How to Bet the Sunshine Slam: Previewing UAB vs. USF & Georgia vs. Saint Joe’s
Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Jordan Walker (UAB)
The third edition of the Sunshine Slam begins on Monday. This is a non-conference tournament that began as a round-robin format, but following COVID-19, has transitioned into two brackets with two separate champions.
Each team plays one program on the other side of the bracket on campus prior to the beginning of play in Daytona Beach. Every team on the Beach side of the bracket won their matchup, except for USF, which lost to Austin Peay, 62-60.
None of the four teams in the Beach bracket have ever competed in the Sunshine Slam, so who can make the most of their first appearance?
UAB vs. South Florida
South Florida and UAB have met quite a few times historically, but their 60th all-time meeting on Monday will be their first since 2015.
UAB and star player Jordan “Jelly” Walker are coming off of an amazing season that saw them earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. They’ve picked up right where they left off from a season ago, but did drop a game to Toledo on a neutral court in their second game of this year.
USF is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to excitement about this season. There was a lot of hope in the preseason, and while the Bulls have been playing some decent basketball, they’re off to their first 0-4 start since 2015-16.
Can the Bulls get back on track against one of the best mid-major programs in the country?
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The Blazers fly up and down the court, moving at the fifth-fastest pace in college basketball, per KenPom’s Adjusted Tempo.
And while Jelly Walker is one of the best scorers in the country, the team as a whole is solid. UAB ranks 48th in effective field goal percentage.
UAB does rely heavily on 2s, rarely taking any 3s. That’s a bit odd given the Blazers’ struggles with rebounding and how short of a team they are on average (225th in average height).
The biggest key for the Blazers is the familiarity and experience of their team. UAB comes in at fifth in D-I experience and is 165th in minutes continuity from a season ago.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Blazers been decent, but where they really show up is on turnovers.
The Blazers boast five different players ranked in the 80th percentile or better when it comes to steals per game.
South Florida hasn’t had much of an issue when it comes to turnovers, but against a team that forces them this well, it could be a major factor.
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It’s incredibly hard to gauge this Bulls team through four games. On the surface, their defense has been decent, their scoring has been awful and they play an extremely slow game.
They lost by three to a team ranked 285th by KenPom, but then proceeded to lose by just eight to a top-25 Auburn team.
One of the biggest issues when it comes their scoring troubles — in my opinion — is that they are just not taking enough shots. That’s somewhat due to the fact that they come in at 319th in Adjusted Tempo, but even compared to teams that move at a similar pace, they just don’t take shots.
The Bulls are 315th in the nation when it comes to 3-point attempts and are even worse in field goals, coming in at 353rd.
UAB vs. South Florida Prediction
Even if the Bulls double the amount of shots they’ve taken in games this season, I don’t see them keeping up with the Blazers.
UAB’s scoring — paired with its ability to create turnovers — will be too much for the Bulls. And if USF lets UAB push the pace, I don’t think it will be another close loss for South Florida.
Back the Blazers as high as a 10-point favorite in this one.
Georgia vs. Saint Joseph’s
After already having to find a lot of replacements for departures in the offseason, both the Bulldogs and Hawks have had to deal with injuries so far this season.
Injuries and who is actually available for this game will play a major factor.
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Georgia has won three of its four games to start the season, but it hasn’t been pretty. The Bulldogs have yet to cover a spread and have been battling injuries.
In their last game, Matthew Alexander Moncrieffe made his season debut. However, Georgia was without Kario Oquendo (there’s no update on when he’ll return).
They have also still not seen Jailyn Ingram on the floor, but he did join the team this week for full-court practice reps for the first time.
The Bulldogs have struggled to score and have had serious issues with turnovers — they give the ball away on 24.3% of possessions.
One positive for the Bulldogs, however, has been the depth of their team, Georgia ranks ninth in the country when it comes to bench minutes.
If Georgia is without Oquendo and Ingram against Saint Joseph’s, it may not come away with a close win.
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Saint Joe’s looked to Erik Reynolds II to replace the output it lost with Jordan Hall’s departure for the NBA. and he’s stepped up in a big way.
Reynolds leads the team in points per game, as well made 3-pointers per game.
Speaking of 3-pointers, that could be the Hawks’ biggest key to pulling off the upset against Georgia. The Hawks rank sixth nationally in 3-point attempts and are hitting 37.3% of those shots (73rd).
The Hawks are a young and inexperienced team, but against a Georgia team that has struggled and may — once again — be without key players, Saint Joe’s shooting ability could come up huge.
Georgia vs. Saint Joseph’s Prediction
Even if Georgia has both Oquendo and Ingram, I think the Hawks can keep this close. But if the Bulldogs are without them, this is a game the Hawks can absolutely win.
Keep an eye on injury updates for the Bulldogs, but regardless, I would back the Hawks at any number +7 or better.
Sunshine Slam Futures
I haven’t seen futures odds for the Sunshine Slam anywhere, but this is UAB’s tournament to lose.
I don’t see anyone in this field giving the Blazers too much of a challenge.