College Basketball Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Monday, January 16th

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College basketball schedule today has 39 games

The Monday college hoops card starts early, much like the NBA and NHL cards with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. There are three noon ET tips and a few games going off in the 2 p.m. hour, which is rare for a Monday, but we still have a fair amount of games to pick from and more quality matchups than a usual start to the work week.

Nine games are on the docket in the Association and Jonathan Von Tobel has you covered with NBA best bets and analysis for those, while we’ve got 11 games in the NHL and Andy MacNeil is your go-to guy for today’s handicapping tips.

 

Here are some thoughts on the January 16 card (odds from DraftKings):

Elon Phoenix at UNC Wilmington Seahawks (-14.5, 136)

Last week was a tough one for UNC Wilmington. The Seahawks emptied the tank in a 71-69 loss to College of Charleston on Wednesday and then had a bit of a hangover in a 69-67 loss to William & Mary on Saturday. This looks like a “get right game” for the Seahawks against one of the nation’s worst teams.

Elon has not beaten a Division I team this season. They’ve had at least one point per possession in just three of their 16 games against Division I opponents and rank 334th in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy. UNC Wilmington won 81-66 on the road in the first meeting and led by 20 in the second half. The Seahawks have some frustration to let out today and I don’t think they’ll take a foot off the gas if given the chance.

UNC Wilmington has a huge advantage on the glass. Elon shoots a lot of 3s, but the Seahawks are a top-50 3P% defense. The Phoenix are shooting 49% on 2s, which is actually higher than UNC Wilmington, but they’re living on an unsustainable shooting percentage of 43.9% on mid-range jumpers, so they’re going to regress in that area as well.

It’s a big number, but the Seahawks are so much better than Elon and have a lot of incentive to blow this team out and get some positive vibes going into a tougher game on Thursday.

Pick: UNC Wilmington -14.5

UAB Blazers (-2.5, 145.5) at Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Middle Tennessee has a rest advantage in this game, as the Blue Raiders last played on Wednesday and UAB played on Saturday, but I feel like this is a really good matchup for the Blazers. UAB and Middle Tennessee both get to the rim a lot, as they rank 12th and 13th, respectively in percentage of field goal attempts that are dunks. Middle Tennessee is 19th in shot share on Close Twos, while UAB is 38th per Bart Torvik. Both teams finish well at the rim also.

The problem for MTSU in this game is that they allow a lot of looks at the rim. Haslametrics has a stat called “Proximity”, which is shooting proximity allowed against the average opponent. A rating of 1.0 is the worst and a rating of 3.0 is the best, as shots that are close to the rim are closer to 1 and shots that are 3-pointers are 3. The worst proximity on defense in the nation belongs to Siena at 1.832, but Middle Tennessee is 16th at 1.911. UAB has the 54th-best proximity against at 2.091.

What this means is that UAB keeps teams away from the rim better on defense than Middle Tennessee does. For two teams that like to operate close to the rim, UAB should have more success in that regard. Using Torvik’s shot share data, UAB allows a Close Two on 32.7% of shots, but Middle Tennessee does on 40.9% of shots.

UAB doesn’t shoot a lot of 3s, but is shooting 36.4% on 3s, while Middle Tennessee is allowing opponents to shoot 37% on them. The Blue Raiders also foul a lot with an aggressive defense designed to force turnovers. UAB takes pretty good care of the ball and also shoots over 74% at the line. Schematically, I think there are some big advantages here for UAB and it’s worth laying the short road price.

Pick: UAB -2.5

Montana Grizzlies at Eastern Washington Eagles (-4, 145)

The Big Sky Conference is one of my favorite leagues to handicap because there are so many contrasting styles and so many different teams. We’ve got a pace war in this game between Eastern Washington and Montana, as the Eagles push the ball up the floor and the Grizzlies are one of the 50 slowest teams in Division I.

That isn’t the only difference between the teams. Eastern Washington is a much better team offensively and defensively at the rim. The Eagles have a shot share of 38.8% on Close Twos per Torvik, while the Grizzlies only have a 26.8% shot share. While Montana limits chances at the rim with their defensive style, opponents are shooting 64.8% on their Close Twos. Eastern Washington’s opponents are only shooting 55.2%.

Both of these offenses are efficient, but in different ways. Montana lives and dies with the 3. Eastern Washington can shoot the 3 (and takes a lot of them), but ranks 23rd in the nation in 2P%. The biggest issue for EWU has been turning the ball over, but Montana is one of the 30 worst teams in the country at forcing turnovers, so that should neutralize some of Eastern Washington’s carelessness with the basketball.

Perhaps most importantly, these two teams played already. Eastern Washington won 87-81, even though Montana hit a season-high 14 3-pointers in that game to just five for the Eagles. This is the last game of the homestand for Eastern Washington and a standalone road game for Montana with rival Montana State coming to town on Saturday. This line has gone from -3 to -4 and I agree with that move. I’m backing E-Dub here.

Pick: Eastern Washington -4

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