College Basketball Best Bets: Terriers Will Get Their Bite Back

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Happy Feast Week people! And to properly celebrate this joyous occasion, college basketball experts Three Man Weave and SI Gambling producer Max Meyer have their three favorite bets for Tuesday's slate. Since a couple of the games were not available at William Hill at the time of publishing (11:19 a.m. EST), we're also using DraftKings Sportsbook for these odds.

Wofford at UMES
3MW Pick: Wofford -16.5 (via DraftKings)

We must start this breakdown by tipping our caps to the father of Wofford basketball, Mr. Mike Young, whose Virginia Tech Hokies toppled the mighty Michigan State Spartans in Maui on Monday. Young spent 17 years in charge at Wofford (plus another 13 as an assistant), and it’s quite cool to see him have success after ascending into the ACC.

Plenty of Young’s players remained in Spartanburg, though, and the administration gave the job to Young’s assistant, Jay McAuley. He’s kept many of Young’s principles this year, especially an emphasis on the three-point line for offensive production. He has a deep stable of shooters, and the Terriers run a ton of great screening action off the ball to free them, though that action has been thwarted in recent games by athletic, disciplined defenses at Butler, Missouri, and South Florida.

After that difficult three-game stretch in which Wofford went 0-3 (straight up and against the spread), this is Wofford’s fourth straight road game, but the key here is that the Terriers were able to get home and recharge for a few days before setting back out for Princess Anne, Maryland (have not played since 11/21 in Tampa). The Terriers struggled mightily with the big, athletic backcourts that all three previous foes had, failing to hit 1.0 points per possession in any of those contests.

That won’t be an issue here, as UMES is the smallest team in the country by KenPom’s “average height” statistic, including a starting backcourt tandem that stands 5’7” and 6’0”. That will open up more shooting windows for the deadly trio of Nathan Hoover, Trevor Stumpe and Storm Murphy (not to mention the plethora of other shooters on this roster), and Hoover in particular is ready to explode. He’s shooting just 23.8% from downtown after connecting on 47.5% last season, and playing against smaller, less physical defenders should put him back in his comfort zone.

The Terriers have also been hurt inside, as big men like Butler’s Bryce Nze and Missouri’s Jeremiah Tilmon overwhelmed a frontcourt that is missing its two biggest players to injury (7’0” David Appelgren and 6’9” Michael Manning). The UMES frontline simply does not pose the same kind of threat on the glass and on the block, which should give the Terriers some respite in terms of their leaky interior defense (327th in defensive 2P%).

Statistically, Wofford should also benefit from some regression. Opponents have connected on 42.0% from deep this year, and that seems highly unlikely to continue—especially against a team like UMES, who largely lacks true perimeter threats.

There’s some slight risk in the “spot” angle here, as it’s the home opener for UMES after starting the season with six straight games on the road. I don’t put a ton of stock in that for these small conference teams, though, and I think it’s even more of a “get right” game for Wofford after it has been trying to punch up over the last two weeks, despite it being on the road. Give me the Terriers in a bounce-back performance and a game that’s at least a 20-point margin with around 10 minutes remaining (slam the backdoor!).

Colgate vs. Green Bay
3MW Pick: Colgate -2 (via DraftKings)

If anyone out there happens to stumble across Colgate’s 2018-19 mojo, please return it to its rightful owner. The Raiders, who laid waste to an always-competitive Patriot League and scared the pants off Tennessee in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, are still searching for last season’s magic. All the notable ingredients are still in the mix, including two high-major caliber superstars in Jordan Burns and Rapolas Ivanauskas, but one subtle element is missing—an interior garbage man. Dana Batt was exactly this a year ago. His departure seems to have disrupted the positional comfort of guys like Ivanauskas, who’s been asked to slide up to the 5 in Batt’s absence. Ivanauskas is an offensive gem, but he’s far less effective on the other side of the ball, which has been exploited by bigger and more athletic frontlines on multiple occasions this year.

However, tonight’s opponent doesn’t present that low-post scoring threat, which has been poisonous to the Raiders’ defense this season. In Green Bay’s hyperloop-paced offense, size and interior physicality are not a priority. The Phoenix forwards are agile and skilled, but in no way do they resemble the traditional back-to-the-basket big man prototype. Colgate’s nimble frontline should be well-equipped to combat that, especially if Shaquan “Tank” Hemphill, one the Phoenix’s more explosive forwards, remains sidelined (he’s missed the last four games).

All that said, the real reason I emptied my piggy bank on Colgate tonight is the edge it should have on offense. Green Bay just played in a barnburner last night against Northridge and survived by a point after nearly blowing a double-digit lead. With less than 24 hours before tonight’s tip, Linc Darner has the impossible task of retuning his defense to guard Colgate’s poetic motion offense. Not only can the Raiders initiate offense through Ivanauskas (from the post) and Burns (from the perimeter), but head coach Matt Langel’s playbook features a myriad of set plays capable of generating high-quality shots, regardless of personnel. We’ve yet to witness Colgate’s offense operate at peak form this season, but it’s only a matter of time before the Raiders heat up. There’s a zero percent chance Colgate shoots 30% from 3-point range the rest of the season, which is 10% lower than last year’s 39.5% clip. 

No. 18 Auburn vs. Richmond
Meyer's Pick: Richmond +9.5 (via William Hill)

During Feast Week tournaments, coaching really becomes integral after the first round since the ensuing games are quick turnarounds where you have limited time to prep. Auburn just beat New Mexico in the opening round of the Roman Legends Classic on Monday night, and now has to face Richmond less than 24 hours later.

It becomes especially difficult when the opponent runs an offense that you don’t see very often.

Enter Chris Mooney, a disciple of the “Princeton Offense.” Mooney runs his own style of it with the Spiders, and the key player to his entire offense is do-it-all big man Grant Golden. Golden is adept as the roll man in pick-and-roll, as a shooter and as a passer, and his presence at the top of the key is part of Richmond’s excellent spacing, which also leads to several cuts and easy layups. The Spiders as a team are 54th in CBB in assist rate, and Golden is third on the team in that department, just trailing guards Jacob Gilyard and Blake Francis.

Speaking of Richmond’s guards, they are excellent outside shooters, another staple in the Princeton Offense. There’s bound to be some regression here, but Gilyard is shooting 55.6% from three (12th among all players with at least 20 three-point attempts) and fellow guard Nick Sherod is at a 55.0% clip (14th). Sherod suffered a torn ACL early last season, but now that he’s back and healthy, he gives the Spiders another lethal perimeter shooter. Francis, a Wagner transfer, is shooting 40.5% from three thus far—which is in line with his time at Wagner, as he shot over 40% from beyond the arc in each of his two seasons there.

The point is, Richmond has a lot of ways to burn you on that end of the floor, and Mooney’s offense will give these already capable players even easier looks. And if you’re facing Auburn, you’re going to need to score to compete with this team. Additionally, the Tigers’ biggest strength on defense thus far has been in the interior, as they rank ninth in the country in blocked shots at the rim (16.4%) per and 21st overall in block rate (15.8%). But with the aforementioned spacing and Golden doing damage from the top of the key, that will force Auburn’s big men to venture away from the basket on defense and free up more opportunities at the rim with cuts.

With several key departures on the defensive end, highlighted by Chuma Okeke, Auburn hasn’t been nearly as good at generating turnovers this season (131st at 20.7%) compared to last year (second at 24.6%). That will hurt against a Richmond team that will maximize its offense possessions. Richmond not only is fourth in the country in effective FG%, but it doesn’t turn the ball over often either (38th at 16.1%). Auburn will get its share against Richmond’s defense, but I think the Spiders’ firepower will keep this game close. And good luck to Bruce Pearl trying to prep his team for Mooney’s offense with almost no time.

Season Record: 8-9