I have some advice for college basketball conferences. Maybe you shouldn’t set up the conference tournament schedules in a manner that has your best teams playing so early in the morning on weekdays. Yesterday, we saw Providence nearly lose to Butler in the Big East Tournament, and Duke had a lot of problems with Syracuse in the ACC Tournament. So far today, we’ve seen the Big Ten’s No. 1 seed Illinois go down against Indiana and the SEC’s No. 1 seed Auburn suffer the same fate against Texas A&M.
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I understand that the logistics of putting a conference tournament together requires the need to thread a needle or two, but surely there’s a way it can be done to help your best teams succeed and set them up for a better path in the NCAA Tournament. And, yes, I promise I’d still be complaining about this even if Illinois beat Indiana. I think.
Now let’s start our weekend with winners.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
? The Hot Ticket
? No. 20 UConn vs. No. 8 Villanova, 9 p.m. | TV: FS1
- Key Trend: The over is 5-2 in Villanova’s last seven games
- The Pick: Over 131.5 (-110)
This is the most exciting matchup on the college basketball slate tonight, and it also happens to be the game with the most value on the board. I’m not a big fan of betting overs in the postseason, as teams tend to get more defensive, but this total is far too low by my estimation. While these are strong defensive teams, we’ve seen them play twice this year, and both games were high-scoring.
They split the season series, with both teams winning at home. Villanova’s win came by a score of 85-74, while UConn won the return trip, 71-69. That’s 159 points in the first game and 140 in the second. Both finished well above tonight’s projected total of 131.5, and, while you can argue that tired legs often lead to worse shooting, it can just as easily lead to more lax defending.
These have been the two most efficient offenses in the Big East during conference play, and we’re simply betting on that to continue tonight. UConn doesn’t shoot the ball well on the interior, but it’s strong from three and is relentless on the offensive glass. Meanwhile, Villanova shot only 35.7% from the floor against St. John’s last night, and I can’t imagine the Wildcats not bouncing back tonight. They’re simply too good offensively.
Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: I don’t want to spoil anything here, but let’s just say Sportsline’s Projection Model and I are very much riding the same wave tonight.
? The Picks
? College Basketball
Tulsa vs. SMU, 7 p.m. | TV: ESPNU
SMU won both regular-season meetings vs. Tulsa, winning by 14 at home and seven on the road. One of SMU’s biggest weaknesses is its lack of size, which leads to them getting a lot of shots blocked, but Tulsa is one of the worst shot-blocking teams in the country, so it’s not an area it can exploit. Meanwhile, SMU is stronger than Tulsa in every category that usually matters at this time of year, and that should lead to a comfortable victory tonight.
Key Trend: The favorite has covered five of the last six meetings.
The Pick: Under 149 (-110) — Colorado is an interesting team. Advanced metrics don’t like it much, but advanced metrics are always kinder to good offenses than good defenses, and the Buffs are very much a defense-first team. And while I don’t think they’re a team that should be a lock for an NCAA bid, I think they’re better than the metrics suggest. Just not good enough to beat Arizona tonight
The Colorado defense did help the Buffs beat Arizona, 79-63, a couple of weeks ago, though, and it’s that defense I’m counting on again tonight. While we’re probably asking too much of Colorado to hold Arizona to 0.91 points per possession again, asking Colorado to score 1.14 points per possession against Arizona again is just as ludicrous. Instead, I’ll bank on both offenses regressing to the mean in this rubber match, and that should keep us under a total that’s a little too high.
Key Trend: The under is 35-16 in Colorado’s last 51 games as an underdog.
Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur, Saturday, 12:30. p.m | TV: Peacock
The Pick: Over 2.5 (-130) — It’s a battle between the two clubs everyone loves to make fun of, and I think it will be a fun match to watch. It’s damn near impossible to predict what either of these teams will do from week to week, but Tottenham seems to have found the right gear under Antonio Conte. While there was the 1-0 loss to Middlesbrough in the FA Cup, I don’t know that Tottenham cares much about the FA Cup right now. However, if we look at its last two Premier League matches, we’ve seen Tottenham outscore Leeds United and Everton 9-0. Granted, it’s two clubs fighting to survive in the Premier League, but the fact Tottenham treated them as such is what’s encouraging. There have been too many times when this team has played to the level of its competition and let matches like these slip past.
As for Manchester United, the results have not been good lately, but the team hasn’t been as bad as the narrative surrounding it would have you believe. Remove the Atlético Madrid and Manchester City matches, and United has averaged 2.23 expected goals (xG) over its last seven matches. Defensively, they’ve been fine in every match except last week’s against City, but City can pick anybody’s defense apart. Saturday’s match sets up to be an entertaining and high-paced affair.
Key Trend: There has been an average of 3.4 goals scored in Tottenham’s last 10 matches.
Arsenal vs. Leicester City, Sunday, 12:30 p.m. | TV: USA
The Pick: Over 2.5 (-160) — Arsenal is good again. This is excellent news for Arsenal supporters but horrible news for those who remember how profitable our Fade Arsenal Principle was last season. It’s a relic of the past now, but don’t worry, we’ll find something else to replace it. For now, let’s just bet on a lot of goals being scored in this one. While Arsenal has turned a corner and climbed to fourth place, winning four straight, it’s been due to its overwhelming attack. In those wins, Arsenal scored eight goals on 7.9 xG and allowed four goals on an xG allowed of 3.9. Those are good numbers, but they also show that Arsenal is still vulnerable defensively.
This weekend it faces a Leicester team that’s won four straight as well and has been scoring goals in bunches. The Foxes have failed to score in only one of their last 22 matches. They’ve scored eight goals during the latest win streak, and while they’ve posted three straight shutouts, they had an xG against of 2.9 in their two matches against Burnley and Leeds (I don’t have xG numbers for Europa Conference League matches). That luck is due to run out against a stronger side like Arsenal.
Key Trend: Arsenal’s last three matches have seen at least three goals scored.
Udinese vs. Roma, Sunday 1 p.m. | TV: Paramount+
The Pick: Roma (+135) — Considering Jose Mourinho’s pragmatic nature as a manager, it shouldn’t surprise that Roma has performed better on the road this season than at home. Being on the road allows Mourinho to let his team play the way he wants them to, and it’s been effective for the most part. While Roma has allowed 20 goals in 13 away matches in league play, its xG against is only 14.8, and its xG differential (xG minus xG allowed) is 0.86 per match. That’s the best mark in Serie A. Roma is playing well right now, winning three straight matches without conceding after a rough patch in early February.
It’s facing an Udinese team that’s been uninspiring all season. I knew this team would miss Rodrigo De Paul after selling him to Atlético Madrid, but it’s been worse than expected. Of its seven Serie A wins this season, only one has come against a team in the top half of the table, and even that win was against 10th place Sassuolo on Nov. 7.
Key Trend: Roma has the highest xG differential on the road in Serie A.
? SportsLine Pick of the Day: The SportsLine Projection Model has strong leans on both the spread and total in tonight’s crosstown matchup between USC and UCLA.
⚽ Friday Futures
We’re betting on these three teams to suffer relegation from their respective leagues.
- Premier League: Leeds United (+120)
- Premier League: Everton (+333)
- La Liga: Granada (+225)