We’ll have to be a little quicker and more direct with today’s spotlight college basketball preview. A late start to the morning and a lack of late games means that we have to scramble a tad to get something out there for the February 9 card. We’re looking to end the week on a high note after an easy Gonzaga winner on the side yesterday. The game did fly over the total, a reminder that trends are something that may not matter year after year or game by game.
With the late start and the late posting time of around 10:30 a.m. ET, our focus will have to be on one of the later games of the day, so we can’t look at Wichita State vs. Houston or Butler vs. Marquette, but those are in this week’s situational spots article. An update to that piece will be posted later today with some thoughts for next week’s card.
With limited options, our focus will be in the ACC where Notre Dame and Clemson are in a virtual coin flip game in South Carolina. Clemson is -1 at 5Dimes Sportsbook and across the rest of the market…except for Pinnacle, one of the sharpest offshores in the game. There the road Fighting Irish are laying a point. The total has also been on the rise, now peaking at 140.5.
It has been a real down year for the ACC. There are still a few really good teams, but the middle of the conference doesn’t rank as well as it typically does. Part of the problem is teams like these. Notre Dame has rattled off three wins in a row, but still sits at 5-6 in ACC play. A closer look, however, reveals that Notre Dame’s losses in conference have been by 11, 1, 5, 3, 2, and 1. That is a tough pill to swallow to be sure. The only lopsided game was the season-opening loss to North Carolina as the ACC inexplicably forced teams into a conference game on Day One.
Clemson’s trend line is falling off. Remember that this is a team that beat Duke by seven at home earlier in the season. Since then, the Tigers are only 2-4 in ACC play and their “best” performance was eking out a one-point win over Syracuse at home. The other win was by three over Wake Forest at Littlejohn Coliseum. Clemson is on the verge of falling below .500 for the first time since the New Year’s Eve loss at home to Miami (FL).
You can see why money is moving on Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish probably deserve a better fate this season with those five losses by five or fewer points in conference play. Clemson’s losses have been by greater margins in just about every instance. If we look at Ken Pomeroy’s “Luck” metric, Notre Dame ranks 309th with a lot of negative luck. Clemson ranks 265th, so it has been tough sledding for them, but Notre Dame’s numerous close losses stand out.
Notre Dame’s weak non-conference schedule is a mark against them. Bart Torvik’s SOS rankings have the Fighting Irish’s non-con schedule ranked 284th in the nation. The losing record in ACC play seals it. However, the Fighting Irish do have some really positive attributes. They rank 2nd in TO% on the season, leading to the 21st-ranked adjusted offensive efficiency per Torvik. They haven’t shot the ball overly well inside the arc, but they rank 84th nationally in 3P%.
The Fighting Irish are also one of the most responsible teams in the nation in terms of free throw rate against. They are also 38th in the country in 2P% against at 44.8%. The problems are that they rank 242nd in defending the three-point line, don’t force a lot of turnovers, and have surrendered too many offensive rebounds.
Well, in this game, Clemson is 284th in the nation from 3. The Tigers are 293rd in ORB%. Clemson’s defensive performance has been decent and Brad Brownell’s team ranks 29th in adjusted defensive efficiency, but the Tigers don’t really stand out in too many other metrics.
Both of these teams bomb away from deep. Clemson is 24th in 3P Rate, but they don’t make a lot of them at 31.1%. Notre Dame is 31st in 3P Rate and they make a lot more of them at 35.1%. Is that the difference in this game? It very well could be. That along with Notre Dame’s ability to take care of the basketball.
If we take a closer look at some splits for Notre Dame, however, the Fighting Irish rank 340th in the nation at 39.5% defending the three away from South Bend. They also shoot it worse on the road. Clemson’s shooting numbers do improve at home, though their 3P% is still lacking to a degree. They are 27th in 2P% offense at home at 56.4%.
The over does appear to make some sense here. These two teams love to chuck from distance. Notre Dame is the more efficient of the two teams at shooting the basketball, which is something of a worry if they have to carry this total, but Notre Dame has not played well defensively of late. Each of their last five opponents has scored at least 72 points and the Irish have allowed over a point per possession in nine straight games.
Let’s go over the total here, with a slight lean to Notre Dame on the side as the better team and the team that appears to be trending up. This total is all over the place so we’ll meet in the middle at 139.5.
Pick: Over 139.5
Lean: Notre Dame +1