College basketball schedule today has 15 games
It’s an easy start into the work week from a college basketball standpoint with just 15 games on the betting board. After my first Saturday of the article with 147 games to consider, I’ll take it. We’ve got three major conference games and a lot of stuff in the small conferences to think about.
Here are some thoughts on the January 30 card (odds from DraftKings):
The main event of the MEAC is the matchup between NC Central and Norfolk State. Both teams have tripped up more than expected in conference play, but these are the two best teams, despite a combined record of just 7-5. Norfolk State is the host squad for this one and a two-possession favorite.
There are a few reasons I like Norfolk State here. Their two losses in league play are a little misleading. They were 0-for-13 from 3 against Morgan State in a 77-71 loss that saw the Bears shoot 12-of-26 from 3. The other was against Howard in a game that Norfolk State led for 35 minutes and led by five points with a minute and a half left.
As usual, though, the shooting splits are a big part of my handicap. Norfolk State’s shot share against on Close Twos is just 30%, which ranks 30th in the nation. NC Central’s shot share against on Close Twos is 40.5%, which ranks 311th. Furthermore, the Eagles are allowing opponents to shoot 61.5% on Close Twos, which is 270th nationally. Norfolk State ranks 59th.
The Spartans force teams to shoot a ton of 3s. While NC Central is shooting a solid 36.2% on 3s, they don’t like to take a lot of them, ranking 290th in 3P Rate against Division I opponents. They are very selective from deep. They won’t have that luxury tonight and I don’t think they’ll be able to hit at their season-long percentage. Factor in a TO% on offense of 23.2% that ranks 354th in the nation and I think the Eagles have a lot of empty possessions.
With Norfolk State able to get to the rim and convert at a high rate, extra possessions and a high free throw percentage, I think the Spartans get it done and cover tonight.
Pick: Norfolk State -5.5
Finding Jimmy Hoffa might be easier than finding injury information for some of these small-conference teams, but it does appear that Morgan State will once again be without one of its best players and it seems like he may be out for the season. The Bears rallied last Monday without Malik Miller (17.5 PPG, 9.8 RPG) for a wire-to-wire job against Norfolk State. They followed that up on Saturday with a 64-62 loss to Delaware in which they outscored the Blue Hens by 30 points on 3-point shots.
Miller was also the leading assist man for Morgan State. Isaiah Burke is the leading scorer with 20 points per game and a 46% 3-point shooter, but he isn’t the player that Miller is. The Bears have taken 387 Close Twos this season and Miller had 122 of them. Conversely, Burke has 138 of the team’s 327 3-point attempts. He’s shooting 46.4%, but now teams are going to be able to key in on him because Morgan State doesn’t have guys that can get to the basket.
Maryland-Eastern Shore does get to the rim. They’ve struggled to finish, but have a shot share of 40.5% on Close Twos. Morgan State has allowed opponents a shot share of 44.8%, which ranks 360th out of 363 Division I teams. This looks like a good chance for UMES to see some positive regression on offense. Meanwhile, Morgan State has been reduced to a one-trick pony on offense.
Miller played almost 75% of the minutes prior to his injury and the team likes to push the tempo a bit. That probably changes now. The last game against Delaware State was played to just 64 possessions, the lowest of the season for Morgan State. This just throws everything for them and I think UMES as a short road favorite can take advantage.
Pick: Maryland-Eastern Shore -1.5