Heartfelt thanks go out to the Belmont Bruins for indeed picking up the pace to win 92-74 against Eastern Kentucky in a game played to 79 possessions. It was a rout, so EKU emptied the bench and let some different guys play, but it still went over the total to bring us to 3-1 on the week in the spotlight games.
Let’s keep the mojo rolling into the freakin’ weekend and check out the game between UAB and Louisiana Tech down in Ruston. This Conference USA clash is one of the best games of the night and features Louisiana Tech and UAB in a pick ‘em spot with a total of 132 at Bovada Sportsbook.
First-year head coach Andy Kennedy is putting in work in Birmingham. The former Ole Miss bench boss is in his first season with the Blazers and this team has a very impressive statistical profile, particularly on the defensive side. It is worth pointing out that UAB has played the 309th-ranked schedule in the country, but all you can do is play the teams in front of you and UAB has done that well.
The Blazers go into this game with an 11-5 record against the number and they’ve taken the early money here to bump this line down from +2 to PK. UAB is sixth in the country in TO% on offense and fifth in TO% on defense. Those two numbers have been a major key to the team’s success thus far. Opponents are also only shooting 29.9% on threes and just 43.8% on twos, as UAB ranks 33rd in the nation in Block% on defense.
It is a bit surprising that with such good defense and so many swats that the Blazers aren’t a bit better in the rebounding department, especially with the schedule. They are below average on the offensive glass and 83rd in ORB% against. At least they are doing well rebounding opposition misses because there certainly have been a lot of them. The Blazers come into this game ranked 10th in eFG% defense.
However, as KenPom notes, the Blazers have faced the 336th-ranked slate of offenses and there are only 347 teams playing this season. Conference USA is not a great league this season, so UAB has taken advantage of that, plus a weak non-conference slate, though they have beaten Rice and UTEP twice, with all of the wins coming by double digits.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
The Bulldogs represent the highest-ranked opponent of the season for UAB per Bart Torvik and also Ken Pomeroy. Louisiana Tech is a fringe top-100 team and a win here would likely elevate their profile a little bit more. After splitting last weekend with North Texas in Denton, the Bulldogs would love to defend the home floor a couple of times here in this back-to-back with the Blazers.
Louisiana Tech’s profile doesn’t fully align with UAB’s, but the Bulldogs have played the 173rd schedule per Torvik and 185th per KenPom. The Bulldogs have played a far tougher conference schedule. They have already played Marshall, Western Kentucky, and North Texas. UAB will only play North Texas to finish the regular season. That is a big reason why LA Tech has four conference losses to just one for the Blazers. Louisiana Tech split with Marshall, WKU, UTEP, and also North Texas, to go along with losses to LSU and Louisiana in non-conference action.
Overall, Louisiana Tech is 55th in adjusted defensive efficiency and 31st in eFG%. Opponents are only shooting 30% from deep and 46.4% on two-point attempts. In conference play, though, the Bulldogs, who, again, have played the tougher conference schedule, are first in adjusted defensive efficiency, eFG%, and 3P% defense. UAB is actually 11th in 3P% defense in conference action, which speaks to just how weak that non-conference schedule was.
The turnovers are likely to be the primary deciding point here. While UAB is tops in the conference in takeaways, Louisiana Tech is 11th. The Bulldogs defend exceedingly well in the halfcourt, but also rank ninth in 3P% on offense and eighth in 2P%. They get to the line a good bit and then only make 68.4% of their free throws when they get there. Louisiana Tech’s inefficiency on offense has been a contributing factor in both close wins and outright losses.
Pick & Analysis
There are a lot of similarities between these two teams. Both are defense-first squads that have not played well offensively in conference action. The major difference is that UAB takes great care of the basketball and also does well to take it away. Because of that, we have our play for this game and it is the under 132.
UAB plays at a much slower tempo than LA Tech. If the Blazers are maintaining control of the ball and also taking it away, the game will be played much closer to the tempo that they want. Neither one of these teams bombs away from three. Neither team sets the world on fire at the free throw line. A foul fest at the end is a concern, but I like this handicap and the under is the play.