College Basketball Mid-Major Bets: Keg’s Bottom of the Barrel Selections for Saturday’s Slate (Jan. 15)
A man sitting atop barrels at a whiskey distillery, Hebrides, United Kingdom.
- Saturday's college basketball slate is huge, which means there's plenty of mid-major action to bet on.
- Keg breaks down his top mid-major bets below, including Western Illinois vs. North Dakota State and Idaho vs. Idaho State.
- Check out all of Keg's top mid-major picks for Saturday below.
Bottom of the Barrel Picks for Jan. 15
Happy Saturday, and happy Super Wild Card Weekend to all who observe.
But don’t let the NFL playoff games get in your way of one of the best college basketball slates we’ve had so far this season. I feel like I have said that multiple times here, but it just keeps getting better every week we inch closer to March.
Now that we are in the full swing of conference play, every game means more and more, especially in these lower-level conferences, where more than one bid to the tournament is far-fetched.
So, let’s take a look at some of the matchups outside the Power Five on Saturday.
Western Illinois vs. North Dakota State
The Western Illinois Leathernecks are on the fast track to possibly being one of my favorite mid-major teams of the year. Currently 2-3 in the Summit League, the Leathernecks have the potential to play spoiler to Oral Roberts or any Dakota directional school that dares to stand in their way.
On offense, WIU is lighting it up — ranking 31st in the NCAA in scoring, as it posts 78.1 points per game on average. The Leathernecks have scored 80 or more points in 11 of their 17 games, as well.
And while you can credit this to the sheer amount of shots they take — the team ranks inside the top 20 in both field goal and 3-point attempts per game — they are making a considerable amount of those looks.
Western Illinois ranks 55th in field goals made per game and 20th in 3-pointers made per game. So, while the shooting percentage may be a cause for concern on the surface — currently 243rd nationally at 42.1% — I don’t think it’s a big issue.
What is a cause for concern is the atrocious defense the Leathernecks are displaying at the other end. WIU allows opposing teams to average a 285th-worst 75.5 points per game. It ranks 267th in opponent shooting percentage. If this team played literally any defense at all, they’d be 17-0.
The Leathernecks will be squaring off against the North Dakota State Bison, who are currently 11-5 on the season and 3-1 in Summit play. The Bison have been solid on offense, but more importantly, unlike Western Illinois, they participate on defense, limiting opposing teams to an effective field goal percentage of 47.7%.
They also play much slower than WIU, ranking 233rd in tempo compared to the Leathernecks’ 53rd.
I really wanted to take the over in this game — and I still likely will if I can get a live line around 142 or better — but the oddsmakers have done a good job by opening the total at 150.5.
So, instead, I will be riding with the Leathernecks once again and their non-existence defense. I think WIU’s pace will be an issue for the Bison, just as it was when it played a much inferior team in Omaha, which ranks just one spot ahead of the Leathernecks in tempo.
I have Western Illinois at +6.5, and I will be placing a small wager on the moneyline, as well.
Pick: Western Illinois +6.5 | WIU Small ML Play
Incarnate Word vs. Texas A&M Corpus Christi
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is another team pushing the envelope to become one of my favorite mid-major schools this year.
The Islanders are 13-4 on the season, and more importantly are 11-2 ATS. They will kick off their conference play Saturday afternoon when they take on Incarnate Word.
The Cardinals have played a much more difficult schedule and it shows, as they are currently 4-13 on the season and are also just 7-7 ATS.
This will be short and sweet, neither of these teams has any impressive stats that I imagine you want to hear about. Neither is a good team, but Incarnate Word has been much worse, even against competition at its level or below.
For example, the Cardinals lost to a non-Division I school in Concordia Texas on their home court earlier this season.
However, the biggest reason I’m betting this game does not relate to either of these teams’ skill level. I think this spread is considerably off from where it should be.
I caught Texas A&M-CC at -13.5 on BetMGM. I expected this line to open up around 20, with my cut off being at -18. The Islanders have been a force all season, not just in the win column, but against the spread.
While this is the biggest favorite they’ve been this season I have no concern considering who they are facing.
Lay the points with the Islanders as high as 17.5.
Pick: Texas A&M-CC -13.5 (Play to -17.5)
Idaho vs. Idaho State
Louisville-Kentucky, Cincinnati-Xavier, Duke-UNC — think of all those historic in-state rivalries between consistently prominent programs. Two top-notch programs in each of these three states square off every year for bragging rights as some of the best talent in college basketball goes head-to-head.
Now wad that up and throw it out the window. We’re going to the Gem State for a rivalry that will decide nothing more than who is the worst team in the Big Sky Conference.
The Idaho Vandals will travel to take on the Idaho State Bengals Saturday night in a matchup of two teams that both rank outside the top 325, per KenPom.
Both teams have combined for just five wins all season, and neither has recorded a conference win yet. Both teams are 0-4 in league play, and sit at the bottom of the Big Sky standings.
This game is so bad it might be good, but that’s not what’s important here. I believe the wrong team is favored. Both of these teams are awful in nearly every measurable stat, however, Idaho has one area it has an edge in.
The Vandals are the 20th team in the country in 3-point shooting, hitting at 38%. The Bengals have done well defending the 3 — allowing just 32.8% — but I think that’s due in large part to the teams they have played.
Their opponents mostly do not make 3s at the rate Idaho does, or rely on them for such a large chunk of their scoring.
Idaho has lost the last two matchups between these in-state conference foes, but I think it can change on Saturday night.
I’m taking Idaho at +4, and I will be placing a small wager on its moneyline, as well.
Pick: Idaho +4 | IDHO Small ML Play
Bottom-of-the-Barrel Beverage Recommendation
And finally the drink recommendation for the day: Woodford Reserve Double Oaked.
It is well worth the few extra dollars for all the extra work put in to make this bourbon considerably better than the standard Woodford.