In looking at the Wednesday college hoops slate, this matchup between Connecticut and West Virginia is one of the best games of the night.
Connecticut and West Virginia both enter this nonconference clash with gaudy records. The Huskies are 8-1 and the Mountaineers are 7-1. Yet, for those of us who study the betting lines like a college student cramming right now for tests before the holiday break, each has been unimpressive versus the sportsbooks.
UConn is 4-5 ATS and the ‘Teers are 3-5 ATS. Someone will step up for a spread winner, but who?
Connecticut Huskies vs. West Virginia Mountaineers
Wednesday, December 8, 2021 – 07:00 PM EST at WVU Coliseum
At our last look at Bet365, West Virginia was a 2.5-point favorite. Normally, Bob Huggins’s crew gets four points for home, thus, the numbers are telling us Connecticut is a slightly better squad.
This is the Huskies’ first true road assignment. The only other time they left Stoors, CT was for the “Battle 4 Atlantis”, where they played three exhausting games in as many days, winning in overtimes twice over Auburn and Virginia Tech and losing by four to Michigan State to finish third in that event.
UConn under coach Dan Hurley is lethal when running, averaging 85.9 points a game and putting up 65 attempts. Connecticut is a great rebounding team and when they grab a missed shot and make that first pass to an open teammate in space who is on the move, they are extremely difficult to contain. Along with the hard-driving style, this team crashes the offensive glass and scores because of the hustle.
With West Virginia using various presses, being them man or zone, this creates poor rebounding positions and this is an area that the Huskies can exploit.
You might think with that offensive style, UConn players would always be cheating to get out on the fastbreak and not be sound defensively. They are just the opposite and are holding foes to 37.9 percent shooting and 62.6 PPG despite the pace.
West Virginia Analysis
Coach Huggins has always been a defensive-minded coach. During his tenure at his alma mater, he shifted gears to have his team apply various combinations of full, three-quarter and half-court pressure to generate turnovers that led to easier transition baskets.
That will get you 20 or more wins a year, particularly when facing out of conference competition, who are less familiar with that style. However, when you look at the most successful clubs Huggins has enjoyed in Morgantown, they have included a few sharpshooters, who came through when the offense broke down.
The closest thing this Mountaineers team has to that is guard Taz Sherman, though he’s more of a scorer than a shooter. Otherwise, the points don’t come easily when forced to play in the half-court and run various sets. And, there are few bailouts when you shoot just over 30 percent from deep and average only a half dozen made three’s.
What is the Best Side to Be On?
For our college basketball picks, we think that unless West Virginia can reach or surpass their total of 20 forced miscues, they will have a hard time winning.
As mentioned, if UConn is grabbing errant shots on the defensive end, unless the Mountaineers are taking away the initial first pass every time, it will be difficult to slow the Huskies. That could lead to easy buckets for Hurley’s squad and they could go on runs, making them hard to catch.
Though Huggins’ teams are not known for picking up many fouls, with how UConn goes after the orange on missed attempts on offense, they could start marching to the free-throw line. That would advantage Connecticut, who connects on 75% from the line, while the ‘Teers are only 63%. That alone could be the difference in the outcome.
With West Virginia, just 1-10 ATS after playing two consecutive games as a home favorite, Connecticut drains free throws late for the win.
NCAAB Pick: Connecticut +2.5 (-110) at Bet365