Saturday NCAAB Betting Picks: Our Pick & Roll, Featuring Kansas State vs Texas Tech, More
Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images. Pictured: Keyontae Johnson (Kansas State)
- Mike Calabrese and Sixth Man of the Year Cooper Van Tatenhove dive into Saturday's college basketball slate with four total plays.
- Calabrese is targeting two mid-major affairs while Cooper is going for the Big 12 and a C-USA clash.
- Dive in below before formulating your college basketball card.
Tanner McGrath is out this week, but the two-man weave is turning to “Mr. Instant Offense,” Cooper Van Tatenhove, off the bench. He’s providing a Big 12 play and looking to capitalize on the return of Jordan "Jelly" Walker down in Birmingham.
Michael Calabrese is digging deep into his bag of tricks and unearthing a pair of potential winners from the mid-major ranks. He’s also providing local recommendations for food and drinks to celebrate his plays.
Our Keystone State expertise knows no limits this week.
Breese's Top 2 Saturday Picks
George Washington vs. Saint Joseph's
The A-10 has a soft middle, to put it lightly. Just two games separate the fifth and 11th teams in the conference pecking order at the moment, and games like this will go a long way in determining who's in the running for a double-bye in the conference tournament (top four teams).
Saint Joe’s and George Washington both sit at 12-12 overall. GW is 6-5 in A-10 play and owns a home win over Saint Joe's in overtime. Meanwhile, the Hawks are 6-6 with six conference games remaining on their slate.
While their resumes appear similar, the Hawks have been trending in the right direction heading into Saturday. St. Joe’s has won six of eight straight up and fell by one point to GW on the road.
During this run, Erik Reynolds II has elevated his game. The Hawks' versatile wing has averaged 20 points per game during their hot streak and has upped his 3-point percentage to 37.4% on the season.
Cameron Brown has also stepped into the No. 2 scoring roll, pumping in 20+ points in four of his last nine games.
Saint Joe's has taken care of weak defensive teams on its schedule as of late, and GW certainly qualifies as a team that is only mildly interested in playing defense.
The Colonials rank 300th in opponent shooting percentage defense, and they let teams run their sets with little to no resistance. As a result, GW ranks 345th in opponent assist-to-made-basket ratio.
Translation: when teams run their half-court offense and share the basketball, they get a lot of open looks.
And it’s not as if the Colonials are gambling on defense and living in passing lanes. George Washington barely forces 11 turnovers per game (279th). Saint Joe’s can be sloppy with the basketball, so it’s nice to face a team that dials back the pressure.
On the other side of things, Saint Joe’s has improved its pressure defense and nearly won down in D.C. because of it.
Down five with 26 seconds remaining, Lynn Greer III completed an and-one before Christian Winborne stole the ball and got it back into Greer's hands down two.
He took the ball to the hoop, missed a layup, got his own rebound and tied the game with four ticks left in regulation.
I have some small concerns about Saint Joe’s foul shooting, which was ultimately its undoing in the first go around with GW. But if it can find a way to keep the ball in Reynolds' hands, it will be just fine down the stretch (85.1% FT).
I would play this up to -6.5, and I recommend making the 10-minute drive afterward to Dalessandro's for a cheesesteak.
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Loyola Maryland vs. Lehigh
You have conferences like the Big 12 that might send upwards of eight teams to the Big Dance.
And then you have the Little Sisters of the Poor like the Patriot League that have just one team in the KenPom top 200 (Colgate, 117).
The beauty of “low-major” basketball is that it’s often overlooked from a betting perspective, and the general public views teams in clusters.
Neither Lehigh nor Loyola will hear their name called on Selection Sunday, but don’t be fooled, there’s a wide gap between these two teams.
The Greyhounds of Loyola are in absolute free fall as a program. Loyola is ninth in scoring in Patriot League play and dead last in points allowed. That has translated to a 1-6 run straight up for Loyola.
And its play has been even worse when it leaves Baltimore.
Loyola has all of two road wins this year — over Bucknell (297th in KenPom) and Binghamton (313th). The Hounds can’t score, can’t cash in freebies from the line (360th at 61.4%) and have turned into one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation (358th in Def Reb).
Lehigh, meanwhile, can hit a higher gear when it starts knocking down shots from long range. The Mountain Hawks are one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the Patriot League and are 64th nationally, splashing 36.2% of their attempts.
It all starts with their strong backcourt that is a three-headed monster. Evan Taylor, Keith Higgins Jr. and Tyler Whitney-Sidney are a sharp-shooting brigade currently pouring in 42 points per game.
They blow the Greyhounds away in the skill department on the perimeter, with Loyola desperately missing Cam Spencer. The former Greyhound star is now shooting 41.9% from deep for his new team, Rutgers.
Also, Dr. Brett Reed has been a great bet at home. Lehigh has won 68.5% of its home games since Dr. Reed took over in 2007, and Loyola has been dreadful on the road since transitioning from the MAAC to the Patriot League in 2013.
The Greyhounds have cashed 39% of tickets against the spread since 2013 when playing on the road.
They’re also dead last (41.7%) ATS in Patriot League play overall. That’s the fourth-worst conference ATS record in the entire country.
I would play this game all the way up to -9.5, particularly given Loyola’s foul shooting (360th) and unwillingness to let it fly from deep (20.8 3PA, 216th).
That doesn’t leave the Greyhounds many outs against a superior team playing on its home floor.
Side with the Engineers here, and hit up the Tally Ho after the game if you’re in Bethlehem.
Pick: Lehigh -8 (Play to -9.5)
Cooper's Top 2 Saturday Picks
Middle Tennessee vs. UAB
Winning this game and staving off fifth-place FIU will be critical for both teams as they look to clinch a double bye in the C-USA Tournament.
The first matchup between these teams came down to the wire, with Middle Tennessee skating by in overtime, 74-73.
Although UAB wasn’t victorious in the first matchup, there are plenty of reasons to believe the Blazers will see progression in the rematch.
First being the reestablishment of Walker back into the lineup. Walker’s presence is irreplaceable for UAB’s offense, as he leads the way with 22.4 points per game while taking 34.3% of the Blazers' total field goal attempts.
Walker’s absence in the first matchup resulted in the Blazers shooting just 33.3% from the field.
This ability to force overtime despite the absence of their best offensive weapon was a result of the Blazers' tenacity on the offensive glass. They were able to grab 27 offensive rebounds, creating second chances on 45.8% of their shot attempts.
Overall, UAB has the highest offensive rebounding percentage in C-USA, while Middle Tennessee gives up the fifth-highest percentage per game.
In the end, Middle Tennessee was able to outlast the wounded Blazers through its ability to protect the rim. The Blue Raiders recorded 12 total blocks compared to UAB’s four.
This is another area the presence of Walker will help the Blazers, as they will rely more on their outside shooting to outpace Middle Tennessee offensively.
In a game that still has plenty of postseason implications, I love the value we are getting on a UAB team that is a completely different animal with Walker in the lineup.
Even without his presence in the first matchup, the Blazers were able to force overtime by dominating Middle Tennessee on the glass. Look for UAB to combine this rebounding advantage with Walker’s deadly outside shooting to win this rematch comfortably on its home floor.
Kansas State vs. Texas Tech
This Big 12 season has been one for the ages. This is reflected in the conference having a total of eight teams projected to make the Big Dance.
In addition, five of these eight teams are within one game of claiming the Big 12 regular season title.
One of these five teams is the Kansas State Wildcats, who sit at 7-4 in conference play, one game back of first-place Texas.
The Wildcats find themselves in this spot by ending a two-game losing streak on Tuesday night, when they dismantled a wounded TCU squad, 82-61.
There is a much different story to tell when talking about a Texas Tech team sitting in sole possession of last place in the Big 12 standings. The Red Raiders have only been able to muster two wins in their last 12 games.
In the first meeting between these two, Kansas State was able to overcome a rebounding disadvantage through its ability to get to the free-throw line. The Wildcats went 20-for-27 from the charity stripe, which resulted in a 10-point victory despite giving up 23 total offensive boards.
This rebounding advantage will likely regress as Fardaws Aimaq continues to be day-to-day for the Red Raiders.
The 6-foot-11 Utah Valley transfer recorded four total offensive boards in the first meeting and has missed every game since.
The injury list does not end there for Texas Tech, which will be without third-leading scorer Pop Isaacs, who suffered an ankle injury against West Virginia. In addition to scoring, Issacs is second on the team in assists with 2.8 per game.
These injuries will add to the pressure Texas Tech is facing against a highly-motivated Kansas State team.
On the offensive end, the Wildcats will look to score in transition, which is an area the Red Raiders have struggled to defend. Kansas State ranks 43rd nationally in potential quick points off of breakaway steals (13.54), while Texas Tech ranks 283rd in the same category defensively.
The Wildcats will also look to capitalize from beyond the arc against a Texas Tech defense that has struggled to defend the perimeter.
Kansas State is scoring just 27.8% of its points from 3-point range despite shooting 37.4% from this range in conference play.
This contribution from outside will progress against a Texas Tech team giving up 34.4% of its points from deep, the highest rate in the Big 12.
Overall, I will gladly back a Kansas State team that still very much believes it can take home the Big 12 title. And I feel even more comfortable when it's matched up against a Texas Tech team that is limping to the finish line.