College Basketball Odds, Picks, Predictions for Belmont vs. Drake: Why to take Bulldogs
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images. Pictured: Darian DeVries
- Belmont faces off vs. Drake outside of Orlando in the first round of the ESPN Events Invitational.
- The Bruins have been disappointing so far this season, while the Bulldogs are experienced.
- Tanner McGrath breaks down the teams and where the value lies.
Belmont vs. Drake Odds
-114o / -106u
-114o / -106u
The ESPN Events Invitational nightcap is likely the best game of the day. In a battle of mid-majors, the 3-2 Belmont Bruins will play the 3-0 Drake Bulldogs.
Remember, Belmont recently announced it will be joining the Missouri Valley Conference next season. That means this will be the Bruins’ first taste of what life might be like.
The winner of this game will likely face Alabama in the next round unless Rick Pitino and Iona make a major upset.
I am sad.
After the 2020-21 team made the OVC title game, I was very high on Belmont in the preseason. Casey Alexander was entering his fourth year and the Bruins returned all five starters and over 75% of their minutes from last season.
However, they’ve largely disappointed so far.
The Bruins took a tough loss to Ohio, got wrecked by LSU and then barely beat Furman in overtime.
Belmont plays fast and its managed to shoot the ball pretty well so far. But the Bruins haven’t gotten to the line (331st in free-throw rate) and the defense has been largely terrible (286th in defensive eFG%).
There’s still time to turn the season around, especially because the main offensive pieces are killing it — six of their main rotation guys have an ORtg over 100.
Drake is a mid-major powerhouse.
The Bulldogs were my preseason pick to win the MVC even though Loyola Chicago is still favored. I’m feeling pretty good about that right now.
Drake lost one main piece from last season in Joseph Yesufu. But, the Bulldogs got back starting point guard Roman Penn.
Compared to Yesufu, Penn is just as efficient of a ball-handler, can score almost as well and is a much better on-ball defender. He can run Darian DeVries’ pick-and-roll heavy offense, but he has helped Drake step up on the defensive end.
The results have been outstanding.
Drake ranks inside the top-27 nationally in both offensive and defensive eFG% (57.5%, 42.3%). And the Bulldogs rank above the 90th percentile in both points per possession (1.041) and points per possession allowed (.744).
Perhaps more impressive: Drake ranks 37th in average possession length (15.4 seconds) and 344th in average possession length allowed (19 seconds). So, the Bulldogs often attack early and get easy buckets, while forcing longer, more tenuous possessions on the other end.
The transition numbers back that up, as Drake ranks above the 80th percentile in transition points per possession (1.184) and transition points per possession allowed (.806).
So far, all the defensive numbers are vastly improved from last season, and that’s going to go a long way for Drake this season.
Belmont vs. Drake Betting Pick
As mentioned, Drake runs a heavy pick-and-roll offense. However, it’s also one of the deadliest in the game. It’s likely going to overpower Belmont’s middling defense.
Drake ranks 36th nationally in pick-and-roll points per possession (1.00). Meanwhile, Belmont ranks 273rd defending it (.836).
Moreover, Drake has no shortage of shot makers, with the team shooting over 42% from deep on the young season and ranking seventh nationally in spot-up points per possession (1.211).
So far, Belmont has allowed opposing players to shoot over 35% from deep and score the 14th-highest points per possession on spot-up situations.
To get to the point: this game is going to be a bloodbath. Drake will ball-screen and shoot Belmont to death and the much-improved Bulldog defense will step up when needed.
I’d be willing to play Drake up to -6. I might even dabble on an alternate spread of -9.5 or more.