See why our three favorite bets from Thursday's college basketball slate include a Big Ten home underdog and a couple plays from mid-major conference tournaments. 

By Max Meyer
March 05, 2019

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Three Man Weave and I are back with our three favorite bets from Tuesday's college basketball slate.

Loyola-Maryland at Boston University

3MW Pick: Boston -4.5

Boston and Loyola-MD square off in the 8–9 matchup of the opening round in the Patriot League tournament. The winner of this gets the honor of playing Colgate, the regular season champion and a team that hasn’t lost since Feb. 2. Interestingly enough, that last loss for Colgate came at the paws of the Boston Terriers, a squad that has mostly underachieved this season after being picked to finish in the top half of the conference in the preseason.

Boston’s downfall this year has been its defense, ranking dead last in the Patriot League in adjusted defensive efficiency and 289th in the country. The Terriers have been THRASHED in the pick-and-roll this year, with guards being unable to stay in front of penetrating ball handlers and big men unable to slide their feet and prevent open looks or blow-bys. Per Synergy, BU allows 0.996 PPP to pick-n-roll ball handlers, which is the second-worst mark in the entire country. Loyola guards Isaiah Hart, Chuck Champion and (especially) Andrew Kostecka will be able to exploit this, so it is vital BU locks down the other areas on the defensive end and executes on offense. Kostecka, the Patriot’s leading scorer, dropped 28 points against BU in the first matchup between these two squads and Hart poured in 25 in the second. Aside from attacking the basket via dribble drive and the PnR, the Greyhounds look to score in transition with their talented guard trio. Per Hoop-Math, Boston allows the 12th-fewest opportunities in transition in the country.

The prognosis on defense may not be ideal for the Terriers, but offensively Joe Jones’s squad should have no issues putting the ball in the basket. Boston plays through All-Conference big man Max Mahoney via the pick-and-roll and through the post. Mahoney dominated Loyola in the first matchup, stuffing the stat sheet with 31 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 blocks and 2 steals, and followed that effort with a 16 and 11 performance on Feb. 23. The Greyhounds have no answer for Mahoney inside, as Brent Holcombe’s early-season injury left Loyola with thin bigs Kavaughn Scott and Casmir Ochiaka manning the middle. No team in the country scores more of its buckets from inside the arc than Boston, but Mahoney has willing and able knockdown shooters to combat any potential double team: Tyler Scanlon, Javante McCoy and Jonas Harper are all capable three-point shooters.

Boston has proven this season it can beat any team in the Patriot with its efficient offense, having knocked off Bucknell and Colgate this year. The conference tournament is an opportunity for a fresh start; I like the Terriers in this one to dominate the paint, control the pace and play more near their preseason expectations.

Longwood at Hampton

3MW Pick: Longwood +10.5

That’s right, we’re heading to the Big South Tournament’s opening round for a best bet today! Griff Aldrich and his Lancers head to Hampton to take on the host Pirates, who are playing in their first-ever Big South Tournament game (they had been in the MEAC until this year).

I’ll get this out of the way first: the regular season matchups both tilted heavily toward Hampton, which won at Longwood by 13 and at home by 20. Gulp. So why do I think the Lancers can hang around and make this one interesting?

First, I don’t think the Pirates will be boiling-lava hot from deep, as they were in the road victory in Farmville (16 of 24 from three, 67%). Longwood hit its fair share of threes that day too (15 of 34, 44%), but that rate is far more sustainable, and Longwood is one of the most three-reliant teams in the country. The Lancers’ conservative man-to-man scheme does concede a massive share of threes, but Hampton is the epitome of a “middling” three-point shooting team (181st in the country in 3P%), so another explosion is unlikely.

Perhaps more importantly, Longwood has Coach Aldrich. He’s proven to be a sharp basketball mind in his first season on the sidelines, and he should realize that the key in this one will be slowing Hampton down in transition. The Pirates play at the second-fastest tempo in the conference, 37th in the country, and scoring guards Jermaine Marrow and Kalin Fisher can fill it up in a hurry when allowed to play in the open court. Tournament settings often play to a more grinding pace as teams recognize the value of each possession (that tends to happen when your season will end with a loss), and Aldrich will stress the importance of getting defenders behind the ball at all times, even when the Lancers’ own three-pointers lead to long rebounds.

Marrow and Fisher have also been excellent in PnR scenarios, an area that Longwood has proven extremely vulnerable, but again: I’m expecting Aldrich to make some defensive adjustments that will frustrate the Pirates’ guards. You can’t let them get downhill toward the rim, so I’d like to see some additional trapping or harder hedging from Longwood’s bigs, forcing the rest of the Hampton roster to make plays on the move. To be clear, though, this isn’t some massive coaching mismatch, as Hampton’s Edward Joyner is a solid leader in his own right. I just think Aldrich’s tinkering will make it hard for the Pirates to break this one open.

Situationally, Longwood should feel a heavy sense of “fresh start” entering this one, as well. The Lancers lost six of their final eight regular season games (including both Hampton matchups) after star player Isaiah Walton was kicked off the team, and it felt like they simply limped to the finish line without him. The conference tournament gives them a chance to salvage the season with a big win or two, which might erase some of the bitter memories of that nightmarish late-season stretch. Expect a highly motivated Longwood squad, one that was 8–5 ATS as a road underdog this year, per teamrankings.com.

Purdue at Minnesota

Meyer's Pick: Minnesota +5

With Minnesota sitting squarely on the bubble and this being its final home game of the regular season, Tuesday’s matchup against Purdue is absolutely critical for the Gophers.

It helps that the Boilermakers haven’t been the same team outside of Mackey. Purdue has Haslametrics’ fifth-worst away-from-home rating in CBB (which measures a team's performance in neutral/away games compared to overall season performance), and it hasn’t been encouraging on the road in Big Ten play.

The Boilermakers’ eight Big Ten road games (from most recent to earlier in the season): three-point win at Nebraska, two-point win at Indiana, 14-point loss at Maryland, nine-point overtime win at Penn State, 12-point win at Ohio State, four-point overtime win at Wisconsin, 18-point loss at Michigan State and 19-point loss at Michigan.

So the only two times Purdue won by more than five on the road came in overtime where it pulled away despite a very even battle in regulation and a 12-for-24 three-point shooting performance in Columbus. On the other hand, Purdue has been borderline dominant at home, going undefeated there in conference play, including winning by double digits every time at Mackey in 2019.

The team that gave Purdue the most fits on its home floor? That would be Minnesota. The Gophers led by 13 points with under 14 minutes remaining before losing 73-63. Even though Minnesota is a below-average three-point shooting team (32.6 3P% in Big Ten play, which ranks ninth), it’s tough to see the Gophers going 2-for-16 from beyond the arc like they did the first time around vs. Purdue. Additionally, their best player, double-double machine Jordan Murphy, only played 25 minutes due to foul trouble.

What did Minnesota do well in that game? First and foremost, it had a Carsen Edwards stopper. Freshman guard Gabe Kalscheur drew the dreaded assignment for the bulk of the game, yet it was Edwards who really struggled. Purdue’s star scored just two points on nine shots in the first half, and ended the game with 17 points on 30% shooting from the floor (including a miserable 1-for-9 from three). It was Purdue’s big men that kept the team afloat, with freshman Trevion Williams arguably having his best game of the season (16 points on 8-of-11 shooting) and Matt Haarms adding 15 himself on just nine shots.

Williams, though, has really struggled of late. He hasn’t scored more than six points in a game following the Minnesota performance, and has played 10 or fewer minutes in four of the past six games. Minnesota’s freshman big man, Daniel Oturu, however, has had the opposite trajectory. Purdue had a really difficult time containing him earlier this season, as he had 19 points and nine rebounds. He’s scored 12 or more points in seven of nine games in February.

Oturu and Murphy are a beast of a tandem to have to deal with in the interior, and I think Purdue will have a great deal of trouble trying to handle them both. Minnesota’s lengthy guards in Kalscheur, Amir Coffey and Dupree McBrayer can also make things difficult along the perimeter for a Purdue team that loves to shoot from the outside (highest Big Ten three-point attempt rate), as Minnesota allows the 24th-lowest three-point attempt rate in the country, per kenpom.

The Gophers had the weekend off, giving Richard Pitino plenty of time to gameplan for this battle with enormous stakes. I think Minnesota keeps things close in what I envision to be a low-scoring game at The Barn on senior night.

OVERALL RECORD: 57-51-2

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