College basketball schedule today has 150 games
Another marathon Saturday card has arrived, boasting 10 times the number of games that we had on Friday. As I mentioned last week, I typically won’t look at any tip-offs prior to 2 p.m. ET simply because of the time change and the time it takes to get through the card. These cards are beasts, but at least there are plenty of games throughout the afternoon and evening to tackle.
The tracking sheet is here for the college hoops article. People will call Niagara -4 a bad beat yesterday, but it wasn’t. The Purple Eagles were covering for all of 24 seconds. I certainly wish the meaningless 3 had bricked out, but the right side got there…unfortunately. Onto the Saturday grind!
I’d also encourage you to check out the fine work of my colleagues Jonathan Von Tobel on the NBA and Andy MacNeil on the NHL. Plus, we’ve got plenty of Super Bowl coverage. Encourage your friends, family and even enemies to check out our subscription options.
Here are some thoughts on the February 4 card (odds from DraftKings):
*Saturdays games listed by tip-off time*
I’m trying to stick to later games for the sake of lead time, but I couldn’t pass on this 2 p.m. ET tip-off. Southern Miss and Georgia State meet for the first time this season and there are a few advantages for the road team that I really like here. The first is that Southern Miss does a really good job of limiting interior shots. They’ve forced opponents into a 3 on 39.5% of shot attempts. For a Georgia State team shooting 28.2% on 3s (356th) and only taking a 3 on 32.1% of shot attempts, this should really limit their offensive efficiency.
Southern Miss doesn’t get to the rim a ton, but when they do, they’re very effective, shooting 66.8% on Close Twos. That ranks 15th in the country. Meanwhile, Georgia State’s shot share against on Close Twos ranks 311th in the nation per Bart Torvik. They’ve allowed a lot of chances at the tin, but opponents are only shooting 54.5% (59th). I’d expect negative regression there and SoMiss is a high-percentage team at the rim.
We also have a Golden Eagles squad forcing a turnover on 20.8% of opponents’ possessions and a Panthers offense turning the ball over more than 20% of the time. Those extra possessions should come into play, along with Southern Miss’s extra possessions as a result of a 31st-ranked offensive rebounding percentage.
Give me Southern Miss laying a short road number here.
Pick: Southern Miss -4
A couple of NEC Player of the Year candidates do battle here with Merrimack’s Jordan Minor and Saint Francis’s Josh Cohen. Minor is averaging 17.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game and Cohen is averaging 22.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per night. Those two guys will get theirs, however there is a key injury for the Red Flash that seems to still be in play tonight.
Freshman guard Landon Moore has missed the last five games with a finger injury. He’s averaging 14.4 points and 3.5 assists per game. The one thing that Merrimack does really well on defense is force turnovers. Their TO% is 26.3%, the second-highest mark in the country. Moore’s projected absence hurts in that regard. Also, he’s a 38% 3-point shooter to fire shots over the Merrimack zone defense.
The Red Flash don’t have many shooters otherwise. Also, opponents have shot 39% from 3 against Saint Francis. Merrimack’s 3-point shooting numbers are a little misleading. They shot 25.2% from 3 in nonconference action, but are shooting 35.6% in NEC play. They are a league average offense and the best defense in the conference in terms of league play, so their full-season numbers are a touch misleading.
Pick: Merrimack -4.5
This is the first season as a Division I program for Queens University down in Charlotte. So far, they’ve done rather well, even though they’ve had some issues on defense. In this game, they draw an Austin Peay team that is bad on both offense and defense and this should be a good chance at a road win and cover for the Royals.
If you’ve been reading this column throughout, you know that I look a lot at shot selection and that is a huge part of the handicap here. Opponents are taking a Close Two on 42.8% of shots against Austin Peay and are converting at a 68.6% clip. That puts the Governors 361st in FG% against on Close Twos and 347th in shot share against. Queens is about average in terms of shot share and field goal percentage, but the path has less resistance to get to the rim here.
To make matters worse, Austin Peay doesn’t get to the rim. The Governors have a shot share of just 29.1 on Close Twos. Instead, they take a high rate of mid-range jump shots and way too many 3s for a team shooting 31.8% from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Queens shoots a 3 on 45.4% of shot attempts and is shooting 35.8%, which ranks 76th in the nation.
Queens doesn’t have a good defense, but this Austin Peay offense is awful and extremely inefficient. Queens should be able to put up good enough offensive numbers to overcome in this one.
Pick: Queens -4
This is another game where the shot selection is the primary focus of my handicap. Syracuse beat Boston College 79-65 back on Dec. 31 and I’m not sure why this game would go much better for the Eagles. As we know, Syracuse plays that matchup zone and it forces teams to shoot a ton of 3s. Boston College doesn’t want to shoot 3s because they’re really bad at it. This is a team that ranks 342nd in 3P% at 29.4% and 336th in 3P Rate.
They’ll have to shoot a lot of 3s today because it’s hard to get inside that zone. Syracuse has a shot share against of just 31.3% on Close Twos. Boston College typically gets to the rim at a good rate, despite failing to finish at a high percentage on those attempts. So, even if they do get in there, they may squander those chances.
Boston College also tries to force teams into a higher rate of 3s at 39.4%. Syracuse doesn’t shoot a lot of 3s, but is shooting 36.2% on them. They are a pretty good offense all around when it comes to FG%, including a high conversion rate at the rim.
Also, Boston College’s two highest TO% games in conference play to date are the first game against Syracuse and the game last Saturday against Virginia’s pack-line defense. I’d expect this game to go similarly and BC isn’t efficient enough on offense to overcome throwing the ball away.
Pick: Syracuse -3.5