San Diego St vs. Creighton
San Diego St is a team whose identity is entirely built around defense. San Diego St is currently ranked 2nd in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, 5th in defensive effective FG%, 6th in defensive 2-point %, and 33rd in defensive 3-point % so they are an elite defensive team in all facets. Where they struggle is on the offensive end. They regularly played games in the 50s and 60s simply because they didn’t have the offensive firepower to put teams away. They are currently ranked 157th in the country in offensive efficiency, 238th in effective FG%, 299th in 2-point %, and 252nd in Free throw % as a team which could be huge down the stretch as they have lost a few games this year because of their inability knock down free throws down the stretch. The one thing they do well on offense is shoot the 3 and hit the offensive glass. They are currently ranked 65th in 3-point shooting as a team at 35.8% but they can be very streaky and go on long scoring droughts if they aren’t hitting shots. They are led by Cal Transfer, Matt Bradley who is a wrecking ball on offense. He is a physical specimen at 6’4 220 and is probably the only guy on San Diego State’s roster who can create his own shot with regularity. Nathan Mensah anchors the paint for SDSU as the 6’10 big man is an elite rim protector and is very capable or finishing layups and lobs around the rim. He will have his work cut out for him as 7’1 Ryan Kalkbrenner for Creighton has emerged as a very solid post player. Overall SDSU is a really solid team but if they aren’t making outside shots, they really struggle to win games and this is a tough matchup for them against a Creighton squad playing really good basketball at the moment.
Creighton got off to a rocky start this year as they actually struggled in games vs Kennesaw St and Arkansas Pine Bluff, but they have finally hit their stride. They are 9-3 over their L12 games against Big East competition including very impressive wins over Marquette (By 11), Providence (By 27), and narrow wins over UConn and St Johns by a bucket. They very nearly took down Villanova in the Big East championship game as well as they actually had a lead with 4 minutes left in the game but couldn’t hold on. Creighton has been very hot and cold this year as their offense has been very hit or miss this season. On the year, Creighton is currently ranked 124th in adjusted offensive efficiency, 305th in offensive turnover percentage, and 314th in 3-point shooting as a team so they have struggled with turnovers and knocking down outside shots. Where they have excelled on offense is from 2-point range as they are 39th in the country on offensive 2-point percentage as they shoot 53.9% from 2-point range. Creighton has a lot of size and length and think they will cause a lot of problems for SDSU on the offensive end. Creighton’s main scoring threats have been D2 transfer Ryan Hawkins and Duke transfer, Alex O’Connell.
PREDICTION: Overall Creighton has played the tougher schedule and they are playing better basketball at the moment, so I have to give them the nod here. I think this will be an extremely close game, but I simply don’t see SDSU pulling away and winning this game by multiple possessions. Creighton is an extremely well coached team who runs more efficient offense than SDSU and I think that will be the difference in this contest. My lean for this game is Creighton +2.5/ML and to the UNDER 120 as my final score prediction would be 57-54 Creighton. CREIGHTON +2.5 -110 for 1U
Arkansas vs. Vermont
Arkansas is a team fresh off their elite 8 from last year and are primed to make another deep run in this year’s tournament. Arkansas added a lot of transfers in the off season but their most important player this season has been JD Notae. Notae is averaging 19/4/4 on 42% shooting and 31% from 3. Notae is a volume shooter and can be inefficient at times, but he will likely be the best player on the floor in this matchup. Arkansas played a gauntlet of a schedule in the SEC this year & have played extremely well since January. Since January 12th, they are 15-3 including wins over LSUx3, Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn, Florida & West Virginia. They have arguably been one of the best teams in the country over the last few weeks and have peaked at the right time. Arkansas has played very well on defense this season as they are currently ranked 16th in adjusted defensive efficiency, 63rd in defensive effective FG%, and 47th in defensive 2-point percentage. Their metrics are a bit skewed because they play so many top-level teams, but they are a very solid and physical defensive team. On offense, Arkansas struggles to knock down outside shots as they only shoot 30.7% from 3 as a team which is 313th in the country. Arkansas scores a majority of their points from 2-point range & from the FT line. Arkansas scores 22.5 % of their total offensive production from the FT line which is 9th in the nation, so they do a good job of drawing fouls and getting to the line. Arkansas is 23rd in the country in foul rate drawn on offense & Vermont will have their hands full in keeping Notae, Umude, Williams, & Lykes out of the paint and off the free throw line.
Vermont is a very solid mid major program who absolutely dominated the American East this season. They lost 1 game in conference all season & it was a road OT loss to rival Hartford, who was probably the second-best team in the AE down the stretch. Vermont has the best player in the AE in Ryan Davis who averaged 17/6/1 on 59% shooting & 42% from deep, so Davis can really stretch the floor. Vermont has run efficient offense this season as they are ranked 44th in adjusted offensive efficiency, 3rd in off effective FG%, 16th in lowest off turnover %, and 3rd in 2-point %. On defense Vermont does a really good job of rebounding the ball and preventing offensive rebounds. They are number 1 in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage and only allow an offensive rebound on 18.7% of possessions. Vermont is a really good team and have proven that they belong in the big dance, but their metrics and results need to be taken with a grain of salt because of how weak the American East was as a conference this season. In their AE tournament games, they were 24, 23 & 16 point favs & covered every game easily. They really weren’t tested at all over the last 4 months as they have only lost one game since Dec 7th & were favorites in 23 straight games since their loss to Providence.
PREDICTION: I don’t think Vermont is prepared for the physicality, quickness, & Athleticism that Arkansas possesses. Vermont faced 2 P5 teams this season against Maryland & Providence & lost both of those by 11 and 10 points. Providence was the best team they played all season & they started off the game on a 20-7 run & never looked back as they covered the 1H/FG spreads relatively easily. I think Arkansas will start fast here and won’t look back so my plays for this game are going to be Arkansas 1H -2.5 -115 and Ark Full Game -5 +101 as I think Arkansas takes care of business here. My final score prediction would be 81-68 so I also lean to the OVER 139 as well.