Buffalo, Mid-Major Georgia Rivalry Feature in Friday Hoops Action

Jay Pryce

Friday, February 16, 2018 2:03 PM UTC

Friday, Feb. 16, 2018 2:03 PM UTC

A pair of nationally televised mid-major clashes serves up some betting value Friday night. Check out these free picks for Bowling Green at Buffalo (7 ET, ESPNU) and Georgia State at Georgia Southern (9 ET, ESPN2).

Bowling Green at Buffalo (-14)

Bowling Green (16-10 SU. 11-8 ATS) and Buffalo (19-7 SU, 11-9 ATS) are the two top teams in the MAC East, but NCAA basketball oddsmakers expect this potential division-clinching matchup to be a blowout. The Bulls opened -14 for the first of two late-season meetings. Buffalo, which looks to be a shoo-in for the NCAA Tournament, has dominated the series of late. The Bulls are 7-0 SU and 6-1 ATS since March 2013, winning by 11.6 points per game. Buffalo is the only MAC team that Falcons head coach Michael Huger has yet to beat.

The game total is just as lopsided with an initial offer of 161 points. These two could moonlight as track teams. The Falcons play at the 51st fastest tempo in the country, while the Bulls clock in as 14th quickest.

Bowling Green is young, but experienced. There are no seniors in the starting lineup. The backcourt is the core. Freshman Justin Turner (15.4 ppg), sophomore Dylan Frye (12.1 ppg) and sophomore Rodrick Caldwell (9.9 ppg) are three of the team’s four top point-getters. The 3-point shot is the trio’s specialty. The Falcons drain 37.0 percent from behind the arc, the 86th highest rate nationally.

Cruising through the first half of its conference schedule, Buffalo is just 3-2 SU and 0-4-1 ATS in its last five games. The defense is experiencing a few hiccups. It is surrendering 80.8 points per game in regulation time on 44.8 percent shooting in this span. Most of it is coming in transition, under the rim and late. Opponents are hitting just 28.1 percent from downtown, scoring an average 45.0 points in the second half.

Look for the Bulls to tighten up and slow down tonight. Since Nate Oats took over as coach, Buffalo has hosted four conference opponents where the difference in average scoring margin between the two is greater than 5.0 points. The ‘under’ has hit in each, a 149.7 combined score staying 11.7 points south of a 151.5 average total. In all, only one team (Miami-Ohio, 2016) has reached its projected points total in the betting market. The Bulls enter with an 11.2 points differential, -1.5 for Bowling Green. The Falcons have their wings clipped tonight, and the Bulls slow the charge late in a double-digit victory. Both come up short of scoring expectations. Pick under 161 points.

Free NCAAB Pick: Under 161Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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Georgia State at Georgia Southern (-1)

Georgia Southern (16-10 SU, 6-12 ATS) defends Hanner Fieldhouse well vs. Sun Belt foes under head coach Mark Byington. Since 2014, it is 26-9 SU against conference competition in the building, topping Georgia State (19-7 SU, 14-8 ATS) in each of three visits. The home team, in fact, has won the last 15 matchups in the Southern-State rivalry.

The backcourt is the Eagles’ strength. Junior guards Tookie Brown and Ike Smith led the Sun Belt in scoring last year. The figures are down this season slightly. The duo average 19.0 and 12.0 points per game, respectively, ranking third and 21st in the conference.

Defensively, Southern rates above average, coming in at 134th in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency rankings. It has had a couple of slip-ups recently, allowing 102 (Louisiana-Lafayette) and 91 (Arkansas State) points in two of its last three played. The Eagles yield just 67.8 points per game in six hosting Sun Belt competitions. Toss the Ragin Cajuns’ explosion last time out, and the total drops to 61.0 points on 40.1 percent shooting.

At 19-7 SU, the Panthers are off to their second-best start in program history. A win Friday will make it 20 or more for the fourth time in the last five years. It will also clinch a bye in the first round of the Sun Belt tourney. Here's coach Ron Hunter talking about the state of the program headed into Statesboro:

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The worry for State headed into the season was finding a go-to scorer after Jeremy Hollowell graduated. Sophomore D’Marcus Simonds has stepped up in a big way. The 6-foot-3 guard posts 21.6 points per game and is 12 field goals shy of setting a single-season school-record (222). Last year, Simonds averaged 13.4 points in 27.1 minutes per game.

Like Southern, defense is where the Panthers are at their best, holding Sun Belt foes to 41.4 percent shooting. They are a force in the paint. Their 49.6 field-goal percentage allowed on shots at the rim is the sixth lowest in the country.

Georgia Southern will avoid the paint much of the contest, negating the Panthers’ best game. The Eagles take 39.0 percent of their shots from the 3-point area, a tad more than the 37.0 D-1 average. Georgia State hasn’t won in Hanner Fieldhouse since 1996. It is 4-9 SU and 5-8 ATS as rare underdogs since 2014 in Sun Belt games. Lay the point with Eagles.

Free NCAAB Pick: Georgia SouthernBest Line Offered: Bookmaker

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