College Basketball Odds & Picks: Stuckey’s Saturday Betting Card, including Iowa State vs. Oklahoma & 5 More Games (Feb. 20)

David K Purdy/Getty Images. Pictured: George Conditt IV.

Well, another loaded Saturday slate in this wild and crazy season means we welcome back a bunch of teams from long breaks.

So far this season, teams coming off 14+ day pauses have not performed well against the spread, to say the least. When facing teams that aren’t also coming off a two-week break, they’ve gone 58-78-3 ATS (42.6%) — failing to cover by an average of 1.4 points per game. That’s an abysmal -17.4% ROI.

Adjusting for a normal-paced game, teams have performed about one point worse after 14 days, 2.5 after three weeks and approximately four after a month-plus away from action.

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Now, the sample size certainly gets much smaller for those latter two scenarios, which means a few outliers could skew the results dramatically. I personally think the amount of interruption to practice time during time off likely has the biggest impact, but getting transparency into that factor is extremely difficult. Keep in mind that betting markets do adjust to these trends over time.

This Saturday, we have a staggering 16 teams in action that haven’t played in at least two weeks. Those teams listed in descending order of days off include:

*Navy and American will face each other after neither has seen any action since January.

It’s also worth noting that teams coming back from COVID-19 interruptions are more likely to be missing key pieces from their roster.

I’ve been trying to avoid these teams after learning the hard way earlier in the season. However, the only team I’d consider betting on from that list above is Bryant.

It’s certainly risky, but the Bulldogs already dealt with a pause earlier this year and looked fine in the first game back. I’m a huge fan of head coach Jared Grasso, who I think will have his team ready to rock.

Plus, I love the matchup.

Merrimack plays almost nothing but zone defense. The Warriors play zone 94.4% of the time, trailing only Syracuse for the highest frequency in D-I. That may prove troublesome against a Bryant offense full of capable shooters that’s also one of only seven teams in the country that has seen zone on at least 30% of its possessions.

Similarly, Bryant plays a decent amount of zone defense (11th-highest rate), which could really trip up a Merrimack team that simply can’t shoot from the outside.

Circled Saturday Spots

Well, thanks to an excruciating Loyola Maryland push in triple overtime after leading by 13 with six minutes to go, these finished 3-2-1 last Saturday. For the season, they stand at 9-2-1.

Here are my six favorite circled spots for this Saturday.

Villanova vs. UConn  |  1 p.m ET on FOX

Villanova Wildcats

From what I’ve seen, teams that have dealt with pauses in action have been most affected defensively. That’s certainly been true for Villanova, which has seen its season-long Adjusted Defensive Efficiency fall precipitously over the past seven games.

I expect the Wildcats to improve on that end as the season progresses. A week to prepare for this game and work on the defense should lead to a much better effort on Saturday. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with the offense that has averaged just under 89 points over the past three games.

Plus, the Wildcats have also just been very unlucky in regards to opponent shooting, so you can reasonably expect positive regression.

In Big East play, teams have shot 40.5% from beyond the arc against Villanova. And per Synergy, only Denver has allowed a higher points-per-possession mark on open jumpers than Villanova this season. Teams have simply been hitting every open jumper against Nova and have had significant success on guarded jumpers as well.

This is just a great spot to get Villanova at home after it got to seethe over a blowout loss to Creighton last Saturday.

If you’re into trends, Villanova head coach Jay Wright has gone 200-155-6 ATS (56.3%) as a favorite. He’s the second-most profitable coach to back out of 726 in our ActionLabs database since 2005.

James Bouknight did just return for UConn and could certainly carry the Huskies to a cover here, but I’ll take my chances backing the Cats at home.

This should be a max-effort game from Villanova, which can also contain UConn on the offensive glass, where it makes its living.

Target price:Villanova -6 or better.

The Citadel vs. VMI  |  1 p.m. ET on ESPN+

The Citadel Bulldogs

These two teams are so similar, it’s scary.

They both play fast, shoot a ton of 3s, lack depth, don’t force turnovers and struggle to defend at times. One of the key differences is how frequently VMI uses its zone defense, which it runs about 50% of the time. The Keydets will also throw in a press periodically. The Citadel has the personnel to shred both.

In the first meeting, VMI won, 110-103, in an absolute shootout. Having watched that game, I thought it did a lot more of the little things throughout that game — whether it be getting to loose balls or crashing the glass. I think The Citadel will correct that issue in the rematch at home.

I do have to give credit where credit is due, as VMI head coach Dan Earl has done a tremendous job this season. Greg Parham can fill it up, and Jake Stephens is a handful underneath. With one more win, the Keydets would get to eight conference victories for the first time since joining the Southern Conference in 2015.

That said, they have done most of their damage in the friendly confines of Lexington, Vrginia. The Keydets are just 1-9 on the highway with the one victory coming in overtime after an absolute miracle comeback from eight down in the final two minutes at Wofford.

I think The Citadel head coach Duggar Baucom will have his men ready to roll against his former team, and they will fun-n-gun their way to a small upset victory.

I’m hoping we get an attractive price here after VMI’s most recent upset win over first-place UNC Greensboro.

Target price: The Citadel +3 or better.

Appalachian State vs. South Alabama  |  4 p.m. ET on ESPN+

Appalachian State Mountaineers

I think it’s time to fade South Alabama after it picked up its seventh-straight win last night over Appalachian State in the first of a back-to-back in Boone.

The Jaguars have benefited from catching a couple of teams off of long breaks, including App State last night. App State only lost that game by two points despite shooting 29% from 2 and 6-of-26 from deep.

With a game in hand after a long break, I expect a much more efficient effort from the home Mountaineers, especially a day after seeing the unique South Alabama pressure zone.

When these teams met earlier this season in Mobile, App State pulled out a six-point win on Saturday after dropping the first by nine.

Target price: Appalachian State -3 or better.

Iowa State vs. Oklahoma  |  6 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Iowa State Cyclones

Just like a few weeks ago, I’m going back to the well with Iowa State against Oklahoma.

This is a potentially good buy-low spot on the Cyclones after three consecutive lopsided losses at the hands of Kansas and Oklahoma State. In fairness, those two teams present a myriad of schematic issues for Iowa State.

However, that’s not the case with Oklahoma. I actually think Iowa State matches up fairly well with the Sooners. When these two teams met two Saturdays ago in Norman, it was close throughout until OU pulled away late for a 79-72 victory. The Cyclones cover was never in doubt.

Oklahoma has issues defending the perimeter. It’s one of the reasons it sags so much off the 3-point line. For the season, the Sooners have allowed opponents to shoot 36.6% from 3, which ranks 286th in the nation.

Iowa State’s perimeter players can take advantage as they did in the first meeting when it shot 16-of-31 from distance.

Iowa State also doesn’t get to the line… like ever. But that’s pretty meaningless against an Oklahoma defense that rarely fouls. Oklahoma also doesn’t force many turnovers, which have plagued the Cyclones all year.

Additionally, Oklahoma isn’t a team with enormous interior size. That’s important for an Iowa State that doesn’t have much length and generally gets crushed on the boards. The Clones will likely still lose the rebounding battle, but it shouldn’t be as glaring of a discrepancy as it is in a lot of their games.

There’s also a chance Oklahoma comes out a bit disinterested against lowly Iowa State. Lon Kruger’s bunch has played in so many big games over the past month, including a double-overtime thriller at West Virginia in its most recent contest. I wouldn’t be shocked if they came out a bit flat.

Meanwhile, I still think Iowa State will fight for its first conference victory based on what I’ve seen. I don’t think this team has quit.

Plus, it recently just got fully healthy after dealing with COVID-19 issues, so I’d expect some improvement over time as it gets back into a more normal routine.

It’s worth noting that home conference dogs of six or more points have been absolutely dreadful this season at 80-140-8 (36.4%) ATS. I’m not sure if clearly inferior teams miss the lack of fans more than in other scenarios, but that’s a glaring split.

That said, the right price, I’m still willing to take a stab on the Cyclones here given the situational spot and matchup.

Target price: Iowa State +10 or better.

Mississippi State at Ole Miss  |  6 p.m. ET on SECN

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Nothing more than a classic buy-low, sell-high spot here.

Mississippi State is coming off two straight blowout losses, including an embarrassing 21-point home defeat to Vanderbilt. I expect a much more focused and energized effort in a revenge spot against its in-state rival.

And that final margin of 18 in the first meeting was a bit misleading, as Ole Miss closed on an 18-5 run.

For the sell-high portion of this formula, Ole Miss has won four straight, including two marquee wins against Tennessee and Missouri. Its stock is sky-high. Plus, it’s been a bit fortunate in three of those four wins:

  • Crazy late comeback for a two-point win over Tennessee
  • Two-point overtime win over Auburn
  • Seven-point road win at South Carolina, which lost Jermaine Couisnard to injury

The Missouri win was just downright impressive. It’s a team headed in the right direction under Kermit Davis, but I just think its stock may be a bit inflated at the moment.

Mississippi State’s turnover issues are a bit concerning against an Ole Miss defense that turns teams over at a top-10 rate nationally with its length and unique 1-3-1 zone. However, the Bulldogs have the size in the interior to keep up on the glass and defend at the rim where Ole Miss makes its hay.

I expect a max effort from Mississippi State and big games from its dynamic guard duo of DJ Stewart and Iverson Molinar.

Target price: Mississippi State +6.5 or better.

Eastern Illinois at Austin Peay |  5 p.m. ET on ESPN+

Eastern Illinois Panthers

EIU has been absolutely crushed by injuries all season, which has led it to use 19 different starting lineups. The results weren’t pretty.

However, seniors Jordan Skipper-Brown, Sammy Friday and Mack Smith returned earlier this month. And more importantly, Josiah Wallace came back last game (as did George Dixon) when EIU pulled off a massive upset at Murray State as 15-point underdogs.

The Panthers are as healthy as they’ve been since a two-game stretch in early January when they beat Murray State and lost to this same Austin Peay team by three points.

That win over Murray State was also enormous for EIU’s OVC tourney chances. It now sits one spot out of the eighth and final spot. A win over Austin Peay would be absolutely enormous for its postseason chances.

I expect this team full of almost nothing but seniors to close the season very strong now that it’s back at full strength.

In the first meeting, EIU closed as a one-point home favorite. It’s now basically the same team catching nine points on the road against an Austin Peay team that is playing its third game in five days with a banged-up Jordyn Adams.

I’m sure Terry Taylor will get his for the Governors, but I’m rolling with a veteran EIU team to keep the momentum going, as I think the market is undervaluing the now healthy Panthers after a brutal stretch.

Target price: Eastern Illinois +8 or better.

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Photo Credit — Villanova: Porter Binks/Getty Images. Appalachian State: Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. The Citadel: Frank Mattia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Mississippi State: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Iowa State: David Purdy/Getty Images. Eastern Illinois: Stephen Furst/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.

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