College Basketball Mid-Major Betting Report: A Look At UC Santa Barbara, Kent State & Louisiana Tech
Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Danny Pippen.
With conference tournaments and March Madness quickly approaching, mid-major season is officially upon us.
There are programs across the country that will make an impact in one way or another in the coming weeks, so we have taken it upon ourselves to provide betting breakdowns on those specific teams.
Let’s take a look at three more mid-majors, while also focusing a bit on their respective current conference outlooks.
Previous Mid-Major Reports
- Vermont, VCU & Belmont (Feb. 16)
- Wright State, St. Bonaventure & San Diego State (Feb. 11)
- BYU, Saint Mary’s & San Francisco (Feb. 9)
- Boise State, Abilene Christian & Colgate (Feb. 4)
- Marshall, Furman & Dayton (Feb. 1)
- Richmond & Western Kentucky (Jan. 28)
- Saint Louis, Toledo & Colorado State (Jan. 26)
- Drake, Loyola-Chicago & Utah State (Jan. 19)
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos
Photo: John McCoy/Getty Images. Team Rankings Key Players KenPom 80th G JaQuori McLaughlin NET 45th F Amadou Sow RPI 37th G Ajare Sanni
The Gauchos might be the most underrated mid-major in all of college basketball.
They are elite in the half-court on both ends of the floor. UCSB ranks in the 95th percentile on defense and 92nd on offense in terms of points per possession, per Synergy. There really are no glaring weaknesses.
Head coach Joe Pasternack has a very experienced team that features a superb inside-out duo of senior guard JaQuori McLaughlin (a former Oregon State transfer) and junior big man Amadou Sow. They also have plenty of shooters around the perimeter, led by Devearl Ramsey and Ajare Sanni.
UCSB does prefer to work inside-out through Sow and their other bigs, which can be a problem against a UC Irvine team that has an elite interior defense every year under head coach Russell Turner.
The Anteaters, who swept the Gauchos earlier this year, might end up being the biggest roadblock between UCSB and a ticket to the Big Dance.
However, the Big West isn’t a two-team race on the surface as it is in some years. UC Riverside and Cal State Bakersfield — who each recently split with UC Irvine — are more than capable of winning the conference tournament.
Bakersfield’s half-court offense is hard to watch at times, but the Roadrunners try to make their living with their press, which they run at a top-10 clip nationally. Meanwhile, Riverside can shoot the lights out from deep and arguably has the best overall half-court defense in the league.
If UCSB can find its way through a very difficult conference tourney, it will be a dangerous out for someone in a potential 13 vs. 4 or 12 vs. 5 matchup.
Kent State Golden Flashes
Photo: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Team Rankings Key Players KenPom 91st F Danny Pippen NET 83rd G Mike Nuga RPI 74th F Justyn Hamilton
Kent State oozed with potential coming into the year — as long as all of the new pieces gelled together after a shortened preseason due to COVID-19. Three of those primary pieces included:
- Mike Nuga (Portland State transfer)
- Justyn Hamilton (Temple transfer)
- Malique Jacobs (JuCo transfer)
Putting it all together wasn’t going to be easy in a season impacted by COVID-19. However, the early results were more than promising, as you may recall when Kent State took Virginia to overtime on the road earlier this season.
The new pieces seemed to fit perfectly with returning seniors Danny Pippen and Tervell Beck in the post.
Pippen is the star of the show who can do it inside and out, but Nuga emerged as the missing piece at guard that Golden Flashes desperately needed to replace Antonio Williams, who led the team in scoring last year.
Nuga was averaging 17.8 points per game while shooting over 38% from beyond the arc. This team looked very dangerous, but then Nuga was lost for the season to injury. It’s just a devastating loss at guard in a league full of spectacular guards, including:
- Justin Turner (Bowling Green)
- Jason Preston (Ohio)
- Marreon Jackson (Toledo)
- Loren Cristian Jackson (Akron)
- Travon Broadway (Central Michigan)
And I didn’t even touch on the talented backcourts of Miami (Ohio) and Ball State. Ultimately, I think the loss of Nuga will be too great for Kent State to overcome in its quest to win the MAC conference tournament.
Kent State still won’t be an easy out, especially if Pippen gets white-hot.
The Golden Flashes want to play fast and can dominate the offensive glass while marching to the free-throw line in the process — a place they are very efficient.
But they will truly miss Nuga’s scoring ability in the backcourt.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Photo: William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Team Rankings Key Players KenPom 88th F Kenneth Lofton NET 85th F Isaiah Crawford RPI 44th G Cobe Williams
I can’t wait for the Conference USA tournament.
North Texas and its stellar defense currently sit in first place, tied with the uber-talented Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky — who we touched on in a previous mid-major report.
I also personally previously covered Marshall — my pick to get the C-USA automatic bid — behind its excellent guards and unique up-tempo style.
However, if you’re looking for a potential spoiler trending in the right direction, look no further than Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs are fresh off a sweep of another conference contender in UAB, which sat atop the C-USA standings before its trip to Reston.
La Tech’s strength resides on the defensive side of the floor, where it ranks in the top 40 nationally in Defensive Efficiency, 3-point percentage allowed, defensive rebounding rate and Effective FG percentage.
The Bulldogs possess a lot of interchangeable parts who can defend without fouling. From an analytical perspective, they’re stingy in both the half-court and in transition, which is important in C-USA against the likes of Marshall, which LT split with earlier this season. It also split with Western Kentucky and North Texas, so the Bulldogs know they can beat anybody in this conference.
They don’t have an overly-efficiency offense, as they aren’t a great outside shooting team. However, they take care of the ball and get to the line frequently.
They’re also extremely balanced with six players averaging between nine and 12 points per game.
That includes one of my favorite players in all of college basketball: freshman Kenneth Lofton. Lofton is a 6-foot-7, 275-pound big and a virtual lock for C-USA Freshman of the Year.
Don’t be fooled by his build or inexperience. Lofton is extremely nimble in the post with outstanding touch and vision. He’s a joy to watch.
If any outside shots are falling, La Tech can make some noise in March.