Last Updated: 2017-03-06
No top 25 teams are in action on Monday night and no major conferences have a game scheduled. That doesn’t mean that the slate is totally bare for January 2. Conference USA, the MAAC, the Colonial Athletic Association, and the Patriot League are all taking the floor tonight. Our write-up takes us to Charlotte, North Carolina, where the Rice Owls take on the 49ers at Halton Arena. The Owls are a short road favorite for this Conference USA clash as they search for their first conference win of the season. Charlotte is looking for its second. DSI Sportsbook is your home for college basketball betting throughout the season. Take advantage of the promo code ‘BANG200’ to snag a 100 percent deposit bonus and a 100 percent bonus for the live casino.
The Owls will take the floor in a lined game for the seventh time. They are 4-2 against the spread to go along with a 10-4 record straight up. Rice and Middle Tennessee State are the only Conference USA members with at least 10 wins this season. The Owls have also played the 296th-ranked schedule according to Ken Pomeroy so far this season. Charlotte has played the 168th-ranked schedule and owns a 7-5 straight up mark with a 4-5 record against the spread. Surprisingly, despite allowing nearly 81 points per game, Charlotte is actually 6-3 to the under on the season. They just snapped a four-game ATS skid with a 25-point win over North Texas in a 101-76 beatdown.
Rice didn’t win its 10th game until February 18 last season, so things are already going, even with the schedule taken into account. Mike Rhoades is in his third season with the program and it’s a program that seems to be showing some signs of life. Last year’s 12-20 record included a 7-11 mark in conference play and the Owls actually won four straight games at one point. It was a team that was better by the end of the season and it seems evident that those improvements have carried over to this season. Even though there are a lot of athletes in Texas to recruit, Rice’s last postseason berth was the 2012 CIT and before that the 2005 NIT. Rice hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1970.
Rhoades is trying to change all of that. It helps to have some talent that will allow the program to compete. Marcus Evans was one of the best scorers in the conference last season with 21.4 points per game and he’s back for his sophomore season. He’s averaging 17.5 points per effort this season, as he’s struggled to find his rhythm from the field and from the free throw line. Egor Koulechov, a transfer from Arizona State, has seen modest increases in both points per game and rebounds per game. The junior from Russia is the leading scorer with 18.2 points per contest. Getting Marcus Jackson back was a big boost for the roster. Jackson had over 14 points per game and shot nearly 40 percent from deep two seasons ago, but missed all of last season. He’s averaging 13.6 points per game. Rice is a much deeper team this year, which can only help with the challenging conference play schedule in C-USA, which is really spread out.
The Charlotte 49ers may have the most well-known coach in the conference. Former NBA sharpshooter Mark Price is off to a 7-5 start in his second season. The 49ers were just 14-19 under Price last season, so they are halfway to matching last year’s win total. Charlotte spent time in Conference USA from 1995-2005 and then moved into the Atlantic 10 before moving back to Conference USA in 2013 to allow the football program to compete at the FBS level. This is a program that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2005 and hasn’t played in the postseason since 2013, with the final NIT berth of the A-10 years.
The story for Rice is the same story for Charlotte. A lot of returning talent is back to build upon some of the gains from the previous season. With two relatively new head coaches, it takes time for programs like this to get going in the right direction. Jon Davis seems to be ready to take the next step. Davis has scored 19.8 points per game on the year and is one of the more efficient offensive threats for Charlotte with a 53.4 percent mark from the floor. Andrien White, Braxton Ogbueze, and Austin Ajukwa are the others in double figures on a regular basis. Ajukwa has only played three games because he recently became eligible after the fall semester as a transfer from Clemson. Charlotte isn’t very effective on the glass and both of these teams lack a true threat at the point guard position, so this is a bit of a tough game to figure out.
College Basketball Free Pick: Rice Owls -2
Rice is the better defensive team, so they get the nod in this game. It’s tough to look at the composite stats to make some determinations because the strength of schedule differences have been fairly big, mostly because Charlotte played Florida, Oregon State, and Maryland and Rice’s only power five conference foes were Texas Tech and Pittsburgh. Rice has been more efficient on both ends of the floor, shooting over 48 percent and holding opponents to 43.4 percent. Charlotte is shooting 44.3 percent and defending at a 45.6 percent clip. That gives the slight edge to Rice.