This article is part of our College Basketball Picks series.
The Friday night college hoops offering is a lighter one, but we still have a few intriguing games to work with. Steve Peralta analyzes a pair of notable matchups and shares his best bets of the evening.
Wright State at Cleveland State
Wright State wasn't playing very well earlier in the season, sitting with a 7-7 record at the end of 2022, although that is no longer the case. Since the new year began, the Raiders have played much better, winning nine of 13 games, all against fellow Horizon League teams. During conference play, Wright State has won with a strong, balanced attack, recording the third-best efficiency rating in the Horizon League on both ends of the court, per KenPom. Additionally, the Raiders are also great at rebounding, posting the highest defensive rebounding rate and fifth-highest offensive rebounding rate during league competition. These are important stats because Cleveland State is fully committed to crashing the glass on offense, boasting the highest offensive rebounding rate and worst defensive rebounding rate in the Horizon league. On paper, Wright State's top-ranked defensive rebounding numbers should neutralize Cleveland State's usual offensive board advantage, while Wright State should get plenty of put-back opportunities offensively, taking advantage of the Vikings' worst-ranked defensive rebounding numbers.
Cleveland State had a similar start to the season, losing the opening game of the season to a D2 team, Notre Dame (OH), before finding its way to an 8-7 record at the end of 2022. Since entering the new year, the Vikings have also played better, winning eight of 12 games against conference foes. The similarities don't end there, however, as Cleveland State also plays a balanced brand of basketball, ranking fourth in the Horizon League in both offensive and defensive efficiency, per KenPom. Solid rankings, although still a tick below Wright State on both accounts. Looking at how these two teams match up head-to-head, Cleveland State is at a disadvantage in one other area -- interior defense. The Vikings are much better at guarding the perimeter, ranked No. 42 among D1 teams in three-point percentage allowed, compared to guarding inside the paint, ranked No. 165 in two-point percentage allowed. This is noteworthy because the Raiders score almost all their points inside the paint, recording the second-highest two-pointer point distribution percentage in the country. This is due in part to the volume of shots taken inside the arc, but also because the Raiders are incredibly effective with two-point shots, making over 55 percent of shot attempts inside the arc during league competition, the highest percentage in the conference.
All in all, Wright State is better at inside scoring, better at long-range shooting, and better at rebounding. Cleveland State got the better of the Raiders the last time these two teams played back in January, 85-77, but based on the data, I'm betting the outcome will flip in the rematch. Furthermore, Wright State also plays at an extremely fast tempo, the 17th fastest in the country to be exact, per KenPom, so it looks like we'll also have another high-scoring game on our hands. Given the match-up and tempo of the previous game between these two teams, I'm putting my money on the Raiders in a shootout. I'm taking Wright State and the over.
College Basketball Best Bet: Wright State +1.5 & Over 148
New Mexico at San Jose State
Off the top, I should note that you'll first want to double-check the status of Lobo guard Jaelen House. The Lobos' second-leading scorer suffered a hamstring injury during practice last week and missed the last two games, resulting in losses. UNM coach Richard Pitino had previously said that House was a game-time decision prior to the recent game against Wyoming this past Tuesday, so one would think House has a decent chance of returning to the court with a few extra days to recover.
In any event, New Mexico has gone through a rough time recently, losing five of its last six games after starting the season at 19-3. Despite the losses, it should be noted that New Mexico lost two heartbreaking games to Nevada during this stretch -- two outcomes that easily could've been flipped. When factoring in both tough-luck losses and the House injury, the Lobos' recent skid doesn't look nearly as dire. Ultimately, this is still the same team that won at Saint Mary's, the eighth-best team in the nation according to KenPom's adjusted efficiency standings, and won at San Diego State, the current favorite to win the regular season Mountain West championship. The Lobos also took Nevada to double overtime when playing in Reno, giving us a team that consistently plays up to its competition.
San Jose State, meanwhile, has struggled with consistency for most of the season. The Spartans recently won back-to-back games for the first time since the start of the New Year. The sporadic level of play is undoubtedly connected to the team's amazingly awful turnover stats. During conference play, San Jose State has the worst offensive turnover rate in the Mountain West and the worst defensive turnover rate in the same span. Given this combo, the likelihood of the Spartans winning the turnover margin in any given game is incredibly low. In fact, San Jose State has logged a positive turnover margin in just four total games this season. Coincidentally, it had its best turnover differential of the season (plus-six) in the first game against New Mexico back on January 17, although it didn't do much good. San Jose State still got destroyed by New Mexico, losing 77-57.
When it comes down to it, these two teams are competing at different levels. New Mexico's efficiency numbers have taken a hit due to its recent outcomes, but this is still basically the same team that has already defeated the most difficult opponents on its schedule. San Jose State, in contrast, has gotten blown out in most of its most difficult matchups. Ideally, Jaelen House will be active for Friday's game and make this a slam-dunk pick, but even if he doesn't play, New Mexico should still be able to take care of business. I'm taking the Lobos in this matchup.
College Basketball Best Bet: New Mexico +1.5
Friday College Basketball Best Bets:
Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Friday:
- Wright State +1.5
- Wright State at Cleveland State - Over 148
- New Mexico +1.5
For up-to-date information on the latest college basketball odds and props from multiple sportsbooks, check out the College Basketball odds page on RotoWire.
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