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An otherwise underwhelming college basketball slate is saved by two huge conference games: Boise State versus San Diego State and VCU versus Saint Louis.
All of these teams are atop their respective conference standings, and these games are of the utmost importance due to positioning implications.
Check out the breakdown of both games below, as well as which teams we believe will come out as victors or, at least, cover the spread.
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Boise State has put together another impressive season after securing its first conference title in the 2021-22 season. The Broncos are 18-5 through their first 23 games, but have won 17 of their past 20.
Further, they have won eight of their past nine games, with their only loss coming against New Mexico on the road by two points. Needless to say, the Broncos are on a roll in the Mountain West.
Usually, San Diego State boasts one of the best defenses in its conference. As a matter of fact, the Aztecs had the second-best defense in the entire nation last season.
However, this season, it is Boise State that has an elite defense. The Broncos rank ninth in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency through a large portion of the 2022-23 season.
Boise State’s main strength on the defensive end is its three-point defense, which ranks fourth in the nation behind only Houston, Alabama, and Tennessee; it allows opponents to shoot just 27.5% from deep.
While that is impressive, the Broncos’ past three games have been even better, as they allowed just 14% to opposing teams during that stretch.
Meanwhile, San Diego State shoots sub-35% from behind the arc this season, which could be a weakness against such a stout Boise State perimeter defense.
The Aztecs’ top two scorers are also sub-40% shooters from the field. In short, this team is not as efficient as they need to beat this Boise State squad by six or more points.
The Broncos cover in 67% of their away games, while San Diego State covers in just 33% of home games. For this one, I will ride with the road dogs against the spread, as Boise State is one of the hotter teams in the nation.
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The top two teams in the Atlantic 10, the VCU Rams and Saint Louis Billikens, go toe-to-toe in this game with crucial positioning implications.
As always, VCU has an imposing and pesky defense that ranks towards the top in the nation (currently 24th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency.)
Their big men wall up in the paint and hedge hard on screens, while their guards deny passes on the perimeter, dig in the post, and cause turnovers and sloppy play from opponents.
Offensively, the Rams are at their best when they push the ball in transition off of turnovers. It is no surprise that they struggle on the offensive end otherwise, as they average merely 70 points on 45% shooting from the field and 33% from deep.
Conversely, Saint Louis is a much stronger offensive team, but has a weak defense (139th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency.)
The Billikens aren’t a great three-point shooting team, but they do have arguably one of the best passing guards in the nation in Yuri Collins. Collins is the only player in the NCAA that averages double-digit assists.
The distribution of the Billikens’ scoring is going to cause VCU problems. I don’t trust the Rams’ offense in a game like this, even though they are going against a weaker Saint Louis defense.
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Andrew has always been an avid sports fan and followed his hoop dreams all the way to college. He’s well-versed in everything betting with multiple years of experience and is qualitatively and quantitatively knowledgeable in sports statistics and analytics.More info on Andrew Norton
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