Odds & Pick for Stephen F. Austin vs. Abilene Christian College Basketball: Bet Wildcats Over Southland Conference’s Best
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Joe Golding.
- The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks will take on the Abilene Christian Wildcats in a Southland Conference matchup on Wednesday night.
- The Lumberjacks have been the conference's premier program for the past decade or so, but Joe Golding's Wildcats have impressed with their recent play.
- Check out Mike Calabrese's full betting breakdown complete with a pick and updated odds below.
Stephen F. Austin vs. Abilene Christian Odds
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Stephen F. Austin has been the flag-bearer of the Southland Conference for the better part of the last decade.
Since 2014, the Lumberjacks have punched five tickets to the Big Dance while averaging 25 wins per season. This includes their historic upset of No. 1 Duke at Cameron Indoor. Needless to say, this has been one of the highest-achieving and most consistent mid-major programs in the nation.
This season has been more of the same from SFA, as they’ve posted a 9-2 SU record with one of those losses coming to Baylor in Waco.
Digging a bit deeper, however, the Jacks are just 4-4 ATS and have regularly played down to their competition, most notably in their 11-point loss to UL Monroe (299th in Sagarin).
Does SFA’s diminished play against the spread open the door for Abilene Christian to cover as a short home favorite? Absolutely.
In college athletics, ADs are generally an impatient lot. You need to win and win big or risk getting replaced within three to four years. For ACU, Joe Golding was afforded time to build up his program, and it appears that faith in the first-time head coach is paying off.
The Wildcats won 47 games between 2019 and 2020 and are off to a 12-3 start this season. Aside from a recent loss at Sam Houston State, they’ve been one of the best bets in all of college hoops (8-3 ATS).
The Wildcats are consistently winning with the best defense in the Southland Conference.
ACU forces over 20 turnovers and limits opponents to just 59.4 points per game, which ranks first and fifth in the nation, respectively.
This is generally in line with the Southland blueprint. When SFA was dominating the league, it did so with a suffocating defense. The Jacks are still forcing turnovers at a high clip, but that hasn’t translated to lower-scoring affairs (71.5 ppg). Having the decidedly better defense in this conference showdown is a major benefit for Wildcat backers.
It’s easy to get sucked into backing mid-major teams on hot streaks without considering who they beat.
The Jacks have won six straight, but those victories have come against opponents with an average Sagarin rating of 320. For perspective, Abilene checks in at a Southland-best 129th in the Sagarin ratings.
There are so many impressive defensive metrics I could talk about when discussing ACU, but its 3-point defense may be the most important in this matchup.
The Wildcats are allowing just 4.2 made 3-point shots per game (fourth) on 24.9% shooting (fourth).
Stephen F. Austin is already a team that prefers to get the ball inside, so it’s safe to say the possible variance posed by a 3-point heavy performance from SFA is slim and none.
Betting Analysis & Pick
Abilene’s lone loss in Southland play came to Sam Houston State during a game in which it 37% from the field and 3-for-19 from long range. Just for good measure, the Wildcats missed nearly half of their foul shots in a seven-point loss.
I see their offense bouncing back in this one, giving them enough to thwart the Southland’s premier program of the last decade.
Pick: Abilene Christian -2.5 (up to -4).