College Basketball Mid-Major Betting Report: Breaking Down Liberty, Stephen F. Austin & Oakland

College Basketball Mid-Major Betting Report: Breaking Down Liberty, Stephen F. Austin & Oakland article feature image

Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: Darius McGhee (Liberty)

With another week of college basketball in the books, we are getting closer and closer to March. Many mid-major teams are fighting for the chance to earn a high seed in their conference tournament and eventually, an automatic bid.

Let's take a look at some squads that are in tight races to secure that single bid.

Liberty Flames

Current Overall Record18-8
KenPom Ranking103
Current ESPN Bracketology Seed14

The Flames are currently first in the ASUN East with a 9-2 record in league play. But Jacksonville isn't far off at 8-4 in the conference.

In the West, two teams are right on their heels, as Jacksonville State and Bellarmine are both at 9-3.

Liberty was the preseason favorite, but with just five games left on its schedule, the ASUN is still very much anyone's conference to take.

Liberty ranks 80th in offensive efficiency and is 142nd in defensive efficiency, per KenPom. When it comes to conference-only play, no one has been better than the Flames in efficiency and field goal percentage.

Liberty also leads the league in both 2- and 3-point percentage. The Flames are just fourth when it comes to scoring offense in the ASUN, though. Regardless, Darius McGhee is the leading scorer of the entire conference, averaging 22.7 points per game.

On the defensive end, the Flames are holding opponents to just 61.5 points per game and only 39% shooting from the field. They rank inside the top 50 in the country in points allowed.

Liberty hasn't been great when it comes to creating turnovers, but its pure defense has eliminated the need for them.

The Flames' last five games are against the bottom four teams in the ASUN East — those teams own a combined 29-35 record in conference play. Their easy schedule the rest of the way could play a major role in their quest to win the regular season title.

Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

Current Overall Record16-8
KenPom Ranking119
Current ESPN Bracketology SeedN/A

The Lumberjacks were projected to finish second in the WAC during the preseason. But it's been an impressive season for Seattle and Sam Houston, which came out of nowhere.

Even with the unforeseen success of some WAC teams, Stephen F. Austin has still found itself currently fourth, and firmly in the hunt for the WAC regular season championship and first round bye in the conference tournament that comes with it.

Stephen F. Austin is a defensive team first, which is a big reason why it is first in the conference in efficiency. The Lumberjacks have been holding teams to just 68.5 points per game and are second in the league in 2-point defense.

When it comes to creating turnovers, they have been one of the best in all of college basketball. Stephen F. Austin ranks 13th nationally in turnover percentage and is 22nd in steal percentage.

Kyle Keller's team is also a force around the basket — 34th nationally in block percentage and averaging 4.4 per game.

The Lumberjacks' offense, however, has been less than ideal. The unit is scoring 74.5 points per game, but in the WAC, that's good for just fifth.

They have been a good shooting team when it comes to percentages, leading the WAC by hitting 46.7% from the floor. But their pace is a factor there, as they are fifth in the league when it comes to adjusted tempo.

To end the season, the Lumberjacks will have two of their six games against teams that rank ahead of them in the conference. I'm not sure Stephen F. Austin can make up enough ground to win the regular season title, but it's definitely a team that can pull off an upset in the conference tournament.

Oakland Golden Grizzlies

Current Overall Record18-8
KenPom Ranking139
Current ESPN Bracketology SeedN/A

Oakland is second in the Horizon at 11-4 in league play, but that could change very quickly. Six different teams in the Horizon have 10 or more wins, and with only four games to go in the season, any team can get hot and steal the regular season title.

Oakland hasn't been good on offense. The Golden Grizzlies' biggest strength is their free throw shooting, as they are one of the best in the country. They are cashing in on 78.6% of their free throws.

On the defensive end, Oakland is solid. The Golden Grizzlies are one of the best teams in the country in defending shots from the perimeter. Opposing teams are hitting just 29.2% from deep, which is the 10th lowest mark in the country.

But when teams are inside the arc, Oakland seems to struggle. Teams have been able to hit 53.5% on 2-point shots against it, one of the highest rates in the country.

The Grizzlies may be worth a look as a long shot to win the conference tournament.

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Nick Sterling
Jun 16, 2024 UTC