We didn’t get a whole lot of surprises last night in college basketball conference tournaments. In fact, only two underdogs won outright and Niagara was a one-point underdog to Marist. The biggest upset on the board was Howard over South Carolina State at +6.
On the plus side, we had North Carolina for yesterday’s spotlight game preview and they covered every number ever available for the game in a blowout win over Virginia Tech. They’re in action again today as a bunch of college basketball conference tournaments tip off. We’ve got previews of just about all of them posted, as I await odds for the Big West and the WAC from the offshore market or Circa.
Some books are slow to post lines this morning because of teams that played last night or crowd concerns with regards to coronavirus. We are certainly in uncharted waters in that regard. Anyway, our focus should probably be back on North Carolina with the game against Syracuse, but I’d rather talk about something else.
Let’s take a peek at first-round action in the SEC Tournament down in Nashville with a matchup between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Ole Miss Rebels. Georgia has one of the nation’s best freshmen in Anthony Edwards, but he hasn’t been able to put the team on his back and carry them as far as he would have liked. In what could be his last college game, his Bulldogs are +3.5 against Ole Miss with a total of 144 according to the odds at Bookmaker Sportsbook.
These two teams have been very disappointing with their second-year head coaches. Tom Crean snagged one of the best recruits in the nation in Edwards and his team only improved from 11-21 to 15-16 and only added three more wins in conference play. It speaks to how bare the cupboard was when Crean got there, but also you would have expected a bigger leap in Year 2, particularly with a five-star freshman on the squad.
The thing about it is that Georgia actually ranks 22nd in the nation in 2P%. The Bulldogs only shoot 29.8% from 3, which ranks 323rd in the nation. Defensively, Georgia is about 30 spots above middle of the pack in terms of adjusted defensive efficiency, but 244th in eFG% defense. Opponents have shot better than 52% from 2 against the Bulldogs.
If we look specifically at conference play, Georgia was the worst defensive team in the league in 2P% at 55.2% and 14th in eFG% at 53.3%. The Bulldogs were also 12th in TO%, so opponents made a lot of shots against them and they really had no way of stopping it. The defense would look even worse if UGA wasn’t fortunate enough to have the second-lowest FT% against.
Suffice it to say that Edwards hasn’t been as good as anticipated either. Maybe the supporting cast wasn’t good enough, but he’s shooting less than 30% from beyond the arc. He was a 51% shooter on two-point shots, but averaged 19.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game during the regular season. He also fell just above the break-even point in assist-to-turnover ratio. Edwards is still expected to go in the first three picks of the first round, but it does feel that he was underwhelming statistically. Again, that could just be a byproduct of the team around him.
Ole Miss, however, is the bigger disappointment in this game. Kermit Davis actually took the Rebels to the NCAA Tournament in his first season. They were a #8 seed and got bounced in the first round, but he got them there. Then the bottom fell out. The Rebels only went 6-12 in SEC play and enter the conference tournament with a losing record overall.
Seniors Bruce Stevens and Terence Davis were pretty big losses from last season, but the holdovers from last year’s team have not developed as hoped. Davis shot 50% from 2 and 37% from 3 last season. Stevens played fewer minutes, but was a 62% player from 2. Davis was also the facilitator of the offense and among the team’s best defensive rebounders.
Still, last year’s leading scorer, Breein Tyree, was back for this year and so were guys like Devonte Shuler and Blake Hinson. Hinson did not develop in his sophomore year. Tyree remains the leading scorer, but his numbers have sagged, particularly with his two-point efficiency. The biggest leap came from sophomore KJ Buffen, but his scoring numbers have been wildly inconsistent throughout the season. Maybe last year’s bunch just didn’t deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament and we overshot the estimate this year.
The Rebels fell off in a big way offensively without Davis and Stevens. They were 22nd in adjusted offensive efficiency last season and dropped to 161st this season. They rank outside the top 200 in shot making on both twos and threes. They were in the top 100 in each category last season.
The crazy thing is that Ole Miss went from 319th in 3P% against on defense to 14th this season. It hasn’t really made a bit of difference, except to maybe keep the team from losing even more games.
These are two teams that did not perform up to their expectations, but it looks like the market gives Ole Miss a better chance of doing that in this game. The line has gone up from -2.5 to -3.5 and has even touched -4 at a few places.
I’m going to go against the grain of the line move and take Georgia here +3.5. If you can hold out for a 4, try to do that. I do like both of these coaches, but Georgia simply has a lot more upside with two good players in Anthony Edwards and Rayshaun Hammonds. Edwards can take a game over. Ole Miss doesn’t have a guy that can do that. Edwards and Hammonds were combined 4-of-20 in the first meeting that UGA lost by 10. Georgia had 18 offensive rebounds to five for Ole Miss. I expect better fortunes this time around.
Pick: Georgia +3.5