay clear of as a favorite, but embrace as an underdog.
I think AJ Green & Co. get it done in the regular-season finale against a Loyola team that has pulled a number of escape acts in league play.
10:30 ET on FS1
This is a good sandwich spot here, as Colorado State is coming off of a massive win over Wyoming and has a home date against league-leader Boise State on deck.
I could see the Rams — who are now a virtual lock for the tournament — coming out a bit flat here.
Meanwhile, I expect Utah State to come out with energy and focus in a revenge spot in front of what should be a pretty good crowd.
This is a decent schematic matchup for the Aggies, who also saw the return of Brock Miller last game after an extended absence. He matters, and I think he could see a significant increase in minutes in his second game back.
It has been a disappointing season for Utah State, but I think this is the right time to buy back in.
Elsewhere on Saturday
- In the ACC, Virginia Tech (+1.5) could desperately use a road win at Miami (FL) to improve its shaky tournament resume. The Hokies will look to avenge a home loss earlier this season when Charlie Moore hit a half-court, game-winner at the buzzer. Speaking of revenge, NC State (+4.5) will try to make amends for an absolutely embarrassing loss at UNC in late January. The Wolfpack appear to be a walking corpse, but you’d have to think you get their best effort here against an in-state rival in their final game of the season.
- Staying in the state of North Carolina, Campbell (-1.5) has a shot at the last remaining bye in the Big South if it can take down Longwood, which ran away with the regular-season title. The Camels need a win and a loss by USC Upstate (+4 vs. Gardner Webb) to clinch the No. 4 seed in the Big South Tournament. I think this very experienced bunch gets revenge in their regular-season finale at home.
- Nicholls State (-1) currently sits tied atop the Southland Conference standings with New Orleans. In order to stay there, the Colonels will need to pick up a road win at Southeastern Louisiana. This will actually mark the third meeting of the season between the two clubs, with SELA picking up wins on the road and at a neutral site in a mid-season tournament. I think Nicholls is the class of the conference and avenges both losses. It was shorthanded in the first meeting and then SELA drained 17-of-26 from 3 in the second. Nicholls won’t get turned over much and should get whatever it wants at the rim, where it ranks fifth in efficiency against a SELA defense that ranks 343rd in that department, per ShotQuality. I just hope it doesn’t come down to free throws late since Nicholls might be the worst in the nation from the charity stripe.
- Bryant (-2.5) will host Wagner with the NEC regular-season title on the line. Wagner won the first meeting in overtime, but the Seahawks have not been the same team since losing Elijah Ford to injury on Feb. 5. Ford is just such a critical piece for Wagner’s rim-reliant offense. In the first meeting against Bryant, Ford finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks. Since he went down, Wagner is just 3-2, with bad losses to Fairleigh Dickinson and Merrimack. I’m sure you’ll see plenty of zone and press from Bryant against a Seahawks squad that has struggled against both this season.
- Staying in the NEC, Merrimack (+3.5) is ineligible for the postseason, so it will play its final game of the season at St. Francis (BKN), which is already locked into the No. 5 seed in the NEC Conference Tournament and knows it will travel to Mount St. Mary’s on Wednesday. It’s actually a decent matchup for Merrimack, which plays zone defense at the second-highest rate (92.9%) in the country and presses at a top-25 frequency. That could spell trouble for a SFNY team that grades out in the sixth and 26th percentile against those respective sets, per Synergy. Merrimack also has the much better transition defense, which matters in a matchup of two poor half-court offenses.
- In the OVC, we have two lame duck teams in Austin Peay and Tennessee Tech, which will face each other as the No. 6 and 7 seeds in the conference tournament no matter what happens today. That could make Eastern Illinois (+7.5) an intriguing home dog against Austin Peay in its final game of the season — since the Panthers did not qualify for the conference tourney. Meanwhile, Tennessee Martin (+7.5) may need to win at Tennessee Tech tonight to secure the last remaining spot. However, if EIU and SIUE both lose in the afternoon, UTM will already have clinched a postseason berth prior to the start of its game.
- After a thrilling overtime win at Oral Roberts, South Dakota State (-7) can become the first Summit team to ever go undefeated in league play. The Jackrabbits will try to achieve that feat on the road against a surging UMKC team that has won seven of eight. The Roos have predictably played much better since Josiah Allick returned from injury. Believe it or not, if both NDSU and Oral Roberts take care of business as favorites, the Roos can clinch the No. 2 seed with an upset victory due to tiebreakers. That’s important in the Summit League as the top two seeds get a day off between the first and second round, while seeds three through six need to win three games in three days to punch their ticket to the dance.
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