Utah State vs. San Diego State (-2)
Revenge game! San Diego State has ripped off 13-straight wins since losing twice to Utah State Jan. 14-16. The Aztecs are one the hottest teams in the country and Utah State enters on a six-game winning streak themselves.
Everyone knows how hard it is to beat an opponent three times in a season and this will be no exception. Utah State is actually looking for its fourth-straight victory versus San Diego State, beating them in Mountain West Conference Championship last season.
Revenge game in all aspects for San Diego State.
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Both games were exceptionally low-scoring, totaling 102 and 123 points in this season's meetings. San Diego State's Matt Mitchell (15.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG) did miss the second meeting of the season, which was a crucial absence.
San Diego State enters this matchup scoring 69 or more in five of the last six games. Utah State has allowed 59 or fewer points in four straight games. The Aztecs are one of the nations best three-point shooting teams and I expect their offense to be the difference.
Four San Diego State players average double-digits over the last five games compared to two on the whole season. The offense is clicking, and if Utah State were to win four-straight overall against San Diego State, they would have to hit the triple better than the Aztecs.
Utah State lost both regular-season meetings last season, then beat San Diego State in the third meeting, the MWC Championship. They split the last four road/neutral games SU, 2-2 (50%).
Before this game, I had the Aztecs to win the conference and Utah State to earn an at-large bid or be one of the last teams in the field. I am sticking with that here.
San Diego State has failed to cover in the last three road and neutral court games, but the favorite is 5-2 ATS (71.4%) in this series. Utah State was the favorite in both games earlier this season, winning and covering in both.
With this game being a 50-50 pick em essentially with a -2 spread and San Diego State having lost four consecutive versus Utah State, I will take the Aztecs to break the streak here in a close game.
Game Pick: San Diego State ML (1u)
Memphis vs. Houston (-7.5)
Memphis is in a fight for its lives, not just to win the AAC Championship, but its tourney lives. According to some major outlets, the Tigers still have work to do for an NCAA Tournament bid.
I have Memphis in the NCAA field, but when there is doubt, there is a way and Memphis has its fair share of doubters.
It took a half-court buzzer-beater for Houston to survive Memphis and this time around, the Tigers will likely play harder. The size and athleticism of Memphis' bigs were too much for Houston in the first meeting and they will likely be on the attack early on.
Memphis had three scorers reach double-figures versus Houston, two of them big men. The Cougars did out-rebound the Tigers 40-32, so that will be a point of emphasis for Memphis entering this matchup.
Memphis outshot Houston from just about everywhere in that game, except the charity stripe. Memphis went 10-of-20 (50%) from the free-throw line and that likely cost them the win. Houston allows the fifth-highest percentage of points to an opponent from the free-throw on the season at 24.8%.
Memphis will have to stay aggressive and knock down freebies. The Tigers hit 53.6% of their two-pointers versus Houston, which is pretty impressive since they rank first in the conference (41.3%) and sixth nationally (43.0%) in that department defensively.
The key to covering and winning will be slowing Houston's Quentin Grimes down. He is averaging 21.4 points per game in his last five contests. Versus Memphis, he scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds in the win. He recorded 20 or more points in four-of-five games prior to scoring 15 and 17 versus Tulane and Memphis.
In Houston's three losses, Grimes scored seven, 13 and 19 points. He is averaging 30.7% from the field (12/39) and 25% from three (5/20) in those losses. Memphis ranks first and allows conference opponents to shoot 24.8% from deep, while leading the AAC in defensive efficiency (86.1%) and defensive effective field goal percentage (42.8%).
I like the Tigers' defense matched up once again versus the Cougars' offense. Houston only hit eight-of-28 (28.6%) triples in the lone meeting and that was a home game for the Cougars. On a neutral court, I like Memphis to keep it close and limit Houston's primary scoring threat.
Memphis is 11-1 ATS (91.6%) in the past 12 games and Houston 6-3 (66.6%) in the previous nine. 13 of Memphis' last 15 opponents have failed to score more than 70 points and the Tigers are 11-4 SU (73.3%) in those contests. That makes 70 points or fewer the key number for Memphis to keep this within covering distance.
Game Pick: Memphis +7 (1.5u)