Texas Tech (-3): Absolutely love Texas Tech in this spot. Baylor is off to an 11-1 start and now ranked #4 in the polls. Texas Tech on the other hand is outside the top 20. All of which might lead people to believe that Baylor is the better team. Simply put, I disagree with that. On a neutral court I made Texas Tech a 2.5 point favorite and for this game which is in Lubbock I make the Red Raiders a 5.5 point favorite. Texas Tech had one bad week in late Noevember/early December where they went 0-3 by losing to Creighton, Iowa and Depaul, two of which came in OT. Aside from that they are 10-0 and are starting to round back into elite form. Their two most recent tests came against Louisville and Oklahoma State where they won by a combined 48 points. As always for the Red Raiders the name of the game is defense. They only allowed 0.75 PPP to Louisville and 0.77 PPP to Oklahoma State. On the other side we have Baylor who as I mentioned is 11-1 and in the top 5 but has only played 1 true road game so far this year. That came all the way back in November against Coastal Carolina and it’s safe to say this will prove to a bit more challenging. The real problem for Baylor figures to be inside. As a team they only shoot 47.9% from 2 which is 217th in the nation. They also only score 48.2% of their points from 2 which is 243rd in the nation. Also oddly enough 12.5% of their shot attempts are blocked which is 338th in the nation. In other words they better be hitting their 3’s because I don’t see much at all going on for them inside. From there enter Butler and Teague who combine for about 13 3 point attempts per game. Those 2 start chucking from the time they get off the bus, it is worth noting however that both are only 6’3″ and Tech has guys like Shannon, Edwards and Ramsey on the perimeter who are all bigger, longer, and stronger. That’ll leave them with the option of forcing up highly contested looks or trying to get into the paint where as I mentioned the Bears have had a tough time finishing. Offensively it’s been a work in progress for Texas Tech and the season numbers were at the mercy of the youngsters getting their footing. Edwards, Ramsey and Shannon (2 Freshman and a Sophomore) are all finding their way and improving rapidly. Mix them in with upper classman like Moretti, Clarke and Holyfield and you’ve got an offense that starts looking pretty dangerous. Throw in the home court and what I see as a clear coaching edge with Beard over Drew and I think 3 is about 2-2.5 too short. Red Raiders should take care of business.
Buffalo (+4.5): I’ve been tough on Buffalo so far this season and made a few negative comments about them on Twitter. Earlier in the season I felt the market had them overvalued a bit on the heels of what they did last season. Now however I think it’s gone too far the other way. This is an interesting matchup as each team relies on different things to win. Buffalo is hoping to run and gun and have their defense just be decent enough for them to win. Ball State on the other hand wants to guard the hell out of you and hope they can do enough offensively to beat you in a low scoring/ugly game. That’s where I think Cards are going to have trouble. Overall their offense checks in at 207th in average efficiency and most of what they want to do is from 3. As a team 47.7% of their FGA’s are from 3 which ranks 13th highest in the nation. To go along with that 40.5% of the points they score are from 3 and that’s 14th in the nation. The other side of that coin however is only 43.7% of their points come from 2 (328th in the nation) and 15.8% from the FT line (291st in the nation). That’s all fine and well if you are facing team that is shaky defending the 3 point line but that’s actually the strength of the Buffalo defense. Opponents only score 25.1% of their points from 3 point land against Buffalo and that ranks 321st in the nation. Overall the Bulls have their issues defensively but I gotta give credit where it’s due, they choke off the 3 point line very well. Where they get beat up is inside. They don’t have much size and teams that do usually feast in the paint against them. Luckily for Buffalo, Ball State doesn’t have any size either and as those stats I shared earlier show they just aren’t built to take advantage of where Buffalo struggles. At the end of the day it’s going to come down to the Ball State 3 point shooting. It’s in their DNA and it’s just who they are, regardless of opponent they’ll be bombing away. As a team they are a good but not great 34.5% from 3 and even that number is skewed by El-Amin who is somehow shooting 46% from 3 despite coming into this year as about a 34% shooter in his career. He should start coming back to earth and once he does you’re left with a team that’s chucking a ton of 3’s despite being below D1 average at actually making them. Mallers is another one at 39% this year that was only at about 33% coming into the season. Frankly the regression monster should be on its way for both of them and if it gets even one that’s big trouble for Ball State who is basically worthless inside. If those two continue to play out of their asses and nail 3’s then so be it. Just so little margin of error for the Cardinals and mainly for that reason I’ll take the Bulls here catching 4.5.
Virginia Tech (+4.5): I don’t want to over simplify this (or any) Syrcause game but for the most part the rule of thumb is this…. if you can shoot 3’s you are fine, and if you can’t you are screwed. If you’ve been living under a college basketball rock for the last decade plus let me explain what I mean. Syrcause is known for playing zone pretty much exclusively. They always have elite height, and length and they force everything outside. The size clogs the paint, their long wingspan perimeter players choke off passing lanes and often times all that’s left for the opponent to do is chuck 3’s. 49.6% of Field Goal Attempts against the Orange are from 3 point land which is highest in the nation. You get next to nothing inside against them, but if you can shoot it from 3 you can have a lot of success. Enter Virginia Tech who scores 43% of their points from 3, that’s 5th highest in the nation. They have 5 players on the roster who have already hit 19 3’s or more this season and those 5 on average are about 42% from downtown. There’s no denying Cuse has a massive size edge but as they say the 3 point line is the ultimate equalizer and Tech is more than ready to take advantage of it. For all that size however Cuse isn’t doing a good job of turning it into offensive production. They are the 11th tallest team in the nation in terms of average height but oddly enough only 41.1% of their points come from 2 point land which is 341st in the nation. A huge chunk of their possessions are ending in 3 point attempts from Boeheim and Hughes who combine to attempt over 17 3’s a game, and no that isn’t a typo. As a team 48% of the shots the Orange take are from 3 and that’s 10th highest in the nation. Again, a bit odd for a team with such elite height but it is what it is. Problem here is that the Hokies are one of the best 3 point defensive teams in the country. Only 41.2% of the points Va. Tech allows are from 3 and that’s 3rd best in the nation. Again not to oversimplify but this game is about as close you’ll get to watching a 3 point contest. In my opinion Tech shoots it better from deep and defends it better too. Give me that and 5 points in my back pocket and I’ll take my chances.
Texas Tech (-3)
Virginia Tech (+4.5)