A thrilling first day of Madness is in the books and we get to do it all over again today. Our spotlight game was a winner with Houston covering the -20. Things were a little dicey with the alternative ways to play the game, as Houston first half didn’t come through and the team total for Cleveland State fell right around the number.
Hopefully you had a good first day and let’s see if we can find a good bet here for Saturday as games run all day from noon until midnight. Like yesterday, I’ll try to find a late game on the card that I really like and I think I’ve found one in Game 791/792 between Maryland and UConn. The Huskies are -3 with five cents extra of juice at Bookmaker Sportsbook with a total of 130.
Friday was not a banner day for the Big Ten. Neither was Thursday. With nine bids in the NCAA Tournament, the Big Ten has gone 3-3 thus far. Illinois, Rutgers, and Wisconsin advanced to the second round, while Michigan State, Ohio State, and Purdue did not. Ohio State and Purdue were big favorites.
That leaves us wondering a little bit about the strength of the conference and many have been wondering about the strength of this Maryland team since the brackets were announced on Selection Sunday. Maryland, like Michigan State, seemed to get in on the strength of a handful of wins and a spot in the Big Ten. The Terps beat Illinois, Wisconsin, and Rutgers on the road and also beat Purdue at home. Those were the four Quad 1 wins for Mark Turgeon’s team.
Seemingly, it was enough to get Maryland into the Big Dance. The Terrapins were just 9-11 in Big Ten play in the regular season and split two games in the Big Ten Tournament. In the non-conference, Maryland lost to Clemson to go along with beating Old Dominion, Navy, Mount St. Mary’s, Saint Peter’s, La Salle, and Wingate. It sure looks like a lackluster resume for the guys from College Park.
Statistically, Maryland has a top-25 squad in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Terrapins didn’t force a lot of turnovers and struggled to defend the three-point line, but the Big Ten’s strength relative to other conferences and the imbalanced schedule gave a lot of those teams a bump in their adjusted metrics.
On the offensive side, Maryland was one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the nation. They took good care of the basketball, like most Big Ten teams did, and they shot well on two-pointers. This is a slow-paced team that ranked in the bottom 50 in adjusted tempo.
The big question that we have coming into the NCAA Tournament about UConn is about how good the Huskies truly are. The metrics love them. Despite being a 15-7 team with six Big East losses in 17 games, UConn is one of just a handful of teams that ranks in the top 25 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. The Huskies were 13th offensively and boast one of the highest ORB% in the country at 36.9%. They’re 27th in eFG% defense coming into this one.
On the other hand, UConn was 8-0 against Quad 3 and 4 teams and just 7-7 against teams that were Quad 2 or higher. UConn lost to Creighton three times, lost its only meeting with Villanova, and really only had one signature win that came way back on December 3 against USC on a neutral court. While the Huskies largely took care of inferior teams, and you can argue whether or not Maryland is an inferior team, you wonder about the ceiling and the upside of this team.
This is a poor shooting team. UConn shot 49% on twos and 33.6% on threes. The 2P% was outside the top 200 and the three-point percentage was right around the national average. At least UConn made up for it at the free throw line at 73.1% and those aforementioned offensive rebounds were certainly a huge help.
Defensively, UConn put opponents on the line a lot, but a lot of that had to do with trailing in those key games. Otherwise, this is a team that kept the opposition to 45.6% on twos and 31.6% on threes. One thing that could get dicey as this game goes along is that only four of UConn’s games were decided by six or fewer points, so they aren’t exactly battle-tested in close, late-game situations. Maryland had eight such games.
Pick & Analysis
Maryland has a shaky NCAA Tournament resume at best. UConn seems a little bit overseeded as a #7, given the lack of quality wins, but the metrics do really like this Huskies team and who am I to argue with the metrics? Only Gonzaga, Illinois, Michigan, Houston, and UConn rank in the top 25 of both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy. That is some extremely good company.
With the short price here at -3 and a little extra juice, UConn looks like the side, particularly with how Big Ten teams have struggled a bit in the early going. Maryland is also a team that played poorly away from home and that has been the case more often than not.