Gophers And Wolfpack Make For Golden Parlay On Wednesday

Tuesday, February 12, 2019 8:14 PM UTC

Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019 8:14 PM UTC

After mining Wednesday's card, I decided to recommend plays on Syracuse-NC State and Minnesota-Nebraska. The Wolfpack and Gophers will exploit key match-up advantages en route to a cover.

Syracuse (17-7 SU, 14-10 ATS) at NC State (17-7 SU, 14-10 ATS)Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET (ACC Network)Free NCAAB Pick: Wolfpack ATSBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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Syracuse, which ranks 223rd with 70.5 points per game, is prone to lay offensive clunkers. To give some examples, they mustered 61 points vs Clemson, 59 vs Georgia Tech, 56 at Virginia Tech, and 62 at Florida State. The key is to prevent Syracuse's offense from getting into rhythm. At Duke, for example, the Orange were getting blown out before point guard Tre Jones left with an injury. His on-the-ball pressure forced his Syracuse counterpart Frank Howard to turn his back well behind the arc. Syracuse's offense had to start running so far from the basket and it was difficult to execute any play in the case that Howard didn't commit a turnover. Howard committed three turnovers in five different ACC games, all of them in Syracuse's worse offensive performances (with the exception that Syracuse scored a lot against Duke after Jones left).

Howard's ball-handling and decision-making skills are not robust enough to handle the Wolfpack. NC State loves to defend closely and apply on-the-ball pressure. Its effects are most marked against slower-paced teams that want to be comfortable on offense in order to patiently select a smart shot. In NC State's near-upset against Virginia, for example, the Wolfpack harassed normally ball-secure guards Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy, forcing them to speed-up their dribble, travel, make ill-advised decisions, and otherwise commit turnovers. Scan through even the first five minutes to see for yourself:

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While Syracuse's offense will struggle to find a rhythm, NC State will enjoy various avenues for scoring. Besides scoring in transition particularly off Syracuse turnovers, before Syracuse's zone can set-itself up, the Wolfpack can score via good ball movement to locate open shooters. Syracuse allows a high rate of three-point attempts and its defenders tend not to rotate as well when they're not energized by the Orange home crowd. NC State's three-point stats are deflated because of their one historic clunker against Virginia Tech, but they boast a number of sharp shooters. Braxton Beverly, for example, has drained at least four threes in four different ACC games. Markell Johnson and CJ Bryce also rank top-250 in three-point percentage.

Against the zone, the mid-range jumper is particularly important and NC State ranks in the top-fifth percentile in two-point jumper percentage. Finally, defensive rebounding is inherently a major problem with the zone defense and the Wolfpack will benefit by being one of the ACC's best offensive rebounding teams, which will help them extend possessions and accrue second-chance points.

Defensively, the Wolfpack's man-to-man style focuses on limiting opposing three-point attempts. Syracuse's big men tend to not pose any offensive threat. Instead, they rely on their guards knocking down perimeter shots. They have the ACC's highest point distribution from three, which is particularly worrisome on the road, where venues are constructed much differently than the Carrier Dome. NC State allows the second-lowest rate of three-point attempts and will force the Orange to try to beat them in the paint where DJ Funderburk and Wyatt Walker rank top-150 in block rate.

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Minnesota (16-8 SU, 11-13 ATS) at Nebraska (13-11 SU, 11-11-1 ATS)Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)Free NCAAB Pick: Golden Gophers ATSBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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Nebraska is worth fading. They have lost and failed to cover their last seven games including seven-digit losses against Rutgers and Illinois. A big reason for their meltdown is the injury to center Isaac Copeland, who was the team's second-leading scorer and was overall a crucial component of its frontcourt. He averaged 30.6 minutes per game whereas Nebraska's back-up bigs had only contributed a few minutes per game. The disparity in talent is significant and the lack of depth leads Nebraska to be gassed. For example, on Saturday, they played energetically and well overall to be within two points of Purdue at half-time. But Purdue outscored them 48-31 in the second half.

Furthermore, Isaiah Roby's two-point efficiency has dropped dramatically without the attention that Copeland absorbs from opposing defenders. The lack of front court production has placed immense pressure on Nebraska guards James Palmer and Glynn Watson, who are playing almost entire games and are very inefficient scorers. During their slump, the Huskers have mustered 64 points or fewer in six of seven losses. It's really hard to succeed with that little offensive production and with the Big Ten's third-worst defense in terms of efficiency.

Where Minnesota can thrive in particular is inside, where Copeland's first-choice backup Tanner Borchardt can't defend well without fouling. He commits 6.4 fouls per 40 minutes and has fouled out twice in his last four games. In the two games in which he did not foul out, opponents could achieve well above their average in two-point efficiency because Borchardt played softer defense in order to avoid fouls.

Minnesota, unlike Nebraska, possesses solid depth inside with Amir Coffey and Jordan Murphy, who average 15.3 and 14.5 points per game respectively, plus Daniel Oturu, who ranks 345th in two-point efficiency. Oturu and Murphy also dominate on the glass, each ranking top-100 in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. The Gophers, who average the highest rate of free throws in the conference, will test Nebraska's depth and wear it down inside.

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