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It is officially February, which means we can start counting down the days until March Madness! In the meantime, we cover two Wednesday night matchups between the San Diego State Aztecs versus the Utah State Aggies, and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane against the Houston Cougars.
Check out our best bets for these two inner-conference matchups below to see if Houston can cover a massive spread, and whether or not the sharpshooting Aggies will be able to hold off San Diego State at home!
When: 10:00 PM EST
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Unless you follow college basketball, you may not even know that Utah State has a basketball team that play at the Division I level. Further, it might be beyond your knowledge that the Aggies not only have a basketbsall team, but an exceptional one at that. Utah State has put together an impressive 19-5 season, including an 8-3 conference record in the Mountain West. A win against the San Diego State Aztecs, who are currently in first place in the conference, would propel the Aggies to a tie for the No. 1 spot. This game is vitally important.
So what do the Aggies do so well that can make them competitive with a mid-major titan like San Diego State? The answer: shoot the basketball. Utah State ranks No. 1 in the nation in 3P% (three-point shooting percentage) with a team clip of 41.8%.
Further, the Aggies are fifth in the country in eFG%, a metric that takes into account overall shooting efficiency. KenPom even has them ranked as the 12th-best offense in the nation (adjusted offensive efficiency) this season!
Utah State is led by super, super (sixth-year) senior Taylor Funk, a former standout for Saint Joseph’s, and 6-foot-1 junior guard Steven Ashworth, who would likely be a major D-I player if he were just a bit taller. Funk and Ashworth, along with 6-foot-8 senior forward Sean Bairstow, shoot the absolute lights out of the ball. This team has March Madness “Cinderella” written all over them.
Meanwhile, it has been yet another successful season for the San Diego State Aztecs, a team that seems to make the NCAA Tournament almost every year. The Aztecs are led by their three upperclassmen guards, Matt Bradley, Darrion Trammell, and Lamont Butler.
Guard play, defense, and rebounding are relative strengths for San Diego State; however, none of those will push the Aztecs over the hump against this Utah State squad, considering the Aggies have guards whom are just as seasoned, a better offense than the Aztecs’ defense, and a higher total rebounding rate.
While Utah State played the Aztecs two weeks ago, and lost by ten points, they were on the road and also got off to an uncharacteristically slow start. Additionally, in this game, the Aggies will be at home, where they have put together an 11-1 record this season. If the Aggies ran into the San Diego State team from last season that boasted the nation’s second-best defense, this might be a different story; however, that is not the case.
The bottom line: San Diego State has not been solid enough on the defensive end (28th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency) this season to contain the Aggies’ offense. I will ride with the Aggies to grind out a narrow home victory.
When: 8:00 PM EST
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Besides the Purdue Boilermakers, there has not been a more consistent team than the Houston Cougars all season long. This is, of course, no surprise to anyone familiar with head coach Kelvin Sampson and the program he has built there.
The Cougars are tenacious; they rank eighth in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency and second in offensive rebounding percentage (which spells trouble for a Tulsa team that ranks 343rd in opponent offensive rebounding percentage.)
Meanwhile, one of the only consistent and positive things going for Tulsa has been guard Sam Griffin, who has averaged 15 points per game in both this season and last season. Griffin has been given the green light by the Golden Hurricane, as they struggle mightily to score outside of him and sophomore forward, Bryant Selebangue.
These two teams squared off earlier in the season, and Houston won by 39 points, allowing merely 50 points to Tulsa, despite being on the road. Now, the Cougars are at home against a tumbling Tulsa team that has a 1-10 conference record. This should be a beatdown. Houston has covered the spread in 62.5% of its games, which makes it one of the best covering teams as far as powerhouse programs go.
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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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