Creighton vs. UC Santa Barbara Odds, Picks, Predictions: Take Gauchos ATS in NCAA Tournament First Round
John McCoy/Getty Images. Pictured: Amadou Sow (12) of the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos men’s basketball team.
Creighton vs. UCSB Odds
|Moneyline||-305 / +245|
|Time||Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Friday afternoon and via DraftKings|
In perhaps the most interesting 12-5 matchup of the tournament, an up-and-down Creighton team is taking on a red-hot UC Santa Barbara team.
Creighton, at times, has played like one of the elite teams in the nation. But at other times, Creighton has lost to Butler, Xavier and Georgetown (twice). Creighton is 7-3 in its Quad 1 opportunities while being just 4-2 in Quad 3 opportunities.
UCSB started the season 4-3 and 0-2 in Big West Conference play. However, it finished the season 22-4, winning both the regular-season title and conference tournament title.
It’ll be interesting to see which Bluejay team comes into the tournament. That being said, both these teams can score, so I would expect fireworks in this one.
Shane McNichol: It’s been a strange few weeks for the Bluejays.
Following the revelation of recent racially insensitive comments by head coach Greg McDermott, Creighton has been on a roller coaster.
First, the Bluejays lost to Villanova with Collin Gillespie injured mid-first half. McDermott was then suspended against Butler, which the Bluejays waxed at home in Omaha, then again in the conference tournament with McDermott back on the sideline.
Their trip to Madison Square Garden concluded with a hard-fought win over Connecticut and a brutal beatdown at the hands of a mediocre Georgetown team.
It’s extraordinarily frustrating that this team has hit the skids this late in the season, given the level of talent on the Bluejay roster.
Point guard Marcus Zegarowski is one of the best pick-and-roll ball handlers in the nation. Mitch Ballock might be one of the 50 best shooters on the planet, with no regard for where his range stops.
Denzel Mahoney is a driving force with a soft touch from outside and Damien Jefferson is the textbook definition of senior glue guy. Jefferson can get a bucket in the flow of the offense, plays lockdown defense, and will make the big shot when called upon.
On top of that talent, McDermott is a particularly adept offensive coach. This team has the pieces to be incredibly dangerous. The Bluejays’ flaws too often take center stage.
Creighton is not a strong rebounding team and can be too 3-point dependent. The Bluejays also lack bench production, with no one outside the starting lineup collecting more than 15 minutes per night.
All of those factors lead to a frustratingly high-variance team. This Creighton squad can score 1.34 points per possession and hammer Villanova but can also lose games to the non-tourney teams in the Big East like Marquette, Butler, Providence, and Xavier.
UC Santa Barbara
Andrew Norton: Behind the likes of Amadou Sow and Jaquori McLaughlin, this team has accumulated a record of 22-4 while securing the Big West title. In the conference tournament, McLaughlin averaged 20.3 points per game on 52.8% from the field. For Sow, he played above and beyond his seasonal average of 13.7 points per game by pouring in an average of 18.7 points throughout the conference tournament.
The Gauchos, from an adjusted efficiency standpoint, aren’t overwhelmingly spectacular on the offensive or defensive end. As a matter of fact, per KenPom, they rank 66th in offensive adjusted efficiency and 80th in defensive adjusted efficiency. They average 73.9 points per game while allowing merely 63.9 points per game to opposing teams.
UC Santa Barbara’s conference doesn’t exactly help them in terms of strength of schedule, ranking 185th in the nation. But despite the fact that their strength of schedule is in the bottom half of the NCAA, I actually think the Gauchos are quite a bit better than where KenPom has them ranked.
To be fair, no equation is perfect. They’re clearly a dangerous team because they have their two stars playing their best basketball in March.
Watch out for the Gauchos, and trust that this momentum won’t stop.
Matchup & Betting Analysis
Tanner McGrath: I love the UCSB Gauchos in this game.
Playing in the electric Big West, UCSB’s opponents shoot a ton of 3s. In fact, 30.9% of UCSB’s opponents FGAs came from deep this year.
However, those opponents shot only 33.4% from 3-point range against the Gauchos, and only 26.5% of opponents’ total points were scored from deep. UCSB can defend the deep ball.
As mentioned, Creighton can become too 3-point dependent. In fact, it ranks in the top 35 in both 3PA/FGA and percentage of points scored from 3. The Bluejays love to jack it up from deep. But they’ll run into problems from deep against UCSB.
Plus, with Creighton playing so inconsistent and the Gauchos playing so well, I really love the spot here for UC Santa Barbara.
Pick: UCSB +7 (no further)