College basketball expert picks and predictions
Stop me if you’ve heard this recently, but today’s card in college basketball is ugly and small. There are only seven games on the docket and five of the seven games feature a favorite of 13.5 or more points. There are as many games with Division I vs. Division I teams as there are games with D-I teams against local, lower-division schools. This is what exam weeks look like.
We’ll have just nine games tomorrow before a MASSIVE card on Saturday that features games like Arizona vs. Purdue, Kentucky vs. North Carolina, Alabama vs. Creighton, Baylor vs. Michigan State, and many others. There will be 88 games on Saturday and many of them are good matchups, so we just have to get through the next couple days.
Here are some thoughts on the December 14 card (odds from DraftKings):
8 p.m. ET
I assume that most of you out there have not bet on a team that calls itself the “Tommies” before. Maybe you don’t even want to tonight, but they’re taking on Marquette in a game that will mean more to them than it will to the Golden Eagles.
Marquette has already played the likes of Illinois, UCLA, Kansas, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Shaka Smart’s old employer, Texas. Big East play begins on Tuesday of next week, so this week is about making it through exams and keeping everybody healthy for the conference push. In fact, this will be the last non-conference game of the season for Marquette until the NCAA Tournament.
It will be a good opportunity for Shaka to put some guys out there who don’t normally play and to also take it a little easier with his starters, who have already played a lot of high-octane games to this point.
In terms of some statistical evidence to back up a play on St. Thomas here, I would note that they are 359th in the country in adjusted tempo per Bart Torvik and Ken Pomeroy. Marquette does like to speed teams up with their pressure defense, but as long as the Tommies take reasonable care of the basketball, they’ll bog the game down in the half-court. They do have a 45.4% shot share on Close Twos and a 42.4% 3P Rate, so they take the types of shots I like to see from teams that I back. Admittedly, they’ve played an awful schedule to do that, but I at least like where their offensive scheme and mindset lies.
Marquette’s pace has slowed a little bit since the early part of the season when they scored 92 and 95 on Northern Illinois and Rider, so I think this could be on the slower side of tempo for them. Their game against Wisconsin, who plays at snail’s pace, was played to 66 possessions, but there was a lot of fouling in that game to extend it a bit.
We’re getting a big head start in a game that I think will be played somewhere in the 65-68 possession range with a favorite that has a lot of other things to worry about, so I like the Tommies tonight.
Pick: St. Thomas +24