College Basketball Betting Picks & Predictions: East Tennessee State vs. UNC Greensboro 1/8/20


A massive slate of college basketball betting action comes your way on Wednesday with a lot of competitive games spread throughout the evening and across the country. One such game is the game of the night in the SoCon and quite possibly the country as East Tennessee State squares off with UNC Greensboro. Let’s give the mid-majors a little bit of love in this spotlight matchup.

The host Spartans are favored by 2.5 with a total of 128 in this Southern Conference showdown that could very well be a matchup we see down the line in the conference tournament in a couple of months.

Both teams already have a loss in conference play. ETSU lost to Furman over the weekend by a 65-56 count. UNCG dropped its conference road opener in double overtime to Wofford by a 98-92 score. Therefore, it is a potential bounce back spot for these two squads.

Which ETSU team are we going to get from Steve Forbes’s bunch at the Coliseum? The Buccaneers knocked off LSU in Baton Rouge back on December 18. The Tigers have four losses on the season. ETSU won by 11. The other three teams, VCU, Utah State, and USC, all only won by two points. On the other hand, ETSU also lost by 10 to North Dakota State back in December and was held under .85 points per possession for the second straight game in the loss to Furman.

Furman, at least right now, looks like the top dog in this conference, so there is no shame in losing on the road to the Paladins. The fact that it was a second straight game with poor offensive numbers is a little bit concerning. The Bucs beat Wofford on New Year’s Day by one point, but managed a season low .834 PPP. They were just able to hold the Terriers to .817 PPP in the 49-48 win.

UNCG has one inexplicable loss to Montana State by one point at home on its ledger. The other losses have been to Kansas, NC State on a three-quarter-court three at the buzzer, and this most recent Wofford game. One constant with three of the four losses is the opposition hitting at least 10 threes. Wofford hit 14 in the 2OT win. NC State hit 13, including the game-winner. Kansas hit 10. Otherwise, the Spartans have limited the opposition to under double digits beyond the arc.

Interestingly, UNCG is actually 282nd in the country defending the three at 36.1% against. Teams just don’t take a lot of threes against them and can’t really make two-point shots. The Spartans are holding the opposition to 45.3% from two. Opponents are also only shooting 64.5% from the free throw line. Of course, UNCG is only shooting 60.5% themselves, which ranks 343rd out of the 353 Division I teams. There could be a run on some UNCG overs when those free throw numbers level off a bit.

What stands out the most with UNCG are the turnover numbers. The Spartans are 24th in the nation in TO% on offense at 16.3% and sixth in the nation forcing turnovers at 25.6%. Again, this comes as no shock, but the three lowest TO% marks of the season for the Greensboro defense came against Kansas, Wofford, and NC State. ETSU does not take great care of the basketball and ranks 201st in that department.

Let’s see if ETSU can exploit the three-point defense weakness of the Spartans. The Buccaneers are shooting 33.8% from 3, which ranks 135th, but they take a high rate of threes at 41.4%. That ranks 89th. ETSU has taken at least 20 three-pointers in all but two of their games. One was against Cleveland State and they scored 80 points because they were doing anything they wanted on the interior. The other was the 10-point loss to North Dakota State.

Second-chance points look like a real possibility in this game as well. The Spartans are 53rd in ORB% per Bart Torvik and ETSU is 33rd.

Unlike most teams, ETSU doesn’t have one standout. Several players simply grade above average for one reason or another. The two highest-usage players, Tray Boyd III and Bo Hodges, don’t necessarily stand out in any one key area, but are solid all around. Seniors Jeromy Rodriguez and Lucas N’Guessan are the team’s top rebounders. Sophomore Daivien Williams is the best three-point shooter at 41%, but junior Patrick Good has been good 39.1% of the time with nearly double the attempts.

UNC Greensboro’s operation is a little different. Junior Isaiah Miller is the player through which all things go offensively. His 39% usage rate is more than double anybody else on the team and he’s taken 254 shots this season. He also has the highest assist rate on the team. Everything goes through him with 18.6 points per game. Last time out, both Kyrin Galloway and Kaleb Hunter were sidelined. Galloway left in the second half on New Year’s Day against Mercer and then missed the Wofford loss. Hunter missed his fifth game and second in a row by being absent against Wofford.

No injury updates were available at time of writing, so check for yourselves as the game approaches. Either way, I like the over in this one. ETSU has really slowed the pace, which is why this total is low, but they take a lot of threes and UNCG has trouble defending that. Second-chance points could be pretty big here, particularly for ETSU if Galloway and Hunter can’t go. Even if they can’t, James Dickey is UNCG’s best offensive glass man. There is some free throw regression coming both ways for UNCG, which could also lead to some overs, particularly in games that are likely to be in the fouling range like this one.

Pick: Over 128