With this being the final CBB Prime Time Saturday of the regular season, the Big Dance is right around the corner, and some teams will get one final game to make their case for an automatic bid, while others are already trying to punch their ticket via their conference tournament. For the purposes of recreation for the big game bettor, though, I’ll stick to some of the biggest TV games with potential for entertainment value. Starting at 4pm, we’ll take a trip out to Lubbock, and see to Big 12 teams looking to close out the season on a positive note as TCU takes on Texas Tech. Then, we’ll see two teams on the tournament bubble in dire need of a win in the ACC clash as Louisville travels to NC State. And finally, I’ll preview the biggest game of the day, at 8pm ET, as North Carolina and Duke meet once again to close out their regular seasons in Durham.
TCU (21-9, 9-8) @ Texas Tech (22-8, 10-7)
4:00 pm ET ESPN2
Open: TTU – 6.5
Spread: TTU – 4.5
Consensus: TCU 52%
Now losers of four straight games, and a banged-up team to boot with PG Keenan Evans and PF Justin Gray both questionable for today’s game, Texas Tech is spiraling downward quickly, and has eliminated their hopes of a regular season Big 12 title. With this their final game before postseason play, one has to wonder if Tech doesn’t just mail it in here, rest their guys, and hope to get healthy for the Big 12 Tournament. They’ve already beat this TCU team once on the road and other than this being Senior night, there isn’t a ton to play for, other than pride and tournament seeding. But still, I’m sure Chris Beard wants to get his team back on track and finish of the season on a good note in Lubbock, so all things considered, I don’t expect Tech to hand this one over, but I’d definitely watch out for the status of Evans and Gray before placing any bets on this game.
TCU has closed out the season in opposite fashion, winning their last 4 games, acquiring some momentum heading into postseason play, and bringing their record in the Big 12 to above .500. The, 82-72, win at home vs. Baylor was probably the biggest of the bunch, with the last one being a 66-59 defensive struggle at home against Kansas State on Tuesday. Now, to close out the season, the Horned Frogs will look to make it 4-7 on the road in conference play and avenge that loss at home to Texas Tech on February 3rd; carrying their momentum on into the postseason, and further tarnishing what was an exceptional season for the Red Raiders.
Keys to the Matchup:
The previous meeting in Fort Worth, was actually a lot closer than the scoreboard would have it appear with the Red Raiders leaving with an, 83-71, victory. What it really came down to was an excellent shooting performance from Tech, going 10 of 22 from three (46%), while hitting 81% of their 21 free throws. TCU shot even better from downtown, however, going 50%, but only on 12 attempts, while failing to cash in at the line, hitting only 15 of 24 for 63%. TCU wasn’t great inside, either, where they took most of their attempts, going 19-39 (49%), when they usually average 55.6% from two. But the Texas Tech defense (3rd), is actually very good inside (20th, 45.1%), so 49% actually isn’t much of a statistical abnormality. However, with respect to Tech’s shooting performance, the scoreboard could have easily told a different story.
If there are any statistics what we can expect to regress to their average in today’s game with respect to the first meeting they are: Tech’s three-point percentage, which is normally only 35.8% (133rd) and their free-throw percentage, which is normally 70.3% (211th). TCU did shoot 50% from three, but on only 12 attempts, which means they miss one more shot and they are already down to their season long average of 40.7%, which is good for 12th in the country. But all other statistics considered, if Tech’s shooting regresses back to its mean, that’s a predicted 9-point different from the previous scoring output of Texas Tech.
Overall, when you consider the matchup, the TCU offense (7th) and the Texas Tech defense will be strength on strength and even across the board. But when you analyze the Tech offense (50th) against the TCU D (113th), there is a bit of a mismatch there, and Tech could once again outshoot their average from 3, when you factor in the reality that the TCU perimeter D is one of the worst in the country (320th). Therefore, if you expect a little shooting regression from Tech, but flip home court, you could be looking at a similar outcome in this one. The most important factor will be Tech’s health, though, and if their key cogs are out there, I think it’s safe to expect a spirited effort from a team hungry for a win. If Evans and Gray sit, I think there is a good chance that Tech doesn’t quite show up for Senior night, for with these guys out, they won’t even be starting a senior.
TTU is 13-13 ATS overall
TTU is 7-10 ATS in the Big 12
TTU is 7-6 ATS as a home favorite
TCU is 16-12 ATS overall
TCU is 10-6 ATS in the Big 12
TCU is 4-4-1 ATS as an away team
Louisville (19-11, 9-8) @ NC State (20-10, 10-7)
6:00 pm ET ESPN
Open: NC STATE – 3
Spread: NC STATE – 1.5 *REVERSE LINE MOVE*
Consensus: NC STATE 62%
Two teams, desperate to make one final statement that could pave their way into the Big Dance, will meet tonight as Louisville will play host to NC State, in what could turn out to be a bubble bursting affair.
NC State had things rolling as of late, winning four straight in the ACC, with two of these wins coming on the road, and it was looking as if this late season run would punch their ticket into March Madness. Then, on Thursday night, in what was a very winnable game on the road at Georgia Tech, they lost a heartbreaker, 78-75, which makes this game tonight ever more important. A win at home over Louisville could be their final hope at an automatic bid, so we can expect max effort from the Wolfpack tonight, at home, on Senior Night.
Louisville was also a team that needed to finish out the regular season strong if they were to earn an automatic bid, but unfortunately for them, their schedule included 3 of their last 4 games against North Carolina, Duke, and Virginia. They lost all of these, to Duke and Carolina by large margins, and a heartbreaker on Thursday at home to Virginia by one point. With an impressive win on the road over VA Tech nestled in the middle of these, they still have a chance, but tonight’s win will likely have to be emphatic in Raleigh to earn a bid.
Keys to the Matchup
The key matchup for these two, in their first and only meeting of the season, will be the NC State offense (28th), which thrives off using its height inside (91st) to control the offensive glass (25th) and get points in the paint (84th 2P%), against the Louisville D (20th), which features the 12th best FG% against in the country. Louisville is even taller than NC State (16th overall), which could be key here, because the Wolfpack may have trouble finding their usual success inside when the Louisville D is much better than them at their own game (15th 2p% D). If the Cardinal D, does struggle anywhere, though, it is on the glass (286th), which could play right into NC State’s hands, but defensive rebounding has largely to do with effort when you’re usually the bigger/taller team, and with the season on the line, I think we get the full effort from this Louisville D, which could be a mismatch for NC State.
The Louisville offense (60th), should also hold an advantage of the NC State D (87th), as one that prides itself on limiting turnovers (55th) and using their athleticism to run you up and down the court (18th). Where this may be a mismatch for the Wolfpack, is that they somewhat tend to rely on creating turnovers (43rd), and I’m not sure they’ll find much success turning this Cardinal offense over. Louisville isn’t a great shooting team (134th FG%), but they have the size to attack the paint and this is where NC State is most vulnerable, allowing 58% of their points inside (6th), and featuring one of the worst 2P% defenses in the nation (291st). Overall, in taking a deep dive into the matchup, it’s evident that Louisville could have a matchup advantage, and this may not fully be represented in the spread. Though it may be senior night for the Wolfpack, both teams have reason to believe they are in a must win situation, so I wouldn’t expect NC State to have much of a motivational edge.
NCST is 12-11 ATS overall
NCST is 9-8 ATS in the ACC
NCST is 8-3 ATS as a home team
LOU is 15-12 ATS overall
LOU is 6-3 ATS as a away team
LOU is 11-5 ATS in the ACC
North Carolina (22-8, 11-6) @ Duke (24-6, 12-5)
9:00 pm ET ESPN2
Open: DUKE – 7
Spread: DUKE – 7
Consensus: UNC 80%
The biggest rivalry in College Basketball will take center stage in the Prime Time spotlight this evening, as Duke hits the road to take on North Carolina in the rematch that will close out the regular season for the ACC Bluebloods. UNC and Duke’s respective seasons have followed a similar trajectory, with both teams closing out the season on 6 and 5 game winning streaks respectively, but losing their most recent game in potential look ahead spots. It was Duke that after winning 5-straight, lost to VA Tech on Monday, 64-63, on the road, but with 4 days to rest and prepare should be ready to finish off the season with a series sweep of the Tar Heels. Carolina lost to Miami on Tuesday, 91-88, at home, snapping a 6-game winning streak, and now will have to head back out onto the road to take on the Blue Devils with a shorter turnaround than Duke, but vengeance on their minds.
Keys to the Matchup:
On February 8th, when these teams met for the first time, it was North Carolina pulling out the close, 82-78, win at home over the Blue Devils. Digging into the box score, it appears that the game could have easily been a larger margin of victory, however, as UNC attempted 14 more shots than did Duke, but shot much below their season averages. Going 11-33 (33%) from 3, and 19-44 (43%) inside, while Duke went 9-25 from 3 (36%) and 21-37 (57%) inside was still enough to get the win for UNC, but if they shot close to their averages of 38% from 3 and 52% inside one can see how the margin of victory could have been a lot bigger. The Tar Heels also won the rebounding battle by 6, committed North Carolina was the favorite 6 less turnovers, and committed four less fouls than did Duke. All stats considered, this game more often than not, would be predictive of closer to a double-digit win for UNC.
Therefore, if we flip home court between the two teams, which is about a 7-point flip from the Dean E. Smith Center (70th) to Cameron (102nd), then I don’t think it would be crazy, just considering the first meeting in a vacuum, if this game was lined closer to pick em. But obviously that’s not the case, and there could be some value from a misleading score standpoint.
In terms of matchup, the two best units on the floor will be the UNC offense (4th) and the Duke defense (15th). The key mismatch to consider here is the offensive rebounding of the Tar Heels (3rd), their biggest strength, and Duke’s defensive rebounding (176th), one place where Duke is average on D. We saw the Tar Heels dominate the boards in the first matchup, and we don’t have much reason to expect otherwise in this one, at least on this side of the ball. Maybe being it being more of a revenge game for Duke and Senior Night may call for slightly more effort out of the Blue Devils, but it’s doubtful they didn’t give their full effort in the first meeting with their biggest rival.
The Duke offense (2nd), certainly could be expected to come down with more boards this time, however, as they only managed 13 offensive rebounds in the 1st meeting compared to 20 from UNC as the number 1 offensive rebounding team in the country. Though Duke is more prone to looking in the paint for points (94th), if they look to shoot more threes that’s where they’ll find their big advantage over the Tar Heels, as UNC allows one of the highest three-point percentages in the nation (328th). Still, if Duke shoots their average from 3 and UNC allows their average, that’s still only predictive of a 38% shooting performance, when they shot 36% in their first meeting. Other than the mismatch on the perimeter, the Duke offense won’t hold a huge advantage over the Carolina D (53rd) that is solid almost everywhere else.
UNC is 16-12-1 ATS overall
UNC is 4-5-1 ATS as an away team
UNC is 8-8-1 ATS in conference games
DUKE is 18-10 ATS overall
DUKE is 9-4 ATS as a home team
DUKE is 10-7 ATS in conference games