Stuckey’s 10 Favorite Situational Spots on Saturday’s College Basketball Card
Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Pictured: Javon Pickett #4 and Dru Smith #12
We’re less than a month until Selection Sunday. Cherish these full Saturday slates because the dreaded dead summer Saturday afternoons will be here before we know it.
Let’s dive right into my favorite situational spots with a pair of noon tips.
Odds as of Saturday at 6 a.m. ET and via PointsBet, where Action Network users can access an exclusive promotion to get a 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150). No strings attached. No rollover required.
2018-19: 47-32-2 (59.5%)
2019-20: 15-19-1 (44.1%)
Northwestern +13 at Penn State
Noon ET on CBS
If you haven’t noticed, the Nittany Lions are on a roll. They’ve won and covered seven straight — four of which came on the road, which is quite the accomplishment this year in the Big Ten.
That said, I think it’s a good time to sell high here in a potential flat spot. I’m not sure you see the most enthusiastic effort out of Penn State for a noon tip against lowly Northwestern for a game sandwiched in between Purdue and Illinois.
Look, Northwestern is bad and also very young but this team scraps, especially on the road. Just take a look at some of its results away from Evanston this year:
- Won at Boston College
- Lost by 5 at DePaul
- Lost by 9 at Minnesota
- Lost by 4 at Indiana
- Lost by 4 at Illinois
- Lost by.4 in OT at Rutgers
The Wildcats have suffered some horrific home losses (Merrimack, Radford, Hartford) but have stayed within single digits in four of their six conference road games — all against likely tournament teams.
I think the Wildcats will run a lot more zone than normal (they do about 25% of the time normally) against a Penn State team that struggles in its zone offense. Also, based on comments from head coach Pat Chambers on Thursday, I don’t think second-leading scorer Myreon Jones will suit up.
It’s not pretty but I’m holding my nose and pulling the trigger.
Charleston +3.5 at Northeastern
Noon ET on FloSports
It’s a good buy low spot to back a very experienced Charleston team after dropping two straight games — one of which came at home in shocking fashion to Elon.
I still believe Charleston is the class of the CAA but it needs this game if it wants to win the regular season title. And what better way to get back on track than against a team it has wanted to beat badly for over a calendar year.
Last year, Charleston coughed up a late lead against Northeastern in the CAA Tournament in a semi-home game to end their season. The Cougars then coughed up a 15-point second half lead in the first meeting this year.
I expect senior guard Grant Riller to go off in a game I make much closer to a coin flip.
Oklahoma State +4 vs. Texas Tech
1 p.m. ET on CBS
It’s time to sell high on the Red Raiders.
You may recall recently hearing many start to question whether or not Texas Tech would make the tournament with only one Quad 1 win on its resume. Well, just a few short weeks later, those same people are now saying Chris Beard’s bunch could return to the Final Four.
What has transpired since?
A home win over West Virginia. That’s an impressive victory in a game I bet TTU, but let’s be honest, the Red Raiders shot 11-17 from deep and 28-32 from the line. They also picked up home wins over TCU (meh) and Oklahoma (decent) in addition to a fortunate road win in comeback fashion at Texas in a game in which the Longhorns lost multiple players to injury.
Texas Tech is clearly a tournament team but I’m not buying the recent hype on this extremely young team that only has two true road wins this season: at Kansas State and at Texas in a game it probably should’ve lost.
The Red Raiders have also benefited from unsustainable three-point splits in conference play. They lead the Big 12 in both 3P shooting at 39.8% and 3P defense at 26.0%. Expect a correction to both numbers in the coming weeks.
On the flip side, Oklahoma State is shooting just 28.1% from beyond the arc in conference play. And this is almost the same group that shot just under 37% from 3-point range last season in league games. You should see a bump in this category moving forward.
I like the way the Pokes have played over their past few games and think this is a good spot to sell high on a Texas Tech team that has been running a little too well. It’s also a young Red Raider squad that could come out a little flat after basically securing their spot in the dance over the past couple weeks.
Plus, it looks like Terrence Shannon, TTU’s second-best player may miss this one with a concussion.
I’m also throwing some on 1H out of respect for those deadly Chris Beard in-game and halftime adjustments. I expect a spirited effort from the Pokes from the jump after losing 85-50 in embarrassing fashion in the first meeting in Lubbock.
Mercer +7 vs. UNC Greensboro
2 p.m. ET on ESPNU
The Southern Conference just doesn’t get enough respect nationally. Once again, the SoCon has a team that could get an at-large berth in ETSU if the Bucs don’t win the conference tournament. Furman and UNCG are also playing really good basketball.
And don’t forget about Wofford. While I think this version of the Terriers is a step below the top three, they still have an elite defense that nobody will want to face in the conference tournament.
Speaking of Wofford, that’s who UNCG will face next at home. Why is that important? Well, Wofford has absolutely owned UNCG of late, The Terriers won in double overtime earlier this year and beat UNC in all three meetings last year, including once in the conference tournament which ultimately cost them a shot at the NCAA Tournament. UNCG has to have that game circled and could get caught looking ahead.
Now, in regards to Mercer, the Bears have quietly been playing very good basketball of late. They’ve won seven of nine, including two impressive road victories against ETSU and Wofford. This is a big game for Mercer in terms of seeding for the SoCon tournament as the top six teams get a bye.
The Bears do turn it over a bunch, which is a concern against an aggressive Wes Miller defense that loves to press, but the Mercer press offense has actually been fairly efficient this season. I’ll take the touchdown with the home dog here against a UNCG team that may get caught peeking ahead a bit.
Alabama ML (-140) vs. LSU
4 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Alabama will have revenge on its mind from a blowout loss to LSU earlier this season in front of a raucous crowd in a game that could determine its NCAA Tournament fate.
This may mark the Tide’s last chance to pick up a much needed Quadrannt 1 win for their resume. They’ve come oh so close in a season that’s been marked by heartbreaking losses.
- Lost by 1 to Penn
- Lost by 2 at Penn State
- Lost in double OT to Florida
- Lost by 4 to Arkansas
- Lost by 1 to Tennessee
- Lost by 4 in OT to Auburn
In contrast, seven of LSU’s last nine wins have all come by four points or fewer.
Ultimately, I’m just not a believer in this LSU team. Yes, the Tigers can rebound and get to the line where they thrive but the defense is sorely lacking. LSU also struggles to defend the perimeter, which is where Alabama lives. And the Tigers cough up the rock a ton which should allow Alabama to get out and run, which it wants to do as much as possible under Nate Oats.
In the first meeting, Alabama only shot 26% from deep. I expect that percentage to rise significantly in Tuscaloosa.
In other positive news for Alabama, big man Herb Jones saw some action in its last game and should see even more tonight.
I like the matchup and the spot for the Tide against an LSU team I’m not as high as others on. I’m personally throwing Alabama in a ML parlay with South Alabama as it wouldn’t shock me if LSU made this close at the end, especially since the Tide can struggle from the line.
West Virginia +6 at Baylor
4 p.m. ET on ESPN+
It’s a classic Bob Huggins spot after back-to-back losses. Expect a fully focused and relentless defensive effort from the Mountaineers against the No. 1 team in the country.
I’ve said all year that Baylor still looks vulnerable against teams with size and West Virginia has length for days. The Mountaineers should eat up the offensive glass — where they rank No. 1 in the nation in terms of OR% — against a Baylor team that ranks 229th in defensive rebounding percentage.
The West Virginia length should also bother Baylor on the other side of the ball, as well. And when the Bears can get out in transition, which is where they’re most efficient offensively, they will have to score against one of the best transition defenses in the country. WVU only allows 0.834 points per possession in transition, which ranks 13th nationally.
This one should be close throughout, so I’ll gladly grab the six points in a matchup of two teams who struggle from the line.
North Alabama +10 at North Florida
5 p.m. ET on ESPN3
All of the Atlantic Sun-related talk over the first few months of the season was about Liberty after the Flames got off to a red-hot 14-0 start. However, it’s actually North Florida, winner of five straight, that sits atop the conference standings at 10-2 with a win over Liberty to its name.
The Ospreys have a rematch with those Flames on deck, which could ultimately decide the regular season conference title, so I’m not sure how much focus they’ll have here for a North Alabama team they already beat by 16 earlier this season.
Meanwhile, North Alabama arrives in Jacksonville losers of four straight to drop to 5-7 in the conference. Although, it has had the toughest conference strength of schedule to date while North Florida has benefited from one of the easiest.
UNF is the most three-point reliant team in the country, shooting from beyond the arc on 51.7% of its field goal attempts. But North Alabama generally does a decent job at taking away the outside shot. The Lions also utilize a press at a top-40 rate and that’s something UNF has struggled with at times.
UNF is the far superior team but this isn’t the greatest situational spot with Liberty on deck. I also expect some shooting regression to come the Ospreys’ way over the final few weeks of the season. In A-Sun play, they’re shooting 37.2% from deep while holding opponents to just 28.4% — both of which lead the conference.
Missouri +5 vs. Auburn
6 p.m. ET on ESPN2
We’re back to Mizzou again this week. I know the Tigers won’t have Mark Smith or Jeremiah Tilmon, but they’ve played a lot better basketball the past two games without both.
More importantly, Auburn will not have the services of star freshman Isaac Okoro. The future first-rounder brings so much to the table for Bruce Pearl’s bunch and I think he will be sorely missed on Saturday.
This is also not a super deep Auburn team, which has to be gassed after winning its third straight game in overtime. Believe it or not, Auburn has won four of its last five games in overtime, playing five total extra frames. As a result, the Tigers improved to 5-0 on the season in overtime games; the close game luck has to end eventually.
After seven straight wins, with an easy upcoming conference schedule, Auburn may come out a little sleepy here. And it’s not like Auburn has dominated teams on the road this season. Here are its road results:
- Beat South Alabama by 1 at the buzzer
- Beat Mississippi State by 12
- Lost at Alabama by 19
- Lost at Florida by 22
- Beat Ole Miss by 1 in double OT
- Beat Arkansas by 3 in double OT
The 4-2 road record is extremely misleading as Auburn could’ve easily dropped five of the six if not for a few crazy comebacks, overtime luck and a buzzer beater for good measure. Even so, only one of the four wins came by more than three points and both losses came in blowout fashion. And now, no Okoro.
The Missouri offense really struggles to take care of the ball but Auburn doesn’t really turn you over. I think this one should go down to the wire.
DePaul +9 at Creighton
7:30 p.m. ET on FS1
After a fast start, the season has turned sour for DePaul. However, I do have to give credit to head coach Dave Leitao, who still has his team fighting despite a 1-10 conference record.
The Blue Demons have lost a number of extremely close games in Big East play and have been road warriors all season long. They had non-conference road victories over Minnesota and Iowa. And all five of their road losses in league play have come by seven points or less, including an overtime loss at Villanova. They are still playing like a team desperate to end its six-game losing streak.
It’s also not a bad matchup for DePaul against an undersized Creighton team that really struggles on the defensive end. Yes, the offense is humming right now but the DePaul half-court defense is extremely underrated. The Blue Demons only allow 0.789 points per possession in the half court, which ranks in the 90th percentile nationally, per Synergy.
I think DePaul can do enough on the offensive glass (against a Blue Jays bunch that ranks 271st in defensive rebounding percentage) to keep this within single digits. Paul Reed should have a monster game for DePaul.
I’m also banking on Creighton coming out a little flat after an enormous road win at Seton Hall with games against Butler and Marquette on deck.
Washington +3 at UCLA
9:30 p.m. ET on NEC Front Row
It’s time to jump in and buy Washington low after seven straight losses in conference play.
There has been no unluckier team than the Huskies, as evidenced by their KenPom luck factor of 353 out of 353. Eight of their 10 league losses have come by six or fewer points — five by a single bucket and two in overtime. Just a brutally unlucky season for a team that started off the season with a neutral court win over now No. 1 Baylor.
When these two teams met earlier this season in Alaska Airlines Arena, Washington was an 8.5-point favorite. Even with no Quade Green this go around, I still think this line is too much of an overreaction based on some flukey conference results.
I make Washington a small favorite here, so will gladly grab the three points in a revenge spot for a very desperate team looking to end a long losing streak. And based on how the Huskies season has gone, they’ll probably lose by 1, which would work for me since I’m grabbing +3.
- UTSA +2
- UTEP -1
- Western Illinois +1
- Kennesaw State +13
- Loyola Chicago -1.5