NCAAB Picks: Stuckey’s 4 Situational Spots for Saturday

NCAAB Picks: Stuckey’s 4 Situational Spots for Saturday article feature image
Credit:

Chris Gardner/Getty Images. Pictured: San Jose State’s Alvaro Cardenas.

With conference tournaments starting next week for some leagues, this marks the last Saturday full of regular-season college basketball action around the country.

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.

This week, I will highlight my four favorite spots on Saturday's slate.

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: 27-27-1 (50.0%) -2.48 units
  • Overall: 60-49-1 (55.0%) +6.76 units


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Stuckey's College Basketball Bets for March 2

The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that Stuckey is targeting from today's slate of games. Click on the team logos for any of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.

GameTime (ET)Pick
1 p.m.
4 p.m.
5:30 p.m.
10 p.m.
Specific betting recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.

Illinois vs. Wisconsin

Saturday, March 2
1 p.m. ET
Big Ten Network
Wisconsin -2

This looks like the perfect spot to buy low on the Badgers, who have gone 2-6 in the month of February.

While that sounds bad, five of the six losses came by two possessions or less (or in overtime) with five of those eight games taking place away from Madison, where they've only lost twice all season to a pair of potential No. 1 seeds in Purdue and Tennessee.

Over that stretch, they've also shot just 28.8% from deep, which ranks 326th in the country. In comparison, they connected on 36.1% of their long-ball attempts over their first 20 games — good enough for 70th nationally.

The outside shots will eventually start falling again for Wisconsin, which also has a smidge of looming positive shooting regression on the defensive end.

Meanwhile, Illinois has won seven of its last nine, but the only victory over a tournament team came at home in overtime against road-averse Nebraska.

The Illini defense is completely broken at the moment, ranking 249th in Adjusted Efficiency in the month of February, per  Bart Torvik.

That spells trouble for post-centric Wisconsin (95th percentile in post-up rate), which should have no issues running its offense through its bigs against an Illini defense that ranks in the 97th percentile in post-up frequency with below-average efficiency.

Conversely, the explosive and efficient Illini offense is firing on all cylinders at the moment. However, Wisconsin can keep Illinois out of transition, where it's absolutely deadly. The Badgers have allowed the sixth-lowest transition rate in all of college basketball.

They also can at least contain the Illini on the offensive glass with both teams ranking in the top-20 nationally in that department.

Illinois has a home game against Purdue on deck, so it's not an ideal situational spot. Plus, the Illini have not necessarily been road warriors this season, sitting just 4-5 with wins over Rutgers, Michigan, Ohio State and Maryland.

In a matchup of two offenses that want to attack the rim, Wisconsin's defense is significantly more adept at preventing opponents from getting there.

I like the Badgers to pick up the home win in the Kohl Center in a game their upperclassmen have likely circled. They've never defeated Illinois, which has won six straight in the series.

Pick: Wisconsin -2 or Better

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USF vs. Charlotte

Saturday, March 2
4 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Charlotte -3

This is my favorite buy-low/sell-high spot on Saturday's card.

While USF — which is now in the driver's seat to win the AAC regular-season title — has won 13 straight, Charlotte has had a full week off following back-to-back road losses.

Not only has USF benefited from the league's easiest conference schedule, but it has enjoyed great fortune of late in close games — 8-0 in its past eight decided by six or less — and in regard to 3-point shooting on both ends of the floor.

Over the past month, the Bulls have shot 41.8% from deep while holding their opponents to a paltry 28.6%. Regression certainly looms.

From a matchup perspective, Charlotte doesn't turn the ball over and has been efficient against zone defenses, which it will likely see at times against USF. Its size can also give the Bulls fits on both ends.

Additionally, the 49ers should get a better whistle this time around and live at the line, where they excel.

Plus, Charlotte uses a press — with a very formidable rim defense behind it — to slow teams down.

That should prove effective against a USF squad that has graded out poorly against the press this season. In the first meeting, USF scored only .58 points per possession in 14 possessions against the Charlotte press, per Synergy. Expect that frequency to tick up a bit this time around.

The Bulls are an isolation-driven, jump-shooting team, but Charlotte boasts an elite jump-shooting stop unit, grading out in the 99th percentile in percentage of guarded opponent jumpers.

USF also won't fully exploit Charlotte's issues on the defensive glass.

The 49ers should grind this game to a halt and control tempo in this pace clash at home, where they've been nails all season with a 12-1 overall record, including 7-0 in league play. Charlotte ranks 57th overall in Adjusted Efficiency in home games, per Torvik.

I think Charlotte gets its revenge from the first meeting in Tampa when it blew a 17-point lead in an evantual three-point loss in which it scored only one point over the final five minutes.

Pick: Charlotte -2.5 (Play to -3)



Iowa vs. Northwestern

Saturday, March 2
5:30 p.m. ET
Big Ten Network
Iowa +4

I'm not sold on this version of Northwestern, which already lost starting guard Ty Berry and could be without sharpshooter Ryan Langborg once again. If so, the Wildcats would likely start walk-on Blake Smith for a second straight game.

Since losing Berry, Northwestern has won four of its last five, but that quintet of victories came over Penn State, Indiana and Michigan, which were all missing a key player. Plus, it picked up a road victory over Maryland.

The latter was the most impressive, especially without Langborg, but the Terps shot just 2-of-22 from 3 (most uncontested) with Northwestern making 28-of-31 from the line. Maryland, meanwhile, dealt with foul trouble throughout.

This Northwestern defense is still extremely vulnerable when it doesn't turn opponents over, ranking 245th nationally in effective field-goal percentage defense. Well, fortunately for the Hawkeyes, they turn it over at the eighth-lowest rate in the country.

They also thrive at the charity stripe (78.5%), which should come in handy against a Northwestern defense that ranks dead last in the Big Ten — and 331st nationally — in foul rate.

Northwestern also (by design) won't exploit Iowa's weakness on the defensive glass.

Lastly, I worry about fatigue for Northwestern down the stretch. The Wildcats, who rank 335th in bench minutes for the entire season, are even thinner due to the injuries in the backcourt, which have forced a number of starters to log astronomically high minutes.

I've liked what I've seen from Iowa, which has won five of its last eight in February (despite opponents shooting over 40% from 3), with wins over Wisconsin and at Michigan State.

Believe it or not, the Hawkeyes still have an outside shot at an at-large bid despite nobody talking about Fran McCaffery's bunch. But it really needs this road win, while Northwestern is comfortably in the field.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats likely have a bit of negative 3-point shooting heading their way. Over their past 10 games, they have shot a ridiculous 45% from beyond the arc, which leads all of D-I over that span.

They also love to work in the midrange, where Iowa's defense excels, ranking ninth nationally in midrange field-goal percentage allowed.

Pick: Iowa +4 (Play to +3)



San Jose State vs. UNLV

Saturday, March 2
10 p.m. ET
CBS Sports Network
San Jose State +14

UNLV has been the biggest surprise of the loaded Mountain West Conference. Winners of eight of their last nine, the Rebels have actually moved into contention for a potentially shocking regular-season league title.

That said, I think it's time to sell high on UNLV in a potentially sleepy spot at home against lowly San Jose State with games against San Diego State and Nevada on deck to close out the regular season.

While the Rebels have certainly been impressive during a 6-1 month stretch in February, they have benefited from close game luck and shooting luck.

During that span, opponents have shot just 24% from deep with a high volume of attempts. San Jose State, which will certainly chuck up its fair share of outside shots, is fully capable of giving UNLV some of its overdue medicine from deep.

We're likely at the very bottom of the market on San Jose State and the pinnacle on UNLV, which has a bit of looming negative shooting regression and finds itself in a tough situational spot.

Therefore, I'm taking my shot and holding my nose with the Spartans to stay within a number I show a touch of value on even if I'm somewhat worried about UNLV abusing them in the post.

Pick: San Jose State +14

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Nick Sterling
Apr 21, 2024 UTC