Syracuse's last six non-conference games have gone under the total, and we're betting on a seventh one against Morehead State on Saturday.
Saturday’s slate of college games includes five top-25 teams in action, but none against one another. The result of this is a large number of huge spreads, which always deserve caution, especially this early in the season. First, a recap of last night’s bets:
1. After a solid start to the game, Providence collapsed in on itself, turning a seven-point lead into a five-point deficit at the half, doing absolutely everything possible to not win or cover. The Friars didn’t hit the defensive boards, giving up 15 offensive rebounds. They shot their free throws poorly, shooting 13-26 from the line—with the ultimate gut punch coming at 45 seconds when they drew a flagrant foul and missed both foul shots. A perfect anecdote for the Friars’ performance in this game came with 18 seconds left, when, trailing by five, a Providence player dove out of bounds attempting to save a ball that had gone off the other team. Wichita State looked like a completely different squad Friday than against Louisiana Tech on Tuesday. The Shockers crashed the boards and shot well from three (12-22). With two drastically different performances, Wichita State’s identity for this season is still very much up in the air. For Providence, Alpha Diallo looked great, and will likely be a consistent performer in the Big East, and freshman A.J. Reeves looked solid. If Providence can prove to be more consistent from the line and improve defensive rebounding moving forward, it will be a good group to bet on consistently.
2. Kentucky legitimately looked like it was going to lose this game for about the first 30 minutes, but in the last ten minutes the Wildcats seemed to finally start to figure things out and look like a University of Kentucky basketball team. Mind you, Southern Illinois is a good team that returned five starters and will have a legitimate chance at winning the Missouri Valley Conference, but one would have expected this Kentucky team to not trail by five in the second half, especially after closing as a 17-point favorite. Freshman Tyler Herro had another abysmal game, going 0-6 from the field and 0-2 from three. As a team, Kentucky only managed 14 total attempts from three, and made four of them. Kentucky may be a team to stay away from pregame and look to bet live until it is proven it can be effective for more than a handful of minutes at a time.
Here are our best gambling plays for Saturday night in college hoops:
1. Morehead State at Syracuse (over/under 137 points)
6:45 p.m. ET, ACC Network
Out of the 37 games Syracuse played last season, 24 were under 139 points. More importantly, this current Syracuse team, that returned all five starters, didn’t need to score a lot of points to win. Generally, spreads as big as the one in this game (23.5 points) need a high-scoring game to be covered, but Syracuse has proven that it can still win big while not scoring much. For example, in the season opener, the Orange beat Eastern Washington 66-34, falling 30 points below the under and still easily covering the spread. Last season, Syracuse hit the under in 57.1% of their games, even as it saw the totals plummet toward the end of the season. The Orange’s defense is just that good. The main factor that allows teams to get consistent scoring done against Jim Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone is taking and making a lot of threes, something that Morehead State, through its first two games, has been unable to do, shooting 32% from beyond the arc. While the Orange’s defense should be able to stifle the Eagles, Syracuse has not proven to be able to score effectively themselves, last season or through one game. Syracuse was middle of the pack in the nation last season, 135th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency, which was good enough to win but oftentimes not enough to run away with games. The Orange slowed down the games as well, as its tempo ranked 345th out of 351 teams. In addition to taking their time on offense, they force teams into bad, deep threes and turnovers on defense, ranking fifth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency last season, and first so far this season. Morehead State finished last in the Ohio Valley Conference last season, but gave a decent UConn team a competitive game on Wednesday, yet only managed to score 70 points. Syracuse’s defensive ability combined with offensive inefficiencies and struggles has all the makings of a classic low-scoring, dominant Orange performance. A few more convincing tidbits: The last six Syracuse non-conference games have gone under the total. Syracuse is also 8-1 under as a home favorite of 12.5 or more points over the last three seasons.
Pick: Under 137 points
2. Quinnipiac at Villanova (over/under 150 points)
8:00 p.m. ET, FS2
Villanova was the best offensive team in the country last year, ranking first in efficiency on KenPom by a considerable margin. The Wildcats lost A LOT of talent this past offseason, with the four top players from their championship team all departing for the NBA. If the team’s season opener was any indication of how their offense will recover from these departures, however, they should be just fine. The high-powered, high-scoring offensive system that Villanova ran last season was on full display as the Wildcats topped Morgan State 100-77. A lot of questions regarding the team’s offense and where production would come from heading into the season were answered in the win. Senior forward Eric Paschall, who is expected to lead the Wildcats on offense, scored 26 points and senior guard Phil Booth added 17. The tradition of an seemingly endless supply of able veterans coming through for Villanova every year will continue again this season. Jahvon Quinerly, a five-star recruit who was named on the Bob Cousy Award preseason watch list, only scored three points in the win, only proving the strength of Villanova’s offensive abilities and options even further. The over has hit in five of Villanova’s last seven games against the MAAC, and the over has also cashed five times out of Quinnipiac’s last seven out of conference games. Villanova quelled a lot of the preseason concerns regarding the team’s offense in the season opener, and while a 150 over/under is certainly high, Villanova should score enough points against this Quinnipiac team to cover the vast majority of the total itself. The over is also 11-1 with Villanova as a home favorite of 10 or more points over the last two seasons.
Pick: Over 150 points
Overall Record: 3-5