Looking for college basketball betting advice for Wednesday? Find out why we're eyeing two SEC underdogs along with an AAC and A-10 favorite.
Three Man Weave and I are back with our four favorite bets from Wednesday's college basketball slate, plus bonus notes on the Pac-12.
Vanderbilt at Florida
3MW Pick: Vanderbilt +10
Vanderbilt’s last meaningful win this season—a 16-point home victory over Arizona State on Dec. 17—predates the longest government shutdown in United States history, which began on Dec. 22. Thirty-five days later, when the government finally re-opened on Jan. 25, Vandy still had not won a basketball game of moderate importance (sincerest apologies to Tennessee State and UNC Asheville) and with another shutdown potentially looming this Friday, there’s a chance the Commodores’ drought could actually span not one but two government shutdowns!
In order to avoid such an “achievement,” the ‘Dores will need to shake off yet another conference loss on Saturday to Alabama (that’s now 10 straight for those keeping score at home) and re-focus for Wednesday's duel with a dangerous Florida team. Luckily for Bryce Drew, Vandy appears to be catching the slumping Gators at the right time, as they have dropped three in a row and four of their last five. Granted, two of those losses were against Kentucky and Tennessee, but Florida still enters tonight with a 4–6 SEC record, a far cry from where most expected them to finish preseason.
The Gators’ sporadic shot selection and dicey decision-making have manifested into one of the most volatile offenses in the country this year, which acts as an anchor to an elite defense that ranks in the top 10 nationally. Florida’s over-dependence on difficult shot-making puts an unnecessary burden on the offense, resulting in long stretches of scoring stagnation. Currently, the Gators' free-throw rate grades out as the league’s lowest by a significant margin while their three-point attempt rate is sky high, second only to the trigger-happy Auburn Tigers in the SEC. Another damming trait is the Gators’ propensity to take tough, contested pull-up jumpers inside the arc, a major sin amongst the advanced analytics community. Per haslametrics.com, only 31% of Florida’s shot attempts are categorized as “near-proximity”, which ranks 303rd in the country—in other words, 302 teams are more effective at getting close-range looks around the rim than the jump-shot reliant Gators.
Despite those aforementioned inefficient tendencies, the Gators still have some long-range snipers capable of heating up in a hurry. Noah Locke is the most precise sharpshooter of the bunch, a fearless freshman who has canned 66 threes this year at a sizzling 43% clip (eight percentage points higher than his two-point FG%). Locke has developed a nice chemistry with fellow freshman Andrew Nembhard, a pure point guard with a pass-first mentality who plays the role of Locke’s primary distributor on offense. While Locke is a catch-and-shoot specialist, KeVaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson can hunt their own shots off-the-dribble and will pull at a moment’s notice from anywhere on the floor. Don’t let their lackluster shooting percentages fools you (Allen 36% from three; Hudson 22% from three): Both are wired with a true scorer’s mentality, which can be lethal once they see one or two fall through the hoop.
The encouraging note for Vandy +10 backers tonight is that the Commodores grasp the importance of winning the battle of the three-point line. This all starts with Drew, who has made it a priority to run shooters off the three-point arc ever since he arrived in Nashville back in 2016. But even with a strong emphasis placed on denying open looks from behind the stripe, the uncontrollable element of luck is still at play here—Vandy is familiar with this dynamic, just a few days removed from Alabama’s 12-of-24 shooting clinic from downtown on Saturday. With that devastating barrage of threes fresh in their minds, along with Florida’s notorious reputation of chucking from the cheap seats, you can bet the ‘Dores will be hyper-focused on closing out hard on any and all shooters lurking on the perimeter.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it—this has been a forgettable season for the Commodores, much of which is attributable to the devastating season-ending injury to Darius Garland. That said, if you put each conference game under the microscope, there’s evidence that Vandy is qualified to stay closely connected with Florida for a full 40 minutes on Wednesday. Just last week, Vandy was up a deuce in the final minute at Arkansas, before ultimately falling short by a field goal. The ‘Dores also gave Kentucky all it could handle in the first meeting between the two back in mid-January at Rupp Arena. If the Commodores can keep it within single-digits for the first 25–30 minutes, they will go all in out of sheer desperation and hunger for that first SEC win.
South Florida at UCF
3MW Pick: UCF -7.5
Give all the credit in the world to Brian Gregory for the job he has done this season at South Florida, leading the Bulls to a sterling 17–6 (7–4) record and a current tie for fourth in the AAC after being picked by the overwhelming majority to finish in the conference’s basement. USF’s last winning season was all the way back in 2012 under Stan Heath—since then, the Bulls have been an afterthought in the realm of college basketball. Tonight, USF heads 84 miles up the road to UCF for the first iteration of the 2019 War on I-4 for a matchup with a Knights squad clinging for dear life on the NCAA tournament bubble.
The biggest key heading into this game is the health status of Bulls power forward Alexis Yetna, likely the frontrunner for AAC Rookie of the Year and arguably one of the best big men in the league. Yetna is averaging nearly a double double with 13.8 PPG and 9.8 RPG and is a large reason the Bulls rank ninth in the country in offensive rebounding rate. The 6’8” freshman has missed the last two contests, in which USF took down SMU by one on the road and nearly suffered a terrible loss at home to the hands of East Carolina. Yes, the Bulls are 2–0 without their stud forward, but those results suggest this team is much better off when Yetna plays. Advanced data backs this up as well—per Hoop Lens, USF is +0.12 PPP when Yetna is on the floor. Given this line has moved a full point from its opening at 6.5, it appears most bettors are leaning that Yetna misses this one (or at least is somewhat hobbled).
Yetna’s absence doesn’t mean UCF can just send this one in and walk out of CFE Arena victorious (from an ATS and straight-up perspective). USF has two very talented guards in sophomore David Collins and Gardner-Webb transfer LaQuincy Rideau. These two playmakers spark the USF pick-and-roll offense and carry the heavy scoring load, primarily looking to create off the bounce and get to the rim. No team in the country shoots a higher FT attempt rate than USF—that is, no team is as prolific at drawing fouls and getting to the foul line. UCF is built to counter this style with big perimeter defenders in BJ Taylor, Aubrey Dawkins and Terrell Allen, and a frontcourt featuring two near-7 footers and a giant. The Knights are a top-50 team in the country in limiting FT attempts and allow the 13th-lowest two-point FG% in the land. Further, Dawkins has been sporting a fair amount of zone this season (18.8% of possessions), so look for UCF to force USF to rely on outside shooting tonight.
Betting on UCF as a favorite can be scary given how slow Johnny Dawkins’s squad likes to play and how offensively challenged they can be at times. Backers of the fave will be counting on UCF being able to suffocate USF on the defensive end and taking advantage of what the Bulls give them on offense. Remember just a few sentences ago when I said USF was the No. 1 team in the country in FT attempt rate? Well, UCF is No. 2 thanks to Tacko Fall being nearly unguardable in the post and Taylor’s ability to attack off ball screens. Unlike UCF, USF fouls a ton and gives up plenty of FT attempts (331st in attempt rate)—big men Mayan Kiir and Michael Durr are very much in danger of getting in foul trouble in this game, which would mean bad news for a Bulls team missing/featuring a hobbled Yetna. It’s true Fall is shooting a putrid 30.5% from the FT line, but his ability to get the USF bigs in foul trouble and keep pounding the glass will be a huge factor in the Knights’ ability to wear the Bulls down.
Another key factor in the War tonight will be UCF’s ability to handle the USF press. Gregory’s squad has pressed at a top-25 rate this season, picking up full court on nearly a quarter of its defensive possessions. The Bulls rank eighth in the country in forcing turnovers, driven by the quick hands and feet of Rideau and Collins. UCF has fixed its turnover woes from a year ago thanks to Taylor’s return from injury. With Taylor in the lineup the whole year, the Knights have been a good ball security squad and their press offense has been excellent, pouring in 0.99 PPP against pressing situations, ranking in the 86th percentile in the country. If UCF handles the ball on offense, gets the USF bigs in foul trouble, and stops Rideau/Collins penetration on defense, the Knights should cover this game. I wouldn’t expect a blowout, but a double-digit win feels about right in a relatively low-scoring, defensive-minded game.
South Carolina at Tennessee
Meyer's Pick: South Carolina +15.5
The only two words you need to know for this play: Lookahead spot.
Tennessee already beat South Carolina by 22 in Columbia a little over two weeks ago. Now the Gamecocks are the only thing separating the Volunteers from their highly anticipated showdown at Kentucky on Saturday.
South Carolina has one-man wrecking crew Chris Silva down low, who exploded for 22 points in the first half in the first matchup against Tennessee. In fact, South Carolina kept it competitive for a good amount, trailing by just two points with 13 minutes to go before Tennessee’s late-game explosion. Silva is going to need help, though, if the Gamecocks want to be competitive in this game. That’s where two freshmen will be key.
A.J. Lawson was a non-factor vs. Tennessee the last time out, scoring just nine points on 13 shots. The guard is averaging 13.7 ppg on the season, and has averaged 18.3 ppg after the Tennessee loss. Forward Keyshawn Bryant only played 10 minutes vs. the Volunteers due to foul trouble, and was held scoreless. He’s averaging 11.3 ppg after the Tennessee loss (9.3 ppg on the season). If these two youngins can improve upon their performances against the Volunteers this time around, South Carolina can stick around. As much of a beast as Silva is, Tennessee is far too talented to keep things close against a one-man show.
Tennessee recorded a whopping 1.30 PPP against South Carolina, the highest PPP the Gamecocks have surrendered in SEC play (second is Georgia at 1.16). I trust that Frank Martin will make strong adjustments to force Tennessee into tougher shots. South Carolina already does a nice job limiting shots at the rim (31.7% of its opponents’ shots are at the rim, which is tied for 62nd-lowest in CBB per hoop-math). But Tennessee shot an absurd 29 for 45 on two-point shots vs. South Carolina (64.4%), and that is an area that will need to improve.
Despite its physical play, the Volunteers can be beat on the glass, particularly when it comes to allowing second chances. They allow an offensive rebounding percentage of 30.4 (258th in CBB), and that has gone up to 31.7 against SEC competition. South Carolina compiled a 35.0% offensive rebounding rate vs. Tennessee, including Silva grabbing eight on his own. The Gamecocks have been a much better shooting the ball in SEC play, and giving them additional opportunities to score can make this game much closer than what oddsmakers envision.
This is definitely a potential trap game for Tennessee with Kentucky lurking next, and I’ll take my chances on South Carolina keeping it closer on the road in Knoxville after already facing this team once.
Duquesne at La Salle
Meyer's Pick: La Salle -1.5
Remember our good friend Duquesne from last week? The Dukes, then 15–7, were only favored by two points at home against an 8–13 St. Bonaventure team. The Bonnies cashed for us then, and now we’re going back to fading the Dukes here with another line that should sound alarms for bettors.
Duquesne is now 16–8, after coming back down 18 points on the road to beat Fordham (ranked 236th on kenpom) on Saturday. Now the Dukes are 1.5-point underdogs to, wait for it, 7–15 La Salle. As was mentioned last week, Duquesne’s record is all smoke and mirrors, as this is simply not a good basketball team. But let me explain why we’re taking La Salle.
La Salle plays at a fast pace, thanks in large part to its press defense. Per Synergy, the Explorers press 16.3% of the time, which is a top-40 rate in all of college basketball. They are strong at forcing opponents to make mistakes in it, generating a turnover on 23.9% of possessions in press. Overall, their turnover percentage is 20.9, which ranks 63rd in the country. On the other end, Duquesne turns the ball over 20.8% of the time (297th), and that rate shoots up to 22.9% against press. In fact, the Dukes rank in the 21st percentile in terms of PPP against press defenses.
Another big defensive strength of La Salle’s is defending the three-point line. The Explorers’ three-point attempt rate allowed on defense sits at 32.6%, which is the 19th-lowest mark in CBB (they’ve allowed the fewest threes attempted in A-10 play as well, at just 32.3% of shots). With veteran guards like star senior Pookie Powell and Marquette transfer Traci Carter hounding the perimeter, La Salle makes it very tough for opponents to get shots off from deep. Threes are Duquesne’s main source of offense, as its three-point attempt rate is 44.5% (40th in CBB), and it’s gone up to 45.1% against conference foes.
The worst-possible defense Duquesne can face based off its statistical profile is a perimeter-oriented one that excels at generating turnovers. In the A-10, that’s La Salle.
On offense, Powell is La Salle’s most important player. He averages 15.8 ppg, and is the focal point of the Explorers’ PNR-heavy attack. Unfortunately for Duquesne, it ranks in the 30th percentile in defending plays featuring the ball handler in PNR situations, per Synergy. Whether it’s taking it to the rim himself or finding an open teammate on the perimeter (La Salle ranks first in the A-10 with a 37.5 three-point percentage), Powell should be able to gain the upper hand on Duquesne’s defense early and often.
La Salle has won four of its last five games, with an 84-76 road loss to George Mason being the exception, a game in which it led at the half and trailed by two points with under two minutes left. I like the Explorers to keep up their hot streak here against a fraudulent Duquesne in a poor matchup for the underdog.
I’ll be keeping my eye on whether Daejon Davis plays for Stanford tonight. Jerod Haase said the guard is a game-time decision, and the Cardinal have looked absolutely horrendous (0.93 PPP in 92–70 loss to UCLA, 0.70 PPP in 69–46 loss to Oregon) without him playing this season. On the other side, not only do you have an angry USC team coming in on a two-game losing streak after being swept at Galen Center by Colorado and Utah, this is also a major revenge spot. Davis hit a half-court heave at the buzzer at Maples last season to stun the Trojans, and that shot may have been what kept them out of the NCAA tournament. USC is currently a 1.5-point road underdog, but I’ll likely add the Trojans if Davis is out. If Davis is in, USC could be an intriguing 2H bet. The Trojans have gotten off to really slow starts on the road under Andy Enfield, and if they’re down at the half, I’d bet on them then.
Colorado is currently the hottest team in the Pac-12, winning its past three contests over Oregon, UCLA and USC, and the game before it easily could have beaten a very solid Oregon State (lost 76–74, but the Buffs shot 16 of 26 from the FT line, and they are a strong team from the charity stripe). Now Colorado gets Arizona State at home with the Sun Devils coming off a major win over Washington. After ASU’s other two major wins—beating then top-ranked Kansas and defeated Arizona for the first time under Bobby Hurley—it’s lost the game after to Princeton and Washington State. Colorado was run out of the building earlier this season in Tempe, and now gets a revenge opportunity in KenPom's No. 2-rated home-court advantage (only behind Arkansas). Additionally, this is a Sun Devils team that has really struggled on the road under Hurley, as they’ve never swept a Pac-12 road trip under him. The Colorado/Utah road trip is always a gauntlet for Pac-12 teams due to playing at the high altitude, and it’s especially taken its toll on Arizona State. Since Colorado and Utah were added to the Pac-12 in the 2011-12 season, ASU has compiled a 2-10 record on this road trip. And the two wins have come by a combined four points.
So while I really like the spot for Colorado, I just hate the matchup personnel-wise for the Buffaloes. But this is another game where I will be looking at a 2H bet if the Buffaloes are trailing at the break.
OVERALL RECORD: 42-38-1