College basketball is one of the more entertaining sports to bet on due to the sheer volume of games that take place each day. Conference tournaments are in full swing, and this is a great time to hone your betting prowess before March Madness.
Please note that lines are subject to change throughout the day after this article is published. Please check here to make sure you’re seeing the most updated information.
California Baptist +2.5 (-120)
We have college games tipping off throughout the afternoon and deep into the night, so there’s no reason to wait until the end of the work day to place some bets. This first-round WAC matchup gets going at 3:00 pm ET, and there’s value in backing the underdog.
That’s because despite what the spread says, the California Baptist Lancers are arguably the better of these two teams. Per BartTorvik, the Lancers rank 149th overall, whereas the Abilene Christian Wildcats are a mere 193rd. KenPom has a similar disparity, placing California Baptist 159th and Abilene Christian 187th.
The biggest difference between the two squads comes down to defense. The Lancers are respectable 148th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per BartTorvik, while the Wildcats are just 244th. More specifically, Abilene Christian has one of the country’s worst marks in effective field goal percentage defense (359th), and they also allow opponents to get to the charity stripe at a ridiculously high clip, ranking 358th in opposing free throw rate.
Abilene Christian also doesn’t crash the glass well, sitting well outside the top 200 in both offensive and defensive rebounding rates.
The Wildcats won fairly easily at California Baptist last month, which could partially explain today’s line. However, the numbers point to the Lancers getting their revenge, and we should be more than happy to take them and the points.
Fairleigh Dickinson +4.5 (-110)
The Fairleigh Dickinson Knights have technically already earned a spot in this year’s NCAA tournament due to the Merrimack Warriors being ineligible, but it’s fair to assume that the Knights will still be plenty motivated to win this Northeast Conference title game.
In a way, this matchup is the opposite of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. Merrimack is just 360th in adjusted offense, while Fairleigh Dickinson is 360th in adjusted defense.
Unsurprisingly, with such glaring weaknesses, both teams are pretty far down the team rankings on BartTorvik and KenPom, but it also means they’re pretty evenly matched. In particular, KenPom has Fairleigh Dickinson (315th) and Merrimack (313th) as a virtual toss-up.
However, the Knights swept the season series, and part of that could be due to rebounding. Fairleigh Dickinson is 90th in offensive rebounding rate and 192nd in defensive rebounding rate, and while those ranks may not jump off the page, they look pretty darn good when compared to Merrimack, who is outside the top 350 in both metrics.
Overall, it seems like Merrimack might be getting a little too much credit here. numberFire’s model likes Fairleigh Dickinson and points, granting that bet a 57.9% chance of coming through.
Saint Mary’s +2.5 (-105)
This should be a far closer battle against the Saint Mary’s (CA) Gaels in the WCC tournament final, but the Gaels should stay within this tight spread and possibly even snag the victory.
Although Gonzaga may have the top adjusted offense in the country, they’re far from elite defensively (101st). In fact, Saint Mary’s is actually the more balanced team, boasting the 3rd-best adjusted defense while also ranking 30th on offense.
A more specific area where the Gaels will have a distinct advantage is on the boards. Not only does St. Mary’s have the nation’s 2nd-best defensive rebounding rate, but they’re also 32nd in offensive rebounding rate. On the other hand, Gonzaga doesn’t crack the top 70 in rebounding rate offensively or defensively.
BartTorvik and KenPom see both the Bulldogs and Gaels as top-10 teams, but it’s St. Mary’s that has the higher ranking on each site. This suggests that it’s the Gaels who should be favored at a neutral site. These teams split their regular season series, with each team winning at home.
Our model gives Saint Mary’s +2.5 a 58.6% likelihood of hitting. It also gives them a 51.4% probability of winning straight up, and given that the moneyline is set at +120, which implies just 45.4% win odds, taking the Gaels to win is an intriguing wager, as well.