After a 3–0 opening night, here's our best bet for Wednesday's action in college hoops.
Whew. Tuesday night was a doozy. Having 20 of the top 25 teams in action was a whole lot to keep up with. It is important to not overestimate teams’ first games, but there was certainly some important points to keep an eye on when placing bets as the season progresses. A few thoughts on bets from yesterday:
1. Duke is something special. Will Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish go off like this every game? Of course not. Did this Duke team show enough versatility and explosiveness on offense, as well as a commitment to lock down both individually and as a unit on defense? Yes. Beating No. 2 Kentucky by 34 points (John Calipari’s worst loss EVER as Kentucky’s coach) is impossible to not at least kind of overreact to. It will be important to beware of ever-inflating spreads, but Duke looks about as safe a bet as can be moving forward.
2. UNC came very close to not covering, with Wofford’s Fletcher Magee relentlessly draining deep threes late in the second half. UNC did nothing to prove it is a great team, but also didn’t really do anything to prove it isn’t. Wofford was no joke, and was only +10 for a reason.
3. Nevada’s close call with BYU says more about the Cougars than it does the Wolf Pack. Early foul trouble on both of the Martin twins hobbled Nevada early, and the No. 7 team in the country played BYU even until the half. However, once the Wolf Pack were able to run their roster at relatively full strength (senior starter Tre’Shawn Thurman fouled out halfway through the second half), it blasted BYU 52–36 in final 20 minutes to both win and cover. Nevada has some serious talent, and will be a intriguing bet against anyone.
Wednesday’s slate of games is not quite as appetizing as Tuesday night, but there is one piece of action absolutely worth paying attention to, and it is a very long overdue in-state matchup.
Here is our best gambling play for Wednesday night in college hoops:
1. Ohio State at Cincinnati (-5)
6:00 pm ET, ESPN2
These two schools have not met on each other's court during regular-season play since 1921. Why? No one really knows. Past program-wide animosity and miscellaneous tiffs throughout time have prevented this matchup from occuring, but now it is finally upon us. The last time these teams met would have been a GREAT under bet, as the Bearcats won by a final tally of 33–17. It is safe to say that this game should be a bit more offensively entertaining. Both the Bearcats and the Buckeyes are coming off of strikingly similar offseasons. Cincinnati lost AAC Player of the Year Gary Clark, and Ohio State lost Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop. The Bearcats had a more successful, yet still disappointing, year last year, going to the NCAA tournament as a No. 2 seed but was upset by Nevada in the Round of 32. Ohio State also advanced to the Round of 32, but was heavily carried there by Bates-Diop. With both teams losing the most valuable portion of its base, it is important to look at what the teams have been able to do consistently in recent seasons regardless of personnel.
For Cincinnati, this is a defense that finished second in the NCAA in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom, which trailed only Virginia. In his tenure at Cincinnati, Mick Cronin has put an insane focus on defense. Cincinnati has been second, eighth, 12th, sixth and fourth in opponent’s points per game over the past five seasons. Cronin will likely be putting an even further emphasis on the defensive end to start the season as the team develops its offensive identity with a new roster. Ohio State clung to Bates-Diop—who lead the team in points, rebounds, three pointers, blocks, steals, free throws and minutes—on both sides of the court last season and will suffer a major fall-back with no one capable of replicating that kind of production. The same bet in a game that features two teams that lack an offensive identity is to side with the one with a coach that has a proven ability to turn any roster he gets his hands on into a defensive juggernaut. That team is Cincinnati, whose ability on the defensive end will be more than enough to stifle Ohio State and cover the 5.5-point spread.
Pick: Cincinnati (-5)
Overall Record: 3-0