The NCAA tournament bubble is shrinking by the day as teams continue to establish their resumes as being tournament bid worthy. Yesterday we saw signature wins by Butler over Villanova, Minnesota over Wisconsin, Notre Dame over Pittsburgh, Providence over Creighton, Florida over Georgia, and Oklahoma State over TCU. But no win was bigger than Purdue’s win over Iowa.
Business as usual. Boiler way..? https://t.co/bnLW4kPCXL
— SLYY5JACKK (@calebswanigan50) February 6, 2020
The Boilermakers have played one of the toughest schedules in the country and added a win over a very good Iowa team to their resume that also includes wins over VCU, Virginia, Minnesota, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. But with a very mediocre overall record of 13-10, every win is going to be a big one from here on out for the Boilermakers. For today’s daily betting pick, we will head to Utah, where the Runnin’ Utes badly need a win, as they host the Stanford Cardinal in Pac-12 action.
- Stanford Cardinal (16-5) at Utah Utes Runnin’ Utes (12-9)
- Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City
- 7:00 PM PST
- TV: PACN
The Utah Runnin’ Utes host the Cardinal of Stanford tonight, looking to bolster their fading NCAA tournament hopes. Utah started the season out by winning nine out of their first eleven games, including wins over top-100 teams like Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, and BYU. But they have struggled in Pac-12 play, as they are just 3-6 in conference games. Despite their struggles in league play, the Utes have done a good job of protecting their home floor, as they are 3-1 in the Huntsman Center.
Time to bounce back vs Stanford tomorrow night!
— Utah Basketball? (@UtahMBB) February 5, 2020
For Stanford, the Cardinal started out the season 15-2, but have fallen on hard times recently. After winning their first four games of Pac-12 play, Stanford has now lost three out of their last four league games. That includes losses to Oregon State and California, two teams that are currently projected not to hear their names called on Selection Sunday. Stanford must find a way to get back on track and win on the road tonight.
There was a time not all that long ago that it looked like Stanford was the team to beat in the Pac-12. But their recent three-game losing streak made people rethink this Cardinal team. They did manage to knock off Oregon at home in their last game, which kept the door cracked open for a regular-season Pac-12 title, but this team has had a tendency to lose games that they shouldn’t.
The road loss to Cal was particularly painful as they went into that game as double-digit favorites and lost outright. They followed up that lackluster effort by letting an Oregon State team, that is barely inside the top-100 right now, come into their house and beat them on their home court. While the Cardinal have been great ATS this season at home with an 11-5 record, they are just 2-3 against the number in true road games.
Utah Runnin’ Utes
It is almost like there are two versions of this Utah team this year. The team they are at home, and the team they are on the road. At home this season, the Utes are 8-1, in true road games, they are just 1-6, with that one win coming way back on opening night against Nevada. The only team to beat them at home this year was Oregon, and the Ducks are in first place in the league standings.
The Utes have played five out of their last seven games on the road, and not shockingly, they have struggled, going just 2-5, with both wins coming at home. But Utah now gets the opportunity to play four out of their next six games at home.
That stretch includes winnable games at home over Cal and UCLA, and a road game against an Oregon State team they beat by double-digits earlier this year. If Utah can find a way to win tonight at home and carry that momentum into the next couple of weeks of play, they can play themselves back onto the right side of the bubble.
Who Do I Like?
Stanford is the better team in this game. All the analytics tell us that, and the eye test confirms it. But their recent struggles on the road have me concerned. The only two teams that Stanford has beaten on the road this year are UCLA and San Jose State. UCLA is currently ranked at 118th on kenpom and San Jose State in coming in at 274th.
The line opened up at Stanford -1.5-points, and that was a bad number. I can’t imagine having any confidence in the Cardinal’s ability to lay wood on the road against quality competition. The sharps saw it the same way that I did, and they have pounded the home team in this one. The line has been moving towards Utah all morning and the number now stands at Utah -1.
I am going to jump on the side with the sharps. This is a spot that I call right side, wrong number. The best play would have been to take the opening line with Utah as home dogs, but that opportunity has passed. So, now we will be content with knowing we are on the same side as the sharps, but not getting the best possible number.
It’s not the world’s sharpest play, but it should be a long-term winner. Especially when you look at the fact that the line only swung from -1 to +1 for Stanford. It is very rare that a game will end in an exactly one-point margin of victory, and in reality, that is the only thing we have lost by being a little late on our bet. I won’t let that scare me off of making the play. Give me the Utah Running Utes as small home court favorites, laying one point, tonight against Stanford!