College Basketball Mid-Major Betting Report: Breaking Down UAB, Boise State & Seattle
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: Pavle Kuzmanovic.
With just 41 days until Selection Sunday, we are getting a clearer idea of which 68 teams will make the Big Dance.
Most people know teams like Kentucky, Gonzaga, UCLA, and Baylor are going to be in the tournament, and they know how those teams play. They’re familiar with the players, they’ve watched them throughout the season, and they know they’re good.
But do they know Darrion Trammell is third in the nation in steals per game? Do they know UAB is the 15th-best team in the country in scoring margin? What about Boise State boasting the fifth-best scoring defense in Division I?
Being familiar with the lower-ranked teams is one of the most important parts of March Madness.
So, who’s going to come out of those single-bid conferences? Which teams have a real chance to make some noise in the tournament? Let’s take a look at three teams that could find themselves in the bracket.
|Current Overall Record||17-5|
|Current ESPN Bracketology Seed||12|
I chose to include UAB before its game on Saturday. I was fully prepared to explain how the Blazers are the clear and present favorite to win Conference USA, how they are a team that has the talent to pull off an upset on opening weekend.
Then, on Saturday, UAB played Marshall — a team that found itself on a 10-game losing streak and had not won a conference game yet this season. UAB lost, 84-81.
I’m still here to tell you UAB is the clear and present favorite to win C-USA, and even if it doesn’t, it can still receive an at-large bid and be a dangerous squad in the tournament.
UAB has two conference losses, Marshall and Rice. Both are inferior teams that I believe UAB overlooked, and it has cost it.
But the Blazers are 2-1 in Quad 1 games, one of those being earlier this month when they knocked off current C-USA leader North Texas, 69-63, on the road. They also recorded an 83-76 win on the road at Louisiana Tech, another fierce opponent at the top of C-USA.
The Blazers have a 72% chance or better to win every game left on their schedule except for one: North Texas. The Blazers have already beaten the two biggest challengers for C-USA on the road, and I think they’ll do the same at home.
UAB is perfect against the spread as an underdog, as a road underdog, on a neutral site, and on four-plus days of rest. It’s a top-20 scoring team and a top-15 team in scoring margin, led by three Blazers who average double digits.
The Blazers are a balanced team that can both score and defend well. They’re a solid rebounding team and top-25 in forcing turnovers as well.
UAB can beat teams in a multitude of ways. It’s a unit no one wants to be matched up with come March 13.
|Current Overall Record||17-4|
|Current ESPN Bracketology Seed||10|
The Boise State Broncos have not lost a game in 62 days. The Broncos are currently on a 14-game winning streak, are undefeated in the Mountain West, and have earned three Quad 1 wins along the way.
Boise State doesn’t have a strong offense, averaging just 66.7 points per game. They are outside the top 150 in 3-point, 2-point, and free-throw shooting. In fact, when it comes to free-throw shooting, they are one of the worst in the country, ranked 356th and hitting only 60.8% of attempts from the line.
So, how is Boise State so good? Defense, pace, and turnovers.
The Broncos are fifth in the nation in scoring defense, limiting teams to just 58.4 points per contest. Their 287th rank in adjusted tempo, per KenPom, limits opposing team opportunities to some of the lowest in the country. BSU also ranks eighth in opponent field-goal attempts and fifth in 3-point attempts.
The Broncos defense is an elite unit that has proven it can win even against strong offensive teams, such as Wyoming, which they defeated, 65-62, last week.
Boise State could struggle against a top-25 offense in March. But it’s still a very real contender.
|Current Overall Record||17-4|
|Current ESPN Bracketology Seed||14|
The Seattle Redhawks were projected to finish fourth in the WAC. Now, they’re 8-0 in the conference and haven’t lost a game since Dec. 18.
Cameron Tyson leads a trio of Redhawks averaging 14.0 points or more with 16.6 per game. Darrion Trammell posts 16 a game while also leading the team and ranking top-five in the nation in steals per game at 2.7. Riley Grigsby adds 14 per contest.
The Redhawks are a balanced team that has been above average in almost every part of the game. However, they don’t specifically rely on one asset to win games.
Seattle might rank only 104th in 3-point shooting at 34.9%, but it attempts and makes more than almost any team in college basketball, ranked 10th in attempts and 12th in made 3s. The Redhawks are always a threat from deep.
One concern for the Redhawks, however, is their schedule. They are only 5-4 in Quad 3 games and are 0-1 in both Quad 1 and Quad 2 games. Their best win of the season so far is a victory over Utah Valley, which ranks 111th, per KenPom.
But they will have a chance to improve that resume very soon as they face two of their biggest challenges in the WAC this week. Seattle will play Grand Canyon and New Mexico State on the road. If the Redhawks can get past both, it’s time to start considering Seattle as a bracket-buster.
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