College Basketball Betting Pick & Roll: Calabrese & McGrath’s Top Selections on Feb. 26
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images. Pictured: Alex O’Connell (Creighton)
- Mike Calabrese and Tanner McGrath make two picks each for this Saturday.
- Calabrese dives into two mid-major matchups, including Furman vs. The Citadel.
- Meanwhile, McGrath eyes Colorado and Creighton.
We’ve made it. It’s the final college hoops regular season-only Saturday of the season, and March is looming large. The first day of the best month of the year comes on Tuesday.
After a rather profitable season, our two-man pick-and-roll is looking to finish strong. This won’t be the last edition of this column, but things will change drastically for everyone come Championship Week.
As they do most weeks, analyst Tanner McGrath is targeting two power-conference dogs while analyst Mike Calabrese is focusing on the mid-major riff-raff.
So, begin enjoying another Saturday by tailing these “picks” and “rolling” into your morning beer.
Calabrese’s Top 2 Saturday Picks
Furman vs. The Citadel
The SoCon has a rich tradition of runnin’ and gunnin’, and no team embodies that more than The Citadel this season. The Bulldogs have already played in nine games in which either they or their opponents have scored 90+ points.
Defensively, the Bulldogs suffer the consequences of speeding teams up. The Citadel is in the bottom five nationally in opponents made fields and attempts. Can it speed up the plodding Furman Paladins? If round one between the two was any indication, absolutely.
In their first meeting Furman — which is 268th in adjusted tempo rating — scored 102 points against The Citadel in regulation. The Paladins embraced the game flow and pounded the Bulldogs en route to 185 total points.
Given the scoring potential, the clear game plan for the Bulldogs on their home floor and the health of Hayden Brown (18.6 PPG, 9.1 RPG), I’m sold on this over.
Brown has played through a thigh injury and gives the Bulldogs a consistent interior presence on the offensive end.
The last consideration here is the motivation factor, which reads, “will either team just give up down the stretch?”
For Furman, a win sews up the second seed in the SoCon Tournament in March. That would likely pair it with Mercer in the quarterfinals, a team it has beaten like a drum this season. So, you can count on the Paladins playing this one out should they fall behind.
As for The Citadel, this will be the last home game for the seniors on their home floor. This team may not have accomplished a lot in the win column this season, but it played hard and has a pair of quality, high-scoring SoCon wins on its home floor (UNCG, Samford).
I feel confident the Bulldogs will also string this game out with fouls if it means squeezing every last ounce out of their regular season.
Pick: Over 153.5 (Play to 155)
Penn vs. Dartmouth
This is a full-on Admiral Ackbar, “it’s a trap!” situation — at least on paper.
Penn is already in the Ivy League postseason tournament field. It’s played at a neutral site (Lavietes Pavilion — Boston, MA), which means that home-court advantage isn’t on the table should the Quakers improve their seeding in their final two games.
While the Quakers’ motivation may be in question, their star power is without a doubt superior. Jordan Dingle is cruising toward Ivy League Player of the Year distinction, averaging 20.2 points per game.
The sensational sophomore is a one-man run waiting to happen, having scored 31+ in four of his last seven games.
And here’s the best part — Dingle had an off-game the last time Penn faced Dartmouth. Despite a meager 11-point outing, Penn still handled the Big Green by 10 points at home.
With seniors Azar Swain (Yale) and Noah Kirkwood (Harvard) coming on strong down the stretch, I can’t imagine that Dingle is going to take his foot off of the accelerator. Dingle has hoisted 30 — yes 30 — 3s in the last three games alone.
He has the green light, and he’ll be bombing away against an awful Dartmouth defense.
Teams connect on nearly 35% of their 3-point attempts against the Big Green, and Dartmouth has been powerless to keep up with its opponents as of late. DU has scored 63 points or more just once in its last seven games.
The main problem with Dartmouth’s offense is that it doesn’t do a good job of sharing the basketball. The Big Green’s Ast/FGM ratio is 330th nationally, and they average more turnovers (11.4) than assists (10).
In addition to Penn -2 for the game, I also like the Quakers to jump on Dartmouth in the first 20 minutes. Dartmouth averages a hair over 30 points per game in the first half (294th), while Penn has been great out of the gate in its last three games (38 1H PPG).
Pick: Penn -2 (Play to -3.5)
McGrath’s Top 2 Saturday Picks
Arizona vs. Colorado
So, Colorado has two games left in the Pac-12 regular season. This home game against Arizona — which is Senior Night by the way — and a road game against Utah next Saturday.
Meanwhile, Arizona is in the midst of a three-game road trip. The ‘Cats smoked Utah on Thursday and are likely looking ahead to a big matchup with USC in L.A. on Tuesday.
What’s more: Arizona has three games next week! Tuesday at USC, Thursday vs. Stanford and Saturday vs. California.
In the middle of all of this, Arizona has to head to Boulder and try to cover a double-digit spread.
At 5,400 feet of elevation (fifth highest in the country, KenPom rates Colorado’s home-court advantage as fourth-best in D-I).
During Colorado’s Senior Night.
While Colorado is coming off of a loss to Arizona State.
With Colorado fighting for its at-large tournament life.
And with Colorado having a week off once the clock hits zero.
Yup. I’m willing to take a shot with Colorado as a big home dog.
This game will be played almost entirely at the rim. Both teams are sub-200 in 3-point rate and try to dominate the paint on both ends of the floor. Obviously, Arizona has been the better team doing that. The Wildcats are sixth nationally in 2-point shooting and first in 2-point defense.
But I wouldn’t sleep on Colorado, which has a trio of young forwards on its front line. This game will come down to Tristan da Silva (6-foot-10), Jabari Walker (6-foot-9) and Evan Battey (6-foot-8) keeping up with the lengthiest and most athletic frontcourt in the nation.
It’s a tall task, but all three have an ORtg above 104 — Battey has a 114.6 ORtg — and Colorado is fifth in the conference in 2-point defense.
And considering the spot both teams are in, you must think Colorado can pull it off.
Pick: Colorado +10.5
Creighton vs. Providence
Aw man. Not again.
If you’re a member of Providence Faders Anonymous, my deepest condolences. Fading this team has been a bloodbath for the bankroll, as the Friars continue to pull off win after win.
However, the Friars must be overvalued in the market. This team is first in KenPom’s Luck metric and is due for the most amount of ShotQuality negative regression. SQ projects Providence should be 15-11 based on the quality of shots it takes and allows, rather than 23-3.
Plus, if there’s ever been a sleeper spot for Providence, this is it.
Obviously, the Friars just pulled off a wicked triple-overtime victory against Xavier on Wednesday — a game they should’ve lost multiple times.
The team now gets Creighton Saturday night while likely looking ahead to a Tuesday night battle with Villanova in Philly — a game that could decide the Big East regular-season title.
Sadly, for Creighton, freshman point guard Ryan Nembhard is now out for the season after a terrible wrist injury suffered on Wednesday. But there are two reasons I’m still ready to back the Bluejays.
First, Creighton is a defensive-minded team. In conference-only play, the Bluejays are first in the Big East in:
- Defensive efficiency (97.0)
- Opponent free-throw rate (22.7%)
- 2-point defense (43.6%)
- 3-point defense (30.6%)
This team is ruthlessly efficient on the interior, and Providence is a unit that will play on the interior. The Friars are sub-200 in 3-point rate (37.2% 3PA/FGA) and opponent 3-point rate (35.4% 3PA/FGA)
Secondly, Creighton rallied after Nembhard’s injury to beat St. John’s on the road. Why can’t the Bluejays do it again?
Nembhard is a player with a lot of promise, but he’s posted just a 92.4 ORtg this season. When he went down, the offense ran through senior forwards Ryan Hawkins and Ryan Kalkbrenner, who combined for 44 points by the game’s end.
To quote Bill Simmons, this could become a good example of the Ewing Theory.
Creighton is still on the bubble, and a Q1 win over Providence would probably put it firmly in the tournament field as an at-large.
The Bluejays are hungry while the Friars are sleepy. It also doesn’t hurt that Creighton is 8-4 ATS as an underdog this season while Providence is 8-8 ATS as a favorite.
Pick: Creighton +5
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