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Odds and Ends

BYU and San Diego State labeled underdogs

by Vaughn Dalzell
Updated On: January 14, 2021, 12:50 pm ET

Bryant (-6) at Saint Francis

The spread opened at -4 and moved to -5.5 and -6 on some books, -6 being as far as I would play it. As the day goes on, expect -6.5 and -7s to pop up. Bryant is off the best start in program history, at 9-2 and 5-1 in the conference. Bryant's averaging 103.1 points per 100 possessions and they also rank fourth in the country with 91.4 points per game and third in the nation in tempo (76.6).

Bryant has reeled off six-straight wins and is 5-1 ATS in that stretch. Saint Francis is a cold 0-6 ATS in their last six games after upsetting Pitt in the season-opener. It appears the Flash was a fluke, and in those next six games that lead us to today, Saint Francis has lost by an average of 15 points per game and has allowed all seven opponents to score 70 or more. Only one of those losses have come by single-digits. 

Bryant has six of their nine wins by seven or more points and four during this six-game winning streak. The favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings, but Saint Francis has won four of the previous five, interestingly enough. However, Bryant should be too much offensively this season. The Bulldogs' have scored 74 or more points in every game and 90 or more in six-of-11 contests.

The Over has gone 5-0 for Bryant in their last five games, and even versus LIU, St. Francis couldn't get much offense going. They scored 75 in the first then 58 in the second meeting. That will be something to watch for today because they play on Friday too. Bryant will be the play on Friday if St. Francis covers today. There has been a lot of success in college hoops on backing the opposite team in the following meeting. If St. Francis doesn't cover, we leave it alone and pay attention to how many points the Bulldogs or Flash can score in the second time around. 

LIU plays at a similar pace, adjusted tempo and average possession length as Bryant, which gives me a sense of confidence in backing the Bulldogs. LIU beat St. Francis 78-75 in the first meeting, then 71-58 in the next. The Flash have only scored more than 65 points in one game season since their Pitt victory. St. Francis will be playing only their second home game of the year (0-1) while Bryant plays its sixth road game (3-2). 

Game Pick: Bryant -6 (1u)


San Diego State at Utah State (-1)

Utah State the favorite? Do I see that, right? San Diego State, the owner of the nation's longest road win streak (13 games), is a road underdog in conference play? This is either a trap or a gift.

Yes, Utah State is 9-3 and ranked an impressive 55th in Kenpom, but no, they have not beaten anybody in the top 100. 

Utah State's best win in terms of ranking is an 82-71 win over Northern Iowa (125th), and they are 3-8. In fact, every game Utah State has won came against a team with a losing record. In the three games they played top 100 teams they were, you guessed it, 0-3 with losses to BYU (67-64), South Dakota State (83-59) and VCU (85-69). 

San Diego State's resume includes a three-point loss to Colorado State and a 10-point loss to BYU, both coming at home. On the road, the Aztecs have a 12-point victory over Arizona State and a 25-point neutral floor win versus Saint Mary's. San Diego State is 4-2 on the season versus top 100 opponents, and their Division I opponents are a combined 70-25 (73.7%) on the season. They've gone 1-3 ATS in their last four games, hence why the spread is so low today.

Under Craig Smith, Utah State is 33-9 in Mountain West play, but only 3-3 all-time versus San Diego State. San Diego State is 4-2 at Utah State and leads the all-time series 13-6 with wins in four of the last five meetings.

Both defenses are stellar as Utah State allows a league-leading 60.5 points per game, while San Diego State is second in the Mountain West, allowing 60.7 points per game. Utah State is one of the best rebounding teams in the country, outrebounding every opponent this year and holding a rebounding margin of +12.8, second in the nation. 

San Diego State is an average rebounding team that will be required to use their athleticism to grind out a tough win. Utah State is 26-2 at home since Jan. 19, 2019, with both losses coming to San Diego State. Give me the Aztecs on the road in what should be a close and most likely low-scoring game.

Game Pick: San Diego State +1 (1u)


BYU at Saint Mary's (-1) 

BYU was crushed in their last outing to Gonzaga, and because of that, we see them as road dogs here. BYU is 4-3 versus teams in the top 100, an impressive stat when you factor in the three losses are to USC, Boise State, and Gonzaga, a combined 33-3 on the year. 

Saint Mary's resume is lackluster, with top 100 wins over Colorado State (84th) and South Dakota State (93rd). BYU beat San Diego State (39th), St. John's (86th), Utah (74th) and Utah State (55th), only one of those games (Utah) being home. 

The Cougars are 2-1 on the road and 2-1 on neutral floors this season. Saint Mary's has played one game away from home since Dec. 1, and they're fresh off a home loss to Santa Clara on Saturday. Two of their three losses this season have come in the last three games. 

Where I think BYU holds an advantage or could is in two and potentially three areas tonight. The first, BYU is excellent inside the three-point line this season, making 54.7% (51st) of their two-point attempts. Saint Mary's defends the two as good as anyone, ranking 18th in the country with 42.8% field goal defense. Tough battle here, but there's more.

The second is BYU's assist to field goal made ratio. They rank 34th in the country (60.6%), while Saint Mary's defense is actually the worst in that department across the nation (33.5%). If BYU moves the ball as they usually do, ranked 17th in assists per game (17.8), maybe the three-ball can come to life too. Saint Mary's plays at an extremely slow pace  353rd in adjusted tempo, 343rd in adjusted possession length  and doesn't pass the ball nearly as well as BYU, averaging 11.7 assists per game (271st).

Last season BYU led the nation with 41.9% from three, but that's dipped to 34.0% this season. Saint Mary's three-point defense is suspect at 35.9% (265th), and if ball movement can create open looks, the Cougars should be able to put up points. When the Cougars score 70 points, they are 7-1 this season, so that's the magic number. The underdog is 4-1 ATS in the last five games, and BYU has gone 5-1-1 ATS as a road dog in the previous seven and 3-0-1 ATS on the road.

Game Pick: BYU +1 (2u)

Vaughn Dalzell

Vaughn Dalzell is a former Division I SID, two-time IUP Alumnus and also a contributor on numberFire, FantasyPros and Bet The Prop. You can follow him on Twitter for more insight @VmoneySports.