Tempo a Key Factor in Determining Totals for MAAC Matchups

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Jay Pryce

Sunday, February 18, 2018 1:05 PM UTC

Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018 1:05 PM UTC

Tempo is the theme in a pair of Garden State clashes today as Seton Hall hosts DePaul, and Canisius travels to Rider in a battle between Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference leaders.

Sunday College Basketball: DePaul vs. Seton HallFree NCAAB Pick: 'Under' 150Best Line Offerer: Bovada

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Seton Hall (17-9 SU, 11-15 ATS) faces a must-win game as it hosts DePaul (10-15 SU, 12-12 ATS) after dropping four straight. The Pirates' RPI is a healthy 25, but a defeat to the Blue Demons will see the number and team morale plummet.

The expectation is coach Kevin Willard will rotate freshmen Sandro Mamukelashvili and Jordan Walker into the mix more to help jumpstart a core of veteran players that have seemingly forgotten how to defend. Seton Hall, double-digit home favorites on the NCAAB odds board, has surrendered 83 points or more in each of the four losing efforts, allowing 91.2 per game. Opponents are shooting 51.0 percent from the floor in this span.

The defense is top-notch in this spot historically under Willard. Hosting Big East foes with a losing record, the Pirates yield 62.1 points per game on 40.9 percent from the floor. Willard’s squad ranks 59th in the country in KenPom’s adjusted defensive rankings. It needs a good kick confidence boost.

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DePaul, meanwhile, is 8-2 ATS (4-6 SU) in its last 10 conference road clashes stretching to last February, topping an 11.2 average line by 6.7 points per game. The Blue Demons are surprising on both ends of the court, but it’s the defense showing the most improvement. It is holding opponents to 72.9 points per game on 43.6-percent shooting in this situation, allowing just one (Butler, Feb. 2017) to surpass its projected team total.

The Big East is scoring at historic levels in 2017, averaging 78.6 points per game. This is the highest rate of any conference since at least 2006, and nearly 4.9 more than last season. Increased tempo and a slew of sharpshooters are fueling the increase. “If you’re not playing offense the way everybody else in this league is playing offense, it doesn’t matter how you play defense,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao remarked of the changes.

The temptation to choose the "over" in this matchup is great given the nature of the conference and pace of each team. The Blue Demons rank 84th and Pirates 89th in tempo nationally. The talent gap and circumstances will overwhelm, though. Seton Hall’s defense will force errant shots against a poor shooting DePaul team that averages just 33.8 percent on two-point jumpers. Pick "under" with your NCAAB picks and look for the Pirates to win 80-66.

Sunday College Basketball: Canisius vs. RiderFree NCAAB Pick: 'Over' 156Best Line Offered: Pinnacle

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Rider (20-7 SU, 15-7 ATS) and Canisius (19-9 SU, 17-8 ATS) are tied atop the MAAC standing at 13-2 SU apiece with two more to play. The winner will likely finish as regular-season champion.

The Golden Griffins are the real surprise. Picked to finish ninth in the coaches preseason poll, they have won 10 of their last 11, covering the spread (-4.8) eight times. Second-year coach Reggie Witherspoon, the longtime Buffalo leader, lost three of his four top scorers from last season to graduation and a transfer. The leadership of all-conference senior forward Jermaine Crumpton and the blossoming of sophomore guard Isaiah Reese have filled the void. The duo combines for 33.1 points and 11.0 rebounds per game.

This matchup is a contrast in styles. Rider runs like few others in the country, ranking 12th in tempo among D-1 programs. The Griffs play at a pedestrian pace (150th), taking just 16.4 percent of shots in transition. Which team will impress their approach more? Go with the Broncs.

In the last calendar year, Rider has squared off against seven MAAC opponents attempting more than 58 field-goal attempts per game. At least one team has scored 90 points in all but one. The average combined score is 172.6, far exceeding a 160.9 average total. Canisius puts up 58.4 attempts per contest. The Broncs hit 90 points and drag the Griffs with them. The total on the NCAAB odds board is 156; pick "over" with your NCAAB picks.

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