College Basketball Bottom of the Barrel Picks: Keg’s Top Mid-Major Games to Bet on Saturday (Dec. 11)
SVEN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images. Pictured: Lennart Aastroem, a whisky lover from Stockholm, kisses his new sherry cask.
Bottom of the Barrel Picks for Dec. 11
There are over 90 college basketball games on the slate this Saturday; it’s a beautiful thing to see.
However, you have to be careful with this many games, specifically this many good matchups. I have learned the hard way that you don’t have to bet every game (no, I haven’t… I still bet way too many games).
That’s why, after finding two games I love this week, I don’t want to force a third that I’m not as confident in. With that said, let’s talk about these two matchups.
UC Irvine vs. Fresno State
The Anteaters will make the trip up north to Fresno to take on the Bulldogs Saturday evening. I think the wrong team is favored.
UC Irvine is 5-1 on the season, and it’s one of the best defenses in the country while currently boasting one of the best 3-point shooting teams as well.
The shooting is a bit of a juiced stat; it attempts only 15.3 shots from 3-point range on average, but the Anteaters are hitting at 41%. However, Fresno’s weakness on defense has been defending outside the perimeter, allowing opponents to shoot at 33.7%.
Even teams like Pepperdine, which ranks outside the top 200 in 3-point percentage (31.9%), connected on 50% of 3-point shots against the Bulldogs. If the Anteaters can make an effort to just put up more shots from deep, I think it will be enough to get past Fresno.
On defense, there is no confusion; UC Irvine has been one of the best. When put to the test against a potent offense like Santa Clara — which averages 78.9 points per game — on the road, the Anteaters held it to just 64.
UC Irvine ranks seventh in opponents’ effective field goal percentage and inside the top 25 in opponent 2- and 3-point scoring.
Opponents have scored just 56 points a game against UC Irvine, which marks the fourth-lowest points allowed mark in the country. Fresno State, meanwhile, ranks 244th in scoring, putting up just 65.8 a game on average.
I was able to get UC Irvine when it opened at +3, and it’s now at +2.5. I would take the points if they’re still there, but I have complete confidence in the Anteaters as high as 2.5-point favorites.
Pick: UC Irvine +2.5 (Play to -2.5)
Utah Valley vs. Wyoming
Wyoming started the season a perfect 8-0 and then ran into the buzzsaw that was a top-10 Arizona team. After a 94-65 beatdown on the road, the Cowboys are back and ready to get another winning streak going against Utah Valley.
Utah Valley has had an impressive start to its season as well, but it’s not as cut and dry as Wyoming’s.
The Wolverines rattled off seven in a row after losing to Boise State by 21 to start the season. Six of those wins came against teams outside the top 200, per KenPom, but they also knocked off 22nd-ranked BYU in overtime. Then, they lost to Southern Utah in their very next game.
Wyoming’s defense has limited the opposition to just 42.9% in effective field goal percentage. It ranks 23rd in opponent 3-point shooting and 50th in 2-point shooting.
The Pokes have also yet to lose a home game this season. And when at home, they are limiting opponents to an average of 54.6 points while posting 86.8 of their own.
The Cowboys are one of the best at ball security as well, turning the ball over on only 14.6% of possessions.
I think the spread in this game is giving too much credit to Utah Valley for knocking off an in-state rival on its home court. Wyoming has been better on offense and defense and is one of the country’s best 2-point shooting teams.
I think Wyoming wins this game, and it isn’t close. The spread opened up a six and ballooned up to 7.5, but I expected Wyoming to come in as high as a 10-point favorite. I’d feel comfortable taking the Pokes at anything better than that.
Pick: Wyoming -7 (Play to -10)
Bottom-of-the-Barrel Beverage Recommendation
And finally, our beverage of the weekend. With our teams playing west of the Mississippi, it only feels right for the drink to come from out west as well.
Breckenridge Bourbon is distilled at the highest distillery in the world in Breckenridge, Colorado, at 9,700 feet. The Breckenridge Distillery makes a variety of bourbons and whiskeys, but the standard single barrel bourbon is more than good enough for me.
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