Nate’s Top NCAA Totals for Wednesday – 12/20/23
NATE’S TOP NCAA TOTALS FOR WEDNESDAY – 12/20/23 – With a slowing down in college football as bowl season swings into gear, our focus turns to college hoops to combat midweek doldrums.
I’ve got my eye on a couple of totals tonight where I think we may be able to find some value. Everybody loves a good obscure game, but both of these are nationally televised for your viewing pleasure.
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Xavier vs. St. John’s (-5.5, o/u 157.5), 7:00 EST, FS1
Both of these teams have been a little bit of a disappointment this season. Red Storm fans had high hopes after they hired Rick Pitino as head coach, but the results have been a little volatile thus far this season. The offense hasn’t performed with a ton of efficiency, though some of that appears to be good shots that simply haven’t fallen.
Expectations were different for Xavier this season after a huge amount of roster turnover, but Sean Miller is doing what he does as he guides this team into his preferred style of play. Xavier had some pretty shaky performances on offense for their first handful of games, numbers that have depressed where they’re at offensively for the season. Recently though, they’ve turned that around scoring 75 or more in their last three games.
Ken Pomeroy has both of these offenses rated as middle of the road with Xavier coming in at 68th and St. John’s coming in at 48th. Nobody is going to argue those are elite numbers, but there’s reason to believe that those rankings will continue to trend upward and that the market may be behind on the current state of both offenses.
Pace shouldn’t be an issue as Xavier tends to be most comfortable pushing the pace in transition, a style which Pitino’s Red Storm will likely oblige.
I don’t trust either of these teams to reliably close out a game as both have lost some head-scratchers in non-conference play. So I’m sticking with a bet on the total. This total has slowly been ticking up since the line opened, so don’t wait too much longer if you want to tag along. There’s still a little bit of value at the current price, but not much if it gets any higher.
#11 UNC vs. #7 Oklahoma (+3.5, o/u 155.5), 9:00 EST, ESPN
Now we’re talking. A Wednesday night non-conference matchup between two top-15 teams? Sign me up.
I’m a pretty huge fan of what Oklahoma has accomplished to this point in the season. 10-0 is a start that any program in the country would gladly take. They’ve beaten some quality teams along the way, taking down Iowa, Providence, Arkansas and USC. The market has also been slow to catch up with how good the Sooners are as they’ve gone 8-2 against the spread.
UNC is 7-3 to start the season, but their ATS numbers are nowhere near as good as Oklahoma as they sit at 4-6 against the number. UNC has a ton of talent, which is a surprise to nobody, but they haven’t performed consistently enough to me to consider them to be an elite team. I think they’re top-25 for sure, but 11th seems a little bit too high.
Oklahoma is likewise probably a little overrated in the AP Poll, particularly when you look at more predictive rankings like Ken Pomeroy’s where they rate out as 18th.
I think Oklahoma is a very good team, but at some point the market will catch up to them and they’ll start to drop games against the spread. Catching them as a ‘dog in this spot feels a lot like a trap.
In general, when two ranked teams are playing each other, I have a simple rule. If the lower-ranked team is the favorite, that’s where I tend to gravitate. Oddsmakers aren’t stupid, and they know that bettors will line up to bet the “better” team as an underdog getting points. That’s exactly where #7 Oklahoma is as a 3.5-point underdog to the #11 Tarheels on a neutral court.
The biggest mismatch for me has to do with coaching. I love Porter Moser and what he’s doing with the Sooners. He’s far-and-away better at getting his team ready to exploit the tendencies of an opponent. Hubert Davis has nothing but talent on his roster, but he’s not the same caliber of coach.
The Sooners are excellent in transition defense, Synergy has them as a top-15 team in that regard. That’s going to make things difficult for a UNC team that would prefer to play uptempo and in transition. Oklahoma plays at a relatively average tempo compared to UNC (148th vs. 34th, per Ken Pomeroy).
All things considered. I think the edge is with Oklahoma because of the coaching, but this line scares the hell out of me. If it feels like a trap, it usually is.
I think OU will force UNC to play in the halfcourt, which will extend the possessions. The value is in the under here.
Pick: Under 155.5