College basketball expert picks and predictions
After a couple of small cards and maybe forcing a couple of plays, we’ve got a much larger college basketball slate for Saturday. There are over 100 games on the board and I will do what I always do on Saturdays and start my search for best bets with games that start at 1 p.m. PT or later. It’s only fair to give readers enough lead time to be able to check out the write-ups and see if they agree or disagree.
Unfortunately, that does wipe out a lot of early afternoon games, but there are still plenty of matchups to pick from for today.
Here are some thoughts on the December 9 card (odds from DraftKings):
7 p.m. ET
BYU doesn’t have to travel far for the first true road game of the season, but Salt Lake City isn’t Logan and I can’t help but feel like the Cougars are in line for some negative regression. They’re seventh in eFG% offense and 11th in eFG% defense, but Ken Pomeroy has them down for the 294th-ranked schedule in the nation, with the 310th-ranked slate of opposing offenses and the 265th-ranked slate of opposing defenses.
Utah has two losses on the season, which have come against Houston and St. John’s in Charleston, SC. They do have a road win over Saint Mary’s in what was one of their better performances of the season and they beat a pretty strong Hawaii team by 13 right after that. They struggled with Southern Utah in a very clear lookahead spot last time out, so I’m expecting them to be more locked in here.
BYU takes a ton of jump shots. They only have a shot share of 26.7% on Close Twos, while Utah is at 38.5% per Bart Torvik. It helps having 7-footer Branden Carlson, who will be a test that BYU’s defense really hasn’t seen. The Cougars are taking a 3 nearly 49% of the time and I’m curious to see how that translates to a different shooting backdrop.
Pick: Utah +4
8:30 p.m. ET
Belmont has a short trip from Nashville to Murfreesboro for this matchup against Middle Tennessee. The Bruins got off to a really slow start this season, especially on defense, with four awful performances against Georgia State, Furman, Arizona, and Monmouth, but Casey Alexander is a really quality head coach and the Bruins have held their last four opponents under a point per possession.
I’m expecting the same today against MTSU, who comes in ranked 330th in 3P% and 273rd in 2P%. The Blue Raiders are 322nd in eFG% offense. This game is a pace war as well, as MTSU ranks 358th in adjusted tempo per Torvik and Belmont is 34th. I don’t know if the Bruins will successfully speed up the game, but even if it is more condensed, they easily have the better offense.
Belmont is a top-50 team in 3P% and 2P%. They were awful on both ends of the floor against Arizona, so that game does skew their metrics a little, but they’ve been quite strong outside of that game and they are the better team when it comes to finishing at the rim. I’m on the Bruins here.
Pick: Belmont +1.5
9 p.m. ET
The handicap here for Cal Poly is the same as it was on Monday night when they covered against Oregon State in a game that needed two overtimes to be decided and was still only played to 78 possessions.
This is a lot of points for Weber State to cover in a game that will likely be played to somewhere around 63-65 possessions. Weber State’s shot share on Close Twos is only 29.5%. They’re only shooting 28.6% on mid-range jumpers and 30.4% from 3. For a team that ranks 320th in eFG% offense, it is going to take a dramatic turnaround offensively to be able to cover nearly two touchdowns here.
The Wildcats are also 282nd in eFG% defense, as opponents are shooting 57.2% on 2s against them. Cal Poly hasn’t finished well at the rim, shooting just 48.5%, but Weber State has allowed Division I opponents to finish at a 72.8% clip at the tin. The Mustangs had their lowest points per possession last game with .810 and still nearly upset Oregon State. I don’t think Weber State is that much of a step up, if at all.
In a game you could time with a sundial, the spread of 13.5 just seems like too much to me based on the Weber State offensive numbers.
Pick: Cal Poly +13.5