Wednesday’s slate is enticing, with a national championship rematch, eight top-25 teams and a wealth of mid-major competition to pick from. It would be impossible to stay away from Villanova vs. Michigan, but the two other plays from the day come from the same game, a mid-major battle between Toledo and Wright State.
Recap of yesterday bets:
1. Wisconsin started very strong, getting out to a 10–2 lead, but let Xavier chip away and took only a two-point lead into the half. The Badgers came out of the half energized and quickly got out to a 15-point lead 10 minutes in and was able to stifle all of Xavier’s runs. The Musketeers were effective inside, but struggled from three (5 for 24). There was a slight sweat to end the game, when two Wisconsin front-end one-and-one misses and a turnover gave Xavier the ball with 24 seconds left down six, but an illegal screen by Xavier sealed the Musketeer’s fate, with Wisconsin winning 77–68.
Kenpom.com has been big on the Badgers from day one, and if Ethan Happ is able to play as well as he has been, they are going to be a big problem for a lot of teams.
2. Harvard-UMass was a back-and-forth game throughout, with the biggest lead being Harvard by 10 at the beginning of the second half. UMass battled back against every run red-hot shooting Harvard put together, but never was able to put together a consistent offensive effort to hold a lead for more than a minute. Harvard performed well without its best two players due to injury, and, despite being outscored 40–35 in the second half, was able to hold on just enough to get the 74–71 win. UMass’s best chance at a cover would have been forcing overtime, but a choice to go for two instead of three with three seconds left put UMass in an unrealistic place to win. Harvard, even with the injuries, looks like a strong challenger to capture the Ivy League this season.
Here are our best gambling plays for Wednesday night in college hoops:
1. No. 18 Michigan at No. 8 Villanova (-7)
6:30 pm ET FS1
National championship rematch! This marks the first time two finalists play the following season since December 2010 when Duke played Butler. The spread in last year’s championship was -7, which Villanova easily covered in the 17-point win. However, four key departures for Villanova and two starters (plus sixth man Duncan Robinson) leaving for Michigan, make this a very different matchup than the one that occured in April. Michigan’s defense has so far continued to be elite so far and ranks sixth in kenpom.com's adjusted efficiency. Michigan’s offense, however, has not been great, ranking 54th in adjusted efficiency and averaging only 60 ppg on 36% shooting from the field and 20% from three. Against weaker competition in Holy Cross and Norfolk State, this has been enough to win, but the Wolverines have yet to cover.
Villanova has been dominating both ends of the court, ranking third in offense and 22nd in defense and averaging 93 PPG on 49% shooting from the field and 35% from three. For comparison, Norfolk State ranks 306th in AdjO and 264th in AdjD and Holy Cross 230th and 188th, respectively. The type of basketball that Michigan has been playing has been passable due to the lack of competition so far, but will absolutely not be enough to get the job done against Villanova. The preseason concerns regarding where Villanova would get its offense from have been silenced, with Phil Booth and Eric Paschall scoring 20 and 18.5 PPG, respectively. Michigan probably can’t shoot this poorly all year and is due for a good shooting game, but it won’t be against a Villanova team that will have the Wolverines exhausted on defense every possession. Expect Michigan to hang around in the first half, but tire in the second, giving way to Villanova pulling away and winning by a solid margin, comfortably covering.
Pick: Villanova -7
2. Toledo at Wright State (-3.5)
7:00 pm ET
Toledo has had a successful start to the season, opening with wins against Oakland and Division II Wilberforce. Senior Jaelan Sanford has been downright dominant, averaging 23 points on 53% shooting to lead the Rockets. Wright State is 1–1 on the season, opening with a win against Western Carolina, but was blasted 73–54 by Murray State in its last game. Gambling history pits Toledo as a strong underdog. Toledo is 10–1 against the spread in a road game where the total is 140 to 149.5 and 8–0 against the spread in a road game where the total is 145 to 149.5 over the last three seasons.
Conversely, Wright State is 1–8 ATS in home games after playing a road game over the last three seasons. Toledo’s offense has been great, ranking 56th on kempom.com, while Wright State is 178th. The Raiders' defense ranks 99th, but they don't have a viable defensive option for Sanford, and Toledo’s offense is superior to anything Wright State has seen this year. Regarding the over/under, Toledo is 239th in adjusted tempo and Wright State is 165th, so neither team likes to particularly run with the ball. Toledo’s generally high-powered offense will be effective, but limited compared to the team’s previous two matchups, and Wright State’s already average offense will not improve against its best opponent yet. This will likely be a sweat, but a combination of the slow pace as well as two teams well-matched for one another will keep the score under the total.
Picks: Toledo +3.5, under 144
Overall Record: 7-11