We’ve got big games all over the place tonight in the mid and low-major conferences. Many of them were discussed in this week’s situational betting spots article, but we’ve got North Florida and Liberty in the A-Sun, Georgia Southern vs. Texas State and Georgia State at UT Arlington in the Sun Belt, and even Northeastern vs. Delaware in the crowded CAA.
But, our focus will be up in the America East Conference, where the Vermont Catamounts are out for revenge for their lone conference loss against the Stony Brook Seawolves. Bettors have been all over this number, as Vermont has been bet up to as high as -7 at 5Dimes Sportsbook and Bookmaker. The total on the game sits at 137.
This was one of the games that we highlighted on our segment with Kyle Hunter way back on Monday’s edition of BangTheBook Radio. Vermont has not lost since that 81-77 defeat in the conference opener and has won all but two of those games by lopsided scores. A two-point win at Maine on January 22 and a one-point win at Hartford on February 8 were too-close-for-comfort tests for the Catamounts. Otherwise, they’ve won every other game by at least 11 points.
Stony Brook’s fortunes have been a bit different. The Seawolves have three losses in conference play, as they came up short at Hartford by three, lost at home to Binghamton by four, and then got blown out by a poor New Hampshire team by 17 just 12 days ago. Geno Ford has done a fine job with this Stony Brook team since Jeff Boals went home to be the coach for the Ohio Bobcats, but there have been some poor efforts, particularly of late.
Stony Brook beat UMBC by 11 on February 1, which ranks as the highest game score for them in just over a month per the Bart Torvik calculations. That performance was a 53. For comparison’s sake, the win over Vermont was graded an 81, as Stony Brook did allow 1.042 points per possession, but just happened to outscore Vermont.
Now Vermont seeks retribution and bettors are playing the game as if it will be free money. Maybe it will be. In conference play, Vermont ranks first in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, eFG% offense and defense, ORB% and opponents’ ORB%, 3P%, 2P%, 2P% defense, and FT%. Stony Brook does not lead the conference in any single metric, but is second to Vermont in ORB% and 3P% defense.
The Catamounts rank fourth in TO% on offense and fourth in TO% on defense, which is about the only lacking area for the team in conference action. Stony Brook is second in TO% on defense, which seems like the only real chance that the Seawolves have of winning this game based on how it has been bet.
Now that the spread is up to -7, though, it isn’t that hard to envision a scenario in which the home team can find a way to cover. I just don’t think it happens.
Revenge spots are an annual thing for the class of the conference like Vermont. There is always a game or two that they lose and have to make amends for. Last season, the Catamounts lost to UMBC both times in the regular season and neither game was all that close. They exacted their revenge when it mattered most to punch a ticket to the NCAA Tournament by beating UMBC in the AEC Tournament final. That was also revenge for UMBC beating Vermont in the 2018 AEC Tournament final. As we know, UMBC went on to beat Virginia.
Vermont is going to be the side here, simply because they are the best team in the conference and they have obviously had this game circled. What I’m more interested in handicapping here is the total. You see a number of 137 here, which is well below the 158 points scored in the first game. Stony Brook plays at the fastest tempo in conference play and Vermont let the Seawolves dictate the pace in the first game, which was played to 74 possessions.
To this point, that is far and away the quickest game played by Vermont in conference action. No other game has been played over 70 possessions. I am very curious to see if Stony Brook can speed up Vermont again. The teams combined to fire 58 three-pointers in that first meeting and made 25 of them. Vermont took 31, which ties their season-high in conference play. These two teams don’t shy away from taking threes, but that generally isn’t Vermont’s focal point on offense. They’re so efficient inside the arc that they don’t need to. Of course, when they do, they are tops in the conference at doing it.
It is worth noting that the total was 131 in the first game between these two teams, so we have seen an adjustment up based on the first game and based on Stony Brook’s tempo throughout conference play. I can’t help but wonder if the six-point adjustment is something of an overreaction. If Vermont has its way and slows this game down, a total of 137 sure looks a little bit lofty in my estimation.
Ultimately, I can’t play the total one way or the other, but keep an eye on the movement here. It did open as low as 135 before getting bet up. If this one keeps trending upwards and maybe touches something like 140, the under may carry some value at that point in time.
Pick: Vermont -7