Need college hoops gambling advice? We've got our eyes on ACC, Big East and Big 12 matchups on Tuesday night.
Three Man Weave and I are back with our three favorite bets from Tuesday's college basketball slate.
Villanova at Butler
3MW Pick: Villanova +1.5
For nearly five straight seasons, Villanova has had the Big East in the palm of its hand. Taking the opponent’s best shot has become just another day at the office for Jay Wright as his Wildcats have had a target superglued to their back ever since the league was reconstructed back in 2014. Even after Xavier swiped the conference crown away from the Wildcats last season, Nova remains the primary threat to the other nine league challengers.
Over the last two seasons, only one program has consistently given the league-ruling Wildcats consistent headaches in their annual chase to retain the conference title belt: the Butler Bulldogs. Of Villanova’s seven conference losses in the last two years, three have been served up by Butler, including a borderline beatdown last season at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Cats would eventually get their revenge in the rematch in Philly before winning the rubber match in the semifinals at the Big East tournament.
So, why should you ignore all of that recent history nonsense and order a #607 ticket on the visiting Wildcats tonight? Well, here’s why….
After much fuss was made about Villanova’s sloppy start to the season, people were quick to dub this next wave of talent as a major work in progress, far from the standards set before them by Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono, among others. But as the spotlight has shifted to more lucrative national hoops headlines, the Wildcats have begun to quietly recreate the offensive precision that so routinely carved up the Big East over the last five seasons.
Now, with nearly one-third of conference season in the books, take a wild guess at who sits alone atop the conference standings at 5–0. Phil Booth and Eric Paschall, the unquestioned veteran voices in the Wildcats’ locker room, have done the heavy lifting on both ends of the floor without letting the burden impact efficiency. Booth has expanded his game from an off-guard scorer/shooter to a featured playmaker and primary shot-creator. Paschall has blossomed from an opportunistic role player to the clear-cut second banana to Booth offensively, while anchoring the defense on the other end.
With the two seniors each playing their parts to perfection, the rest of the pieces are beginning to fall in place seamlessly. Collin Gillespie has assumed the role of his predecessor, Ryan Arcidiacono, as an offensive co-captain with the skillset and basketball IQ to play on or off the ball. Saddiq Bey and Jermaine Samuels are rounding into mini-versions of Omari Spellman, using their enviable combination of size, length and offensive versatility to create mismatch opportunities in Villanova’s spread-out, drive-and-kick based offense.
All of this is to say the Wildcats simply have more offensive firepower than the host Butler in this duel tonight. While Kamar Baldwin and Jordan Tucker have played well of late, their cohorts are relatively limited in their ability to create offense. Aaron Thompson has improved his offensive game, but he’s still fairly passive as a rim attacker and is prone to throwing some high-risk, high-reward passes that have manifested in a few too many turnovers. Paul Jorgensen is an underrated slasher, but he’s far from an explosive threat off the dribble. Both Sean McDermott and Henry Baddley show flashes of an expanding offensive repertoire, but the attention Baldwin garners is typically what frees them up for open looks.
Some of these concerns came to fruition last game against St. John’s when the Bulldogs needed 54 points from Baldwin and Tucker to get past the Johnnies at home. It was an impressive win, no doubt, but it was a performance that will be hard to replicate against a much more disciplined Villanova defense—one that will be well-prepared to defend the steady stream of ball screen action LaVall Jordan will run and potentially expose the Bulldogs' lack of offensive balance.
Texas Tech at Kansas State
3MW Pick: Texas Tech +1.5
The Octagon of Doom, once a hostile environment where nary an opposing basketball team survived, hasn’t been quite as intimidating since the start of December. After rolling its competition in November, Kansas State is just 2–5 at home against the spread in December and January. Of course, data is only skin deep, and if we dig through the surface, we find that much of the Cats’ winter struggles were due to the absence of star forward Dean Wade. Since his return, K-State has been a wrecking ball, upending Iowa State and Oklahoma on the road and TCU at home. So why are we picking a Texas Tech team, losers of two straight entering tonight’s contest, to come out on top? Glad you asked.
Texas Tech’s success this season starts and ends with its defense, the No. 1-rated unit in the land per kenpom.com. Chris Beard’s pack-line style of play has shut down opponents in the paint (second in the country FG% D and sixth in block rate) and his long athletes on the perimeter have forced turnovers (10th in TO%) and closed out effectively on three-point shooters (second in three-point defense). The Raiders’ loss against Baylor on Saturday was the FIRST game all season in which they allowed over 1.00 points per possession (PPP), a staggering stat when you consider the competition Beard and Co. have faced this season (Duke, Nebraska, Iowa State, to name a few). In the Jan. 5 meeting between Texas Tech and K-State, the Raiders held a Wade-less Wildcat team to just 0.84 PPP and forced 14 turnovers.
Wade’s presence in this game is the key factor for the ‘Cats. His ability to shoot from the outside, pulling bigger defenders away from the rim, is not something Tech has had to deal with too many times in the young season. Beard’s choice of defender and Weber’s lineup choices will be a chess match all night. When Weber goes big with Makol Mawien alongside Wade or plays Wade alone at the five, Beard has an interesting decision to make. While he usually starts Norense Odiase and Tariq Owens together, two shot-blocking extraordinaires, playing the pair together may allow Wade to get his from the perimeter—either by way of the three or breaking down the defense with the pass. Owens is as mobile and lengthy as the Godfather movie is long, so he may be able to keep pace with Wade, but pulling arguably the best shot blocker in the country away from the rim will certainly hurt Tech’s interior D. A sneaky move might be letting Jarrett Culver, a first-team All-American and Big 12 POY contender, try his hand at stopping the 6’10” Wade. The fear here is Wade taking advantage of the smaller Culver in the post, but with either Owens or Odiase on the weak side and the fact that Wade won’t overwhelm Culver on the glass makes me think Culver could be up to the task.
Outside of playing through Wade, K-State has little chance of scoring effectively against Texas Tech. The ‘Cats are a slash-heavy offense that needs to get to the rim to score effectively. That will be difficult to do against a Tech team that will look to make the Wildcats beat it from the perimeter. Kansas State shot just 4 of 23 from the land of plenty in the two schools’ first matchup this season.
On the flip side of the ball, Texas Tech will certainly have its issues scoring against the fifth-best defense in the land, but Beard has better shooters than Weber to take advantage of what should be multiple clean looks from the perimeter. While it’s not a focus of the Red Raider attack, Culver, Matt Mooney, Kyler Edwards, Deshawn Corprew and Davide Moretti are all shooting over 35% from downtown this season.
This will be a close game, back-and-forth game up until the buzzer. Ultimately, the Raiders coming off two straight losses coupled with the fact that Tech has the defensive advantage in the paint and perimeter scoring advantage on offense, makes me like them in this one.
Duke at Pittsburgh
Meyer's Picks: Pitt +13
Sound the alarms: Duke is back! After falling at home to Syracuse as a 17-point favorite, the Blue Devils knocked off the last remaining unbeaten this past weekend with a 72–70 victory over Virginia at Cameron. That win is clearly resounding with bettors, as Duke has been bet up as a 13-point favorite after opening at -12.
But what I see here is a clear letdown spot following an emotional game against Virginia. The Cameron Crazies were rocking and Duke silenced the doubters by knocking off one of the top teams in the country with its point guard, Tre Jones. And now the Blue Devils have to travel to… Pitt. That’s a tough one to get up for.
Meanwhile, this is the Panthers’ Super Bowl. This is the only time they’ll play Duke in the regular season, and they get to do it in front of their home crowd. After an abysmal 0–18 campaign in ACC play under Kevin Stallings last season, Jeff Capel has this team rejuvenated. Pitt has beat Florida State and Louisville at home already, and competed wire-to-wire at NC State.
So what’s been the big key for Pitt’s success? Well, you know all about Duke’s fantastic freshmen, but the Panthers have a couple special ones as well making up their backcourt. Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens are averaging a combined 31.0 points per game, and have improved by posting 37.8 ppg in conference play. Johnson is a strong distributor (4.6 apg) and has a strong stroke (46.3% from the field, 40.3% from three and 82.9% from the FT line), while McGowens is incredibly at drawing whistles—he’s drawing 6.5 fouls per 40 minutes (51st nationally) and has already has shot 115 free throws, more than any Pitt player attempted all of last season.
A couple things to know about Duke: The Blue Devils are at their best when they’re constantly in transition compared to running half-court offense, and when in half-court situations, they are much stronger against man (93rd percentile in terms of PPP, per Synergy) compared to zone (21st percentile). Considering Pitt allows just 18.4% of shots in transition (tied for 16th-lowest percentage in the country) and plays zone 19.1% of defensive possessions (87th-highest percentage), this isn’t an ideal matchup. Even worse news for Duke is that Pitt is really strong in zone, allowing just 0.792 PPP, which is the 17th-best mark among teams that have played zone for at least 100 possessions this season.
With Jones doubtful to play, Duke’s transition offense takes a major hit because of how incredible he is generating turnovers and leading fast breaks. Pitt isn’t great at taking care of the rock (19.7 turnover percentage, 230th nationally), but not having Jones hounding the ball atop the perimeter will make life a lot easier. His on-ball defense would have also come up big against Pitt’s stud freshmen guards. Duke doesn’t have a lot of depth either, which doesn’t bode well against a Pitt team that is strong at getting fouled and going to the line (10th in FT rate).
Capel was Mike Krzyzewski’s assistant for seven seasons before becoming the head man at Pitt, and you can bet he’s itching to prove a point to his former boss. Capel will be prepared for what Duke throws at Pitt, and if there’s anyone who can exploit the weaknesses of a Coach K team, it’s him. This is a major opportunity to show how far the Panthers have come along in Capel’s first season at the helm, and in front of a sold-out crowd, I think Pitt rises up for this one to make it competitive.
Overall Record: 24-18-1