College Basketball Pick & Roll: 4 Bets from Calabrese & McGrath, Including San Jose State vs. Arkansas & Oklahoma vs. Villanova
Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Steve Pikiell (Rutgers)
- Another college basketball Saturday means another pick and roll from Mike Calabrese and Tanner McGrath.
- Both writers came through with two picks, including San Jose State vs. Arkansas from Calabrese and Oklahoma vs. Villanova from McGrath.
- Read on for all four picks from Calabrese and McGrath.
Repeat customers to the Pick & Roll have become accustomed to reading about mid-majors so far down the board they’re below sea level. But this week we have four power-conference matchups on the docket.
Tanner is ready to pounce on Nova in the post-Jay Wright era before heading up I-95 to the RAC where ranked opponents go to die.
As for Breese, he views any opportunity to fade Syracuse on the road in ACC play as a good one.
And after a dress rehearsal against Troy, he thinks that Saturday will be Nick Smith Jr.’s coming out party in Fayetteville. How will the lottery pick’s arrival impact the Hogs’ non-conference game with San Jose State? Read on to find out.
Calabrese’s Top 2 Saturday Picks
Syracuse vs. Notre Dame
Notre Dame is a little bit difficult to figure out, at least from a statistical perspective.
On one hand, the Irish don’t share the basketball very well (324th in AST-to-FG), and they have zero faith in their bench, evidenced by their six-man rotation.
On the other hand, the Irish are 10th in shooting efficiency, 20th in overall offensive efficiency, and they’re beginning to see promise and potential turn into production as it relates to star freshman J.J. Starling.
I still believe they’re being undervalued in the market, which makes sense given their Downy-soft non-conference schedule (save for Michigan State). But I’m not sure you’ll find a number this attractive attached to the Irish — at home — for the remainder of the season.
On the other side of things, we have a Jim Boeheim-led squad that historically has been a team to fade in conference play. Dating back to 2010, the Orange have been the second-worst ACC road team ATS (43.5%).
This season, the Orange are as vulnerable as they’ve been in years, dropping three straight, including a loss to Bryant and a 29-point defeat to Illinois.
The disparity between the Irish and Orange in terms of offensive efficiency is jarring. As I mentioned above, ND is 10th in shooting efficiency. Well, Cuse checks in at 255th.
Equally troubling has been Syracuse’s weakness on the glass. The Orange are allowing opponents to rake in 31.2% of offensive rebounding opportunities, which is 298th nationally.
This gives Notre Dame a little shot in the arm in that department because it’s one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the country (4.3 orpg, 363rd).
Mike Brey, after three down years, got things turned around last season with a trip to the Big Dance — the Irish won in the play-in game before upsetting Alabama.
It appears the positive momentum has carried over, and he has a burgeoning star in his frontcourt. Nate Laszewski ranks 20th nationally in the “Win Score” efficiency metric and is averaging 17 points and 8.6 rebounds per game while shooting 43% from deep.
Notre Dame is the better team here and Syracuse is headed in the wrong direction. Time to lay the points at the Joyce Center.
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San Jose State vs. Arkansas
As I like to say, it takes two to tango on a total, and despite their 70 points per game average, I like San Jose State to play at Arkansas’ preferred tempo and score in the 60s or 70s in Fayetteville.
The Spartans are a top-50 squad in terms of offensive efficiency and they’re balanced in terms of who chips in on a nightly basis. SJSU has eight players who average over six points per game on the season.
On the other side of this game, you have an Arkansas team that plays fast (22nd in possession per game) and is integrating a future NBA star into its lineup (Smith). ESPN’s Jeff Borzello confirmed that Eric Musselman will be increasing Smith’s minutes against the Spartans.
This bodes well for Arkansas keeping its foot on the accelerator should this game get out of hand. The future-lottery pick needs to put up a nice stat line to get into the groove, and he’ll get every opportunity to do so in this game.
Even without Smith, the Hogs’ big three of Ricky Council IV, Anthony Black and Trevon Brazile are averaging 46 points per game.
San Jose State enters as one of the worst 3-point defenses in the country, and Arkansas has been struggling from deep this season. More open looks could give the Razorbacks the confidence to pull out of their slow start from 3-point range.
The last reason I’m on the over here is the easy-bucket factor. Arkansas has made life hell on opponents, turning them over on 23.8% of their possessions this season (8th). The Razorbacks have averaged 14 fast-break points per game across their last four, and I think they’ll flirt with 20 against SJSU.
McGrath’s Top 2 Saturday Picks
Oklahoma vs. Villanova
Villanova is an absolute wreck without Cam Whitmore and Justin Moore. The Wildcats need those two back before it has any hope of competing in Big East play.
Moreover, Kyle Neptune is still figuring it out. The former Fordham coach is already enduring the biggest test of his career — replacing Jay Wright — and is doing so without his two best players.
Nova is 2-5 this season and has dropped four straight games.
To be fair, ShotQuality projects Villanova for enormous amounts of positive regression. The Wildcats have avoided turnovers and the 3-point shots haven’t dropped (31.4%, 245th) despite a top-10 attempt rate (49.7%).
But this is a tough matchup.
I’ve already backed Oklahoma this season in a similar spot when the Sooners were catching 2.5 points on the road against an inept Seton Hall offense.
I’m ready to do it again.
Porter Moser gets his guys up for these games. Moser is 41-31-1 ATS as an underdog since 2014, which includes 1-0 this season.
Villanova has been destroyed defensively this season, as the ‘Cats are 284th in eFG% allowed (53.7%).
Meanwhile, Moser’s Sooners have a clear, defined offensive identity that has been effective.
Oklahoma will either run pick-and-roll with ball-handler Grant Sherfield or high-post plays with Tanner Groves or Jacob Groves.
Either way, the Sooners are 51st in eFG% (54.7%) and have been particularly efficient in pick-and-roll (.952 PPP, 91st percentile) and post-up situations (1.050 PPP, 88th percentile).
On the other side of the ball, Oklahoma has been elite at running guys off the 3-point line. The Sooners are 30th in 3-point rate allowed (30.3 3PA%) and 19th in 3-point shooting allowed (25.6 3P%).
That is going to make Villanova’s perimeter-oriented offense impossible to run. And the Wildcats are far too vulnerable on defense.
Without Whitmore or Moore, Oklahoma should be favored here. I bet the Sooners win outright and would bet it to a PK.
Indiana vs. Rutgers
I have been searching for a spot to sell the Hoosiers. Indiana is good, but it’s seriously overvalued.
This is a team that went 9-11 in Big Ten play last season, returned its entire core and is suddenly expected to take a massive step into being a Final Four team.
I respectfully disagree.
There are still major problems with Indiana’s roster construction.
You can say Indiana has been tested already, but I’m not sure. The Hoosiers are 7-0 with five wins over KenPom sub-250 teams, one impressive road win over Xavier and a home victory over a North Carolina team that I’m not sold on.
The Tar Heels are very similar to the Hoosiers. UNC got hot at the right time last season, and while it returned its entire core, I doubt the Heels are the best team in the nation.
Either way, Indiana will be pushed to the brink by Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights are already a pest to play in the RAC (Jersey Mike’s Arena … whatever), but it’s even worse to play against an elite defensive squad that rebounds well.
The Scarlet Knights are aggressive with their on-ball defense (11th nationally in defensive turnover rate) and crash the glass hard (19th in offensive rebounding rate).
If you want a guy to neutralize Trayce Jackson-Davis, look no further than Cliff Omoruyi. Omoruyi is a 6-foot-11, 240-pound talent that is elite at protecting the rim and clearing the glass.
Moreover, the entirety of the Rutgers team is good defensively. Caleb McConnell is arguably the best defender in the Big Ten, and the Knights are top-25 nationally in average height (78.4”).
Rutgers is not a juggernaut offensively, but it might be slightly undervalued after losing to Miami (FL). A big part of the Rutgers offense will depend on Paul Mulcahy and Cam Spencer — the former was out against Miami while the latter shot 1-for-10 (0-for-5) from the field.
We’re getting Indiana in a prime letdown spot in an impossible environment against an undervalued Rutgers team. If you need evidence, coach Steve Pikiell thrives in these moments, as the Knights are 11-1 ATS as a home underdog over the last three seasons.
I’ll buy Rutgers if it’s catching points.