Mid-Major Betting Report: Breaking Down Saint Louis, Iona & Santa Clara

Mid-Major Betting Report: Breaking Down Saint Louis, Iona & Santa Clara article feature image

Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images. Pictured: Nelly Junior Joseph (Iona)

Finally, we have reached conference play in college basketball, and this is where potential mid-major NCAA tournament teams define themselves.

Most mid-major conferences may not have more than one bid (conference tournament champion), so these teams truly have the find themselves in strong, competitive position for their conference tournaments. Others may have the benefit of an at-large bid.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the best of the lesser-known schools.

Saint Louis Billikens

SLU is now positioned atop the Atlantic 10, as it's tied with Dayton with a 5-1 conference record.

Luckily for these two teams, the A-10 does have a tendency to put more than one team in the tournament field each year. This could very well be the case if these teams keep up the conference domination.

The Billikens are good because of veteran leadership. For one, having a guard as an upperclassman to usher a team to and through the NCAA tournament is crucial in college basketball.

These guys need to remain poised, and no one does so better than Yuri Collins. He recently returned from an injury, so his existence on the court is crucial for the rest of conference play.

Yes, he has a 22.1% turnover rate, but he has the ball in his hands constantly. He also averages the highest assist rate in the country and averages 10.6 per game.

This is what we’re talking about. Yuri with a little eyebrow fake to bait Oduro into over pursuit. Then an easy dump off for a Jake Forrester JAMTIME. There’s a million little reasons Yuri Collins leads the nation in assists! pic.twitter.com/1Intgqa5yK

— West Pine Bills (@WestPineBills) January 12, 2023

He does so by dishing to the rest of the cast in Gibson Jimerson, Javonte Perkins and Javon Pickett.

This team has four players averaging at least 10 points per game. Otherwise, Jake Forrester and Francis Okoro are great options on the interior.

This team will excel offensively. This is without question. The Billikens can get to the line and drive when needed. They are also 35th in 3-point efficiency.

Most of their scoring does come from within the arc, though. Forrester is one who may come off the bench, but has a 58% 2-point field goal percentage. Jimerson and Okoro do, as well.

Photo by CBB Analytics

The holdout with this team is a lack of efficiency on defense. Per KenPom, the Billikens rank 130th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. They allow too many 3s and do not cause turnovers.

However, teams are only shooting 45.5% inside the arc on the Billikens. They are also only allowing 0.96 points per possession (PPP) in the half-court.

Although this team struggles in transition, it can defend down the stretch, which will be huge March.

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Iona Gaels

Iona is probably one of the most balanced mid-major teams in the country. It's holding opponents to a 46.6 eFG%, and it has the 78th-rated Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, per KenPom.

The Gaels do not shoot as well as they take care of the ball. They are only turning the ball over 15.2% of the time, which is massive in tight games.

Outside of Walter Clayton Jr., most of their starters are upperclassmen. Daniss Jenkins, Nelly Junior Joseph, Clayton, Quinn Slazinkski and Berrick JeanLouis are all averaging at least eight points per game.

Jenkins is a great distributor, with over 4.7 assists per game.

Good ball movement ends with a Daniss Jenkins floater. Damn ref #ncaa#basketball#CollegeBasketball#iona#gaels#danissjenkins#mbb#floater#cbb#maac@IonaGaelsMBBpic.twitter.com/CRWZEtV4QX

— DEE BLACK (@deeblackmma3) January 16, 2023

Now, the Gaels are not necessarily the best 3-point shooting team. They are hitting 33.3% of deep balls, but they also get 57.6% of their total points this season from inside the arc.

This is not necessarily the focus of their offense, but it does help to have a deep threat when chasing a lead. Jenkins and Clayton are shooting above 37%, so these would be the go-to 3-point threats if need be.

This team allows a ton of 3s on defense, but opponents are only shooting around 30% against them. The Gaels are also holding teams to 47.4% on 2s.

They can turn over teams at a 20.9% clip, as well.

This is a balanced defense, which could cause some concerns for high-major teams who may draw them come tourney time.

The Gaels do foul often on defense. They rank 249th in free-throw attempt rate, and they do not get there themselves (310th).

This, combined with allowing some open shots, could mean a little luck, but expect the Gaels to push through the MAAC. Their stiffest competition will come from Siena or Quinnipiac. Otherwise, the rest of the conference is relatively weak.

Santa Clara Broncos

In the latest WCC update, I broke down how Santa Clara could be the third-best team in the West Coast Conference behind Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga.

The Broncos are that good and could earn an at-large bid.

At the moment, they rank fourth in the conference, but they lost by three at home to Saint Mary’s and five at home to the Zags. They play each in the next couple of weeks, but if those are the only teams this program loses to, they have a shot.

Beating one of them on the road could be a significant boost to Santa Clara’s resume.

Brandin Podziemski and Carlos Stewart are the engine that keeps this team going. As a unit, SC shoots over 35% from 3. These two shoot over 41%, so teams need to stay on top of them.

Santa Clara Sophomore Brandin Podziemski is a potential draft riser. The 6’5 guard is averaging 19/9/4 and 2 steals a game. He’s also been efficient shooting 46% from the field and 40% from three on 5 attempts a game. He’s also one of the best shot creators in the class as well. pic.twitter.com/HU5SJDzklt

— KJ (@Kjpistons) January 9, 2023

The Broncos own a 33.3% offensive rebounding rate and hold teams to 24.1%. Podziemski, Parker Braun, Jaden Bediako and Keshawn Justice all average at least four boards per game.

This defense is not too shabby, either. It ranks 47th in Adjusted Defensive Shot Quality and ranks 45th in the nation in shot selection (ShotQuality). The Broncos can guard the post-up with the size they have down low.

The Broncos do have some issues with guarding the 3. Their Open 3 Rate is 32%, ranking 269th in the NCAA. This is why opponents are hitting 35.6% from outside the arc on them.

They need to iron this out because a matchup against a high-major who can launch consistently from outside will lead to problems for Santa Clara’s longevity.

Photo by CBB Analytics

The Broncos still might be able to edge out opponents with how well they can hit 3s. This should keep them in games all season long.

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