This article is part of our College Basketball Picks series.
Another relatively quiet Friday night on the college basketball front, although we still have a few compelling games on the slate. Steve Peralta highlights a couple of notable matchups and shares his best bets of the evening.
Saint Louis at Davidson
Saint Louis is having a great season so far, clearly in contention for a regular season Atlantic 10 conference championship. Aside from playing well against league opponents, Saint Louis has also collected a couple of significant victories over Memphis and Providence. Both of these teams currently appear headed for the Big Dance in March, so these wins carry quite a bit of weight.
Overall, Saint Louis has proven itself to be a competent team with only a couple of missteps throughout the season, not unlike any other college basketball team. Looking at more recent performances, Saint Louis has played well against conference opponents, with its offense ranking second in efficiency in the A10, and its defense not far behind ranking fifth. The most notable part of the Billikens' offense is that it doesn't settle for poor shots. Since the conference season started, Saint Louis has had the highest effective field goal percentage among A10 teams as well as the highest two-point field goal percentage. Davidson hasn't been very stout defensively inside the arc, allowing opponents to make field goals at above-average percentages, giving Saint Louis an extra offensive advantage.
Davidson, on the other hand, is seemingly out of the race for a regular-season conference championship. The Wildcats are 3-5 against Atlantic 10 teams, but what's more concerning is that they haven't been able to beat any good opponents. According to KenPom, Davidson has had six opportunities to earn a quality victory, and it's failed each time, losing by seven-plus points in all but one of the matchups. Davidson's biggest issue is its offense. During conference play, the Wildcats' offense ranks 12th in efficiency among A10 teams, and ranks last in three-point field goal percentage, making 26 percent of their shot attempts from behind the arc. This is likely a major problem in Friday's game because Saint Louis has excelled at guarding inside the arc, holding conference opponents to 47 percent on two-point shot attempts, the third-best percentage among A10 teams.
All in all, these two teams are not on the same level. Every college hoops fan knows that a conference road game is never a given, but at the same time, it's hard to pass on taking the better team when the line is nearly a pick 'em. I'm taking the team with the substantially better offense and the team that has already beaten a couple of formidable opponents. I'm taking Saint Louis.
College Basketball Best Bet: Saint Louis -1.5
Iona at Siena
Iona is ranked relatively high in KenPom's overall efficiency standings, coming in at No. 77, although it hasn't played very well against the tougher competition this season. The Gaels have had five chances at securing a quality win but have come up short in four of them, with the exception coming against Princeton on a neutral court, per KenPom. Iona has otherwise played decently for most of the season, including in games against fellow MAAC teams. Since the conference season tipped off, Iona ranks first among MAAC teams in offensive efficiency and ranks second in defensive efficiency, a balanced team to be sure. That being said, Siena is nearly just as balanced, ranking third on offense and fourth on defense among MAAC teams during conference play. There's a discrepancy between these two teams when looking at overall efficiency numbers, however recent results against league foes suggest that these two teams are closer to each other than the season-long numbers might indicate.
Siena is also having a nice season, currently sitting in first place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Siena has only had three opportunities at earning a quality win, per KenPom, and it's made the most of them, winning two of three -- a five-point victory against Seton Hall and a seven-point road victory against Quinnipiac. Siena wasn't as sharp early in the season against lower-tier teams, which explains its overall efficiency numbers, although the Saints are playing much better over the past month. In fact, Siena is 8-2 against the spread in its last 10 games, underlining its improved play. As far as its matchup against Iona goes, Siena ranks higher than Iona in both offensive and defensive rebounding rates since the conference season started, an advantage that will surely come into play as an underdog playing at home.
One other note to consider in this matchup is the style of each team. Iona pushes the pace as much as possible, recording the fastest tempo in the MAAC during conference play. Iona also has the 24th-fastest offensive tempo among all D1 teams, so this is hardly surprising. Similarly, Siena is playing at the fourth-quickest tempo in the MAAC, per KenPom, so it has also frequently found itself in fast-paced games. Given how these teams have performed over the past month against conference foes, I'm expecting Siena will put up a fight in a high-scoring game. I'm on the Saints and the over in this one.
College Basketball Best Bet: Siena +6 & Over 140
Friday College Basketball Best Bets:
Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Friday:
- Saint Louis -1.5
- Siena +6
- Iona at Siena - Over 140
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