College basketball is one of the more entertaining sports to bet on due to the sheer volume of games that take place each day. As the regular season winds down and conference tournaments start up, this is a great time to hone your betting prowess before March Madness.
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UCF +1.5 (-118)
This should be a competitive matchup between middle-of-the-pack AAC foes, but the data suggests there’s value in siding with the slight road ‘dog.
Although the visiting UCF Knights have a worse conference record than the Temple Owls, they’re the superior team according to both BartTorvik and KenPom. The Knights are 65th and 64th in those respective rankings, whereas the Owls are 99th and 114th.
The difference primarily comes down to defense, where UCF cracks the top 50 in adjusted defensive efficiency, per BartTorvik, compared to a Temple team that barely sneaks into the top 100. The Knights are one of the nation’s best teams at creating turnovers, ranking 27th in defensive turnover rate.
These teams are more evenly matched on offense, but one area where UCF should have a distinct advantage is on the offensive boards. Central Florida is 22nd in offensive rebounding rate, which is in stark contrast to a Temple team that struggles in defensive rebounding rate (221st).
But perhaps the biggest strike against Temple’s offense is that leading scorer Khalif Battle is expected to miss the game. Battle has averaged 17.9 points per game for the Owls this season.
numberFire’s model gives UCF and the points a 57.8% probability of hitting. Some books have already dropped this game to +1.0 or a pick ’em, in which case the moneyline is another option. Our model gives Central Florida a 54.1% chance of winning straight up.
Under 160.5 (-106)
The Horizon League tournament is into the quarterfinals, and the Wright State Raiders and Milwaukee Panthers are two teams that really like to push the pace. Both teams are roughly top-20 in adjusted tempo, per BartTorvik, and that’s a big reason why we see this total up at 160.5.
Despite that, we may be better off banking on these squads coming up short of that hefty mark. Despite their fast play, Wright State and Milwaukee aren’t exactly the nation’s cream of the crop on offense.
The Raiders are 168th in adjusted offensive efficiency while the Panthers are even further down at 244th. For Wright State, they reach the charity stripe at one of the lowest rates in the country (352nd). The Panthers’ glaring weakness is their tendency to turn the ball over at an alarming clip, ranking 348th in turnover rate.
Neither team is anything special on defense, but keep in mind that this is one of the highest over/unders on the entire slate. We effectively need both sides to play well on offense to reach this total, which is definitely no guarantee.
Our model sides strongly with the under, giving it a 75.8% chance of hitting. If Milwaukee remains without their third-leading scorer, Markeith Browning II — who’s been out since early February — that should further boost our confidence in the under.
Pacific +2.5 (-120)
The first round of the WCC tournament gets underway tonight, and it’s the nightcap that looks like the one to target.
Given that both the Pepperdine Waves and Pacific Tigers have losing records, this isn’t the game to stay up for if you have some way of watching it, but what should intrigue us from a betting perspective is that the higher-seeded team is the underdog. While Pacific’s 7-9 record in conference play is nothing special, it sure looks better when compared to Pepperdine’s 2-14 mark.
Of course, win-loss records don’t tell the full story, and sources are mixed as to which team is truly superior. BartTorvik has Pacific at 180th and Pepperdine at 198th, but KenPom has the two teams flipped, dropping the Tigers to 194th and bumping up the Waves to 171st.
But if we dig into the strengths and weaknesses of these two, there are reasons to like Pacific.
The Tigers are the better adjusted offense (115th) over the Waves (162nd), and Pacific has favorable marks in effective field goal percentage (73rd), turnover rate (54th), and free-three rate (117th). But what really puts their offense over the top is their lethal three-point shooting, as they’re way up at an elite 11th in three-point shooting percentage.
Pepperdine is technically the higher-ranked adjusted defense, but with both sitting well outside the top 200, that’s arguably more of a wash.
If there’s one area where Pacific really struggles, it’s on the glass; they sit outside the top 300 in both offensive and defensive rebounding. While that would be a crippling weakness against many other teams, it just so happens that Pepperdine isn’t exactly the candidate to take advantage. The Waves rank beyond the top 250 in both marks.
Overall, our model grants Pacific +2.5 a 54.3% probability of hitting, and BartTorvik also sides with the Tigers, projecting them to win by 1.2 points. Pepperdine went 0-2 against Pacific in the regular season.