Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Michigan State Spartans coach Tom Izzo
- Michigan State has noticeably upped the tempo this season behind its talented backcourt of Joshua Langford and Cassius Winston.
- Another Big Ten school, Maryland, is in the same bucket, and the Terps have seen their past three games hit the over.
Take Savannah State, Florida International, Eastern Kentucky, The Citadel and Marshall. No, these programs aren’t bound to finish atop the ridiculousness that is NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool), college basketball’s replacement for RPI to improve the decision-making process for March Madness’ at-large bids.
All of them showcase a top-five Adjusted Tempo ranking, KenPom’s estimation of a team’s pace (possessions per 40 minutes) versus a would-be average Division I defense.
How does this metric impact point spreads and over/unders?
“It depends on if you’re (a team) lengthening or are you shortening the game,” Aaron Kessler, a sportsbook director at Golden Nugget Las Vegas, told The Action Network. “If a team is a certain amount of points better per possession, more possessions is going to [result in] a higher spread and vice versa. Virginia is never going to be a 40-point favorite, but Duke might against a bottom-of-the-barrel team just because Virginia isn’t going to have enough time to run it [the score] up by that much with fewer possessions.
“If a team’s playing fast, higher possessions increases the total. You figure out your expected points per possessions. You figure out how many possessions and go from there. Anything else is just noise.”
Let’s dissect a few of the more notable teams that have escalated their tempo from a season ago, along with how it has affected their performance from a betting perspective.
While the Trojans have lost their first two games versus major non-conference opponents (Vanderbilt and Texas Tech), coach Andy Enfield has jacked up their AdjT from 200th (67.7 PP40) to the 61st-highest (72.6) in college basketball.
Former Duke transfer Derryck Thornton deserves a chunk of the credit, claiming the floor general duties via Jordan McLaughlin and increasing his 25.4% Assist Rate by 11.1 percentage points in the process.
USC also owns the 31st-best Effective Field Goal Percentage (56.2%) in the country, allowing it to space the floor well in a shortened span.
Enfield’s crew has toppled the over in four of its seven games, including two of its past three contests, guided by the 60th-best Points Per Possession (1.09 PPP).
Following the losses of Jaren Jackson and Miles Bridges to the NBA draft, the Spartans have relied heavily on their starting backcourt of Joshua Langford (18.0 ppg) and Cassius Winston (17.3 ppg).
Their AdjT has jumped from No. 234 (67.0 PP40) to the 71st-highest (72.3) in the nation as a result. Tom Izzo’s duo has been up to the challenge for the most part.
Nevertheless, Michigan State showcased its flaws in a 82-78 loss Louisville on Tuesday, with Langford and Winston failing to shoot the ball well and limit their offensive miscues, combining for a 32.0 field goal percentage and seven turnovers.
The Spartans have also failed to hit the over in two of their past three games versus major non-conference opponents.
What a difference new coach Dan Hurley has made for the Huskies. Connecticut’s AdjT ranks No. 72 (72.4 PP40) overall after finishing No. 236 (67.0) under ex-coach Kevin Ollie.
It’s also a credit to the development of the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Jalen Adams, who’s been able to play off-ball more with Alterique Gilbert handling the point guard duties (22.9% Assist Rate).
Adams has seen his 61.4 eFG% rise 13.5 percentage points this season.
The Huskies have topped the over in all but one of their contests, which resulted in a push against Morehead State in their season-opener.
The Hoosiers have increased their AdjT from No. 251 (66.6 PP40) to the 101st-highest (71.5) in DI, with five-star wing Romeo Langford (17.7 ppg) providing a massive boost offensively and for their pace. Indiana owns the 23rd-highest Opponents’ Turnover Rate (23.9%) as well, leading to its opportunities in transition.
But the Hoosiers have only leapfrogged the over in three of its seven matchups despite Archie Miller’s unit bolstering its Points Per Possession (1.08 PPP) in a limited sample size.
Part of the issue has revolved around star forward Juwan Morgan (16.1 ppg) getting into foul trouble early in first halves, occurring in losses to Duke and Arkansas.
Indiana still sits at No. 90 in KenPom’s Two-Foul Participation metric, but Morgan’s lack of an offensive flow has evidently disrupted Indiana as a whole.
Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon has sped up Maryland’s attack from the No. 266 AdjT (66.3 PP40) to the 145th-highest (70.6) in the nation. It’s not as drastic of a leap as the other programs listed, but his offense is much more lethal than last season’s bunch, via the additions of freshmen Jalen Smith, Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala.
Smith gives Turgeon another skilled back-to-the-basket big to pair with the much-improved sophomore Bruno Fernando, and Wiggins and Ayala’s 3-point strokes have filled in nicely minus Kevin Huerter’s early departure for the NBA.
With point guard Anthony Cowan (16.6 ppg) leading the pack, Maryland’s offense is hitting its stride while hitting the over in three straight games.
It hung around with Virgina, too, and should remain an explosive offense come Big Ten play.