After a Wednesday evening college basketball slate that brought us Gonzaga-West Virginia and Illinois-Baylor amongst a whole host of matchups, the Thursday college hoops slate has its fair share of goodies as well.
Let’s jump right into the games I have circled for tonight’s action.
UConn vs. USC
Game to be played at Mohegan Sun Arena (Uncasville, CT)
Spread: UConn -1.5
Total: O/U 136.5
Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET, ESPN
The Mohegan Sun Arena is only about 30 miles away from the UConn campus, leaving Dan Hurley’s UConn Huskies with the short trip into ‘Bubbleville’ as UConn (2-0) prepares to face USC (3-0) in the semifinals of the Roman Legends Classic.
These two teams were set to square off yesterday from inside the Mohegan Sun bubble, but Vanderbilt had to withdraw from the preseason tournament due to, you guessed it, COVID-19 cases within their team, leaving UConn to get the winner of yesterday’s BYU/USC game instead.
USC would prevail in that contest by the score of 79-53, and the Trojans dominated the Cougars in the paint as brothers Evan and Isaiah Mobley each chipped in a double-double in yesterday’s blowout victory.
Meanwhile, UConn hasn’t been in action since a 69-57 victory over Hartford on Black Friday, leaving open the possibility that they may enter tonight’s contest with a bit of rust. Additionally, USC is already familiar with the layout of the Mohegan Sun Arena during the bubble setup, while UConn is not, again potentially giving USC a slight edge in an otherwise neutral setting.
That’s not to say the Huskies won’t come ready to play, however. Despite struggling to manufacture points in last Friday’s victory, UConn could still pose a lot of problems to USC’s backcourt with the scoring tandem of sophomore James Bouknight (19.0 ppg) and former Howard star RJ Cole (13.5 ppg), and forward Isaiah Whaley (8.5 rpg) will be tasked with the difficult assignment of controlling one of the Mobley brothers on the glass.
USC has shot the lights out to start the season, shooting a scorching-hot 53.5% from the floor in their first three games. Can they continue that hot shooting in a tough back-to-back situation against the best team they’ve seen all season? I’m not so sure.
Look for the Trojans to start out of the gates quickly considering they’re more accustomed to the neutral court than their opponents, but also look for UConn to close the gap quickly once they get their bearings straight.
I am going to lean on the team that should be a little more rested for this matchup and take Dan Hurley’s Huskies to escape with a narrow victory. However, I will take them on the moneyline to avoid a possible 1-point margin of victory for UConn.
Prediction: UConn 73, USC 70
Best Bet: UConn ML (-115)
Marshall at Wright State
Spread: Marshall -1
Total: O/U 153
Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET, ESPN+
This second matchup on the card could be a lot of fun.
Free-scoring Marshall hits the road to meet two-time defending Horizon League champion Wright State in a non-conference battle.
Honestly, I don’t care about who comes out on top in this one. I don’t even have a side I’ll be rooting for.
So why on Earth is this on my card for the night?
One word: Scoring.
Marshall enters tonight’s game riding a 70-56 victory over Arkansas State in their season opener, while this is the season opener for Scott Nagy’s Wright State Raiders.
While Marshall’s first game isn’t exactly the best evidence to take the over with a total in the 150’s, when you dissect the style of tempo Arkansas State plays at, you see how their slow and methodical approach when paired with a roster of players that can’t shoot the ball would drive a game total to be in the 120’s.
Wright State does not like to play at a slow pace as evidenced by their 31st overall KenPom adjusted tempo ranking. They love to run up and down the floor and defense is sometimes optional.
Funny enough, that’s exactly how you can describe the Thundering Herd as well. Marshall played all of last season as the team with the 3rd quickest tempo in the country. They’re projected to be in the Top 5 for playing tempo again this season, and when you pair that against another team that likes to boogie up and down the floor, you tend to get higher scoring affairs.
If there’s any pause on this bet, it’s the fact this is Wright State’s first game of the season, but I’m going to roll the dice all the same and take the over in this one. Don’t let me down Raiders.
Prediction: Wright State 80, Marshall 77
Best Bet: OVER 153
Florida vs. Boston College
Game to be played at Mohegan Sun Arena (Uncasville, CT)
Spread: Florida -6
Total: O/U 141.5
Time/TV: 9:30 PM ET, ESPN
The second matchup from ‘Bubbleville’ at the Mohegan Sun Arena will see Florida (1-0) taking on Boston College (1-2).
Florida officially began their 2020-21 season from the bubble on Wednesday with a 76-69 win over Army that had the Gators looking like a team that had yet to play a game this year, as they trailed by 8 at the half before waking up in the second half to eventually take control of the game.
Boston College, meanwhile, is set to play their fourth game of the season, all of which have been played at Mohegan Sun Arena, so if there is a team that has familiarity with the temporary digs, it’s the Eagles.
The Gators should at least come into today’s game with a lot less rust to deal with than they experienced during their win over Army yesterday. While Boston College’s tandem of Wynston Tabbs and Jay Heath are averaging over 30 points per game combined to open up the season, Mike White’s Florida Gators are routinely one of the best defensive teams in the country.
The Gators’ defense will be put to the test tonight, however, as Florida has had multiple disruptions to the start of their season, as they had to back out of initially being in the Mohegan Sun Arena bubble due to COVID-19 cases within their roster and did not know they were even participating in this tournament until Sunday.
That could leave Florida’s perimeter defense more vulnerable than usual, and when paired with the fact that Boston College is already quite familiar playing in this setting, that could have this matchup be closer than it would be otherwise.
The Gators will return to their old ways soon enough, but tonight I see Boston College giving them a tough game and maybe even winning outright. I’ll take a swing at Boston College and the points.
Prediction: Florida 74, Boston College 70
Best Bet: Boston College +6