Saturday NCAAB Picks & Predictions: Stuckey’s 4 Spots

Saturday NCAAB Picks & Predictions: Stuckey’s 4 Spots article feature image

(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Just like last year, each week for the remainder of the college basketball season, I will share my favorite spots for the Saturday slate.

In addition to my raw projection, I will focus on matchups, situational spots, injuries, potential regression and other ancillary factors.

For this week, I will highlight my four favorite Saturday spots, which include four bubble teams playing enormous home games that could ultimately decide their NCAA Tournament fate. I'll also finish up with some quick notes on four other spots I had circled. After back-to-back ugly weekend results, it's time to hopefully get back on track.

For reference, I write these up early on Friday evening after the openers come out. The market will obviously move overnight, so I always will list the price at which I'd play each game.

  • 2022-23: 33-22 (60.0%) +9.24 units
  • 2023-24: 16-18-1 (47.1%) -3.44 units
  • Overall: 49-40-1 (55.1%) +5.8 units

Florida +2 vs. Auburn

3:30 p.m. ET on SECN

This is a great spot to buy Florida, which could solidify its standing in the tournament field with a home win over a ranked Auburn team. While the Gators have had a week off to stew over a one-point loss at Texas A&M, the Tigers are coming off an emotional mid-week romp of Alabama. I wouldn't be surprised if Auburn comes out a bit flat.

From a matchup perspective, Florida can live on the offensive glass — where it ranks second nationally — against an aggressive Auburn defense that ranks outside the top-150 in that category. The Gators can also live at the line in this particular matchup.

Auburn is undoubtedly an elite defensive club, but it does have a bit of looming regression on unguarded jumpers as a result of that aggressive ball pressure.

On the other side of the ball, Florida is elite at defending cutting action, which is what makes Auburn's offense go. The Tigers run cutting action at a 99th percentile frequency with a 96th percentile efficiency, per Synergy. However, Florida grades out in the 95th percentile defending those actions. That's key against the Auburn offense, especially when the Tigers can’t get out in transition, which the Gators do an effective job of limiting.

I just hope Florida can limit its turnovers here, which could ultimately doom Todd Golden's club, but I'm trusting the spot.

Pick: Florida +2

Miami +5.5 vs. North Carolina

4 p.m. ET on ESPN

I'm buying low on Miami after an embarrassing 38-point outing in a blowout loss against Virginia. That marked the fewest points the Hurricanes have scored since reinstating their program in 1985. I'm fairly confident we can expect a best effort game from Miami against first-place North Carolina as the Hurricanes need a win to get back into the bubble discussion.

For what it's worth, since 2005, conference underdogs after scoring 40 or fewer points have gone 158-114-6 (58.1%) ATS, covering by an average of 2.5 ppg

From a matchup perspective, the UNC defense forces a ton of isolation, which the Hurricanes can exploit, even if freshman sensation Kyshawn George can't suit up due to an ankle injury suffered early against Virginia. Although, he did participate in shooting drills yesterday, which is at least a positive signal.

The Heels also still have some looming 3-point regression on the defensive end. They rank in the 95th percentile on unguarded jumpers, which they give up at an above average rate, per Synergy. In ACC play, league opponents are shooting just 27.8% against UNC. Well, Miami is a very good shooting team (35th nationally in 3-point percentage) that has actually underperformed in ACC play. So, the Hurricanes are the perfect opponent to give UNC some overdue medicine from beyond the arc.

Additionally, Miami is very strong on the defensive glass (85th) and doesn't foul (third) on that end. That should help contain two of UNC's primary paths to offense on a nightly basis. Plus, UNC also won’t fully exploit Miami's extreme turnover woes. I also wouldn't be surprised if Norchad Omier can get Armando Bacot into foul trouble.

I worry a bit about Miami’s anemic post defense, but this is a great spot to back a desperate Miami club that remains a bit undervalued in the market after dealing with so many injuries. Meanwhile, UNC is still at the peak of its market value, in my opinion.

Pick: Miami +5.5 (Play to +5)

Texas A&M +4 vs. Tennessee

8 p.m. ET on ESPN

I'm buying the Aggies at home in a spot where a win can go a long way toward solidifying an NCAA Tournament bid.

From a matchup perspective, the Aggies don't turn it over and can dominate the offensive glass, where they rank No. 1 nationally, against a Tennessee defense that ranks 168th in that category. Texas A&M can also get to the line a ton against a physical Volunteers defense that ranks 274th in free-throw rate, especially with a friendly home whistle in front of a raucous crowd.

On the other end, Texas A&M can at least limit Tennessee's second-chance opportunities. The Volunteers also don't have a ton of elite size. The Aggies extremely aggressive defense will allow a ton of 3-point attempts by design, but that might not bite them as Tennessee isn't an elite outside shooting team.

A&M is on pace to have highest OR% since 2011.

Texas A&M will have to at least make some outside shots against Tennessee, which defends the 2 as well as any unit. That could be problematic for an A&M squad that ranks 358th in the country in 3-point shooting percentage. The Aggies profile as a poor shooting club, but I don't think they are 25% bad from beyond the arc. They are more than overdue to have a decent shooting night at some point based on their historical splits.

Texas A&M can match the physicality of Tennessee, which is critical against a Volunteers team that plays like a group of grown men on a nightly basis. I think they can ugly this up and get enough free throws and second-chance points to keep this close throughout and have a chance to pull off the upset at the end.

Pick: Texas A&M +4 (Play to +3.5)

Colorado Moneyline vs. Arizona 

10 p.m. ET on ESPN

This is an obvious great spot and my favorite of the day.

The Buffaloes are at home and looking for a huge win for their NCAA resume. They're also looking to get revenge from a 47-point loss earlier in the season against Arizona. While that result was ugly, I wouldn't take much from it since Cody Williams and Tristan da Silva didn't suit up.

Colorado now has all of its key players back in the lineup after dealing with a number of injuries to date. When fully healthy, this is a top-15 team nationally from a talent perspective. The Buffaloes boast three pros and have Eddie Lampkin doing yeoman's work on the glass. As a result of those games playing a bit shorthanded, I think Colorado is still a bit undervalued in the market.

Meanwhile, Arizona isn't the same team on the road this year and ranks 352nd in Haslametrics' Away From metric. Most importantly, the Wildcats are coming off a triple-overtime thriller against Utah in which four of its starters played at least 43 minutes. That's not ideal ahead of one of the hardest back-to-back road trips in the league.

Since 2005, when Colorado is at home in league play and playing against an opponent that has three or fewer days of rest in between games, the Buffaloes have gone 44-21-1 ATS (67.7%) and are covering by 3.5 points per game.

The Buffaloes are by far the most profitable team in the country in this spot over that span. Now throw in tired Arizona legs in back-to-back contests in altitude and the task grows even tougher in a venue I have rated as the top home-court advantage in all of college basketball.

I'm a bit worried about Colorado’s transition and pick-and-roll defense, but I’m still trusting the superb spot. Plus, the Buffaloes, who rank sixth nationally in defensive rebounding percentage, can contain Arizona’s prowess on the offensive glass.

Meanwhile, Colorado's offense can take advantage of Arizona's deficiencies in terms of defending in the post and cutting action, where the Wildcats rank in the 18th and 12th percentile, respectively, per Synergy. Tad Boyle's squad also ranks ninth in the country in 3-point percentage, so they are fully capable of cashing in on the open jumpers Arizona allows all too often.

Quick Thoughts

  • Chicago State finds itself in a good spot on the road at South Carolina State. With only two Division 1 games remaining for the independent member, the Cougars should care about this game and are coming off a much needed nine-day break for a team that lacks depth and recently played eight straight road games in a 24-day span. As a result of those travels, the Cougs are a battle tested team away from home, where they have gone 10-5-1 ATS. Meanwhile, I'm not sure how much South Carolina State cares about this non-conference matchup with an important league game against Norfolk State on deck. Lastly, the Cougars match up well and will have the two best players on the court in Wesley Cardet and Jahsean Corbett.
  • Good number to back LSU, which can defend efficiently at the rim and is looking for major revenge from an embarrassing loss in Tuscaloosa. Alabama still has major defensive flaws and doesn't shoot the 3 anywhere close to as well on the road.
  • Desperation spot for St. John's at Marquette. The Red Storm can disrupt Marquette's offense with their extended morphing matchup zone. And on the other side of the ball, they take care of the ball (important against Marquette pressure) and can own the offensive glass in this particular matchup.
  • Stetson matches up well with Eastern Kentucky since the Hatters can handle the press effectively and throw a multitude of zone looks on the other end of the floor against an Colonels club that has graded out miserably against zone over the past two seasons.

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