Connecticut vs. West Virginia: Betting Odds, Picks, and Predictions (12/8/21)

Connecticut vs. West Virginia Odds

The 8-1 Connecticut Huskies will travel to the mountains of West Virginia to take on the 7-1 Mountaineers in Wednesday’s marquee matchup.

Dan Hurley and Bob Huggins coach teams that are always stout defensively and lengthy on the interior. This game should be a closely fought rock fight.

As such, the spread is hovering around WVU -1.5 at the time of writing. However, do the Huskies have the firepower to win a tough non-conference matchup on the road? Or should we back Bob Huggins as a short home favorite?

Connecticut Huskies Odds

The Huskies already have two gutsy wins on their résumé, with overtime wins against Auburn and VCU. Plus, the Huskies’ only loss was a neutral-court matchup with Michigan State, which is nothing to be ashamed of.

As mentioned, Hurley’s team is stout defensively. Led by three 6-foot-9 big men in Adama Sanogo, Tyler Polley, and Isaiah Whaley, the Huskies currently rank:

  • 12th in defensive effective field goal percentage (42.3%)
  • 29th in defensive turnover rate (23.8%)
  • 7th in 2-point defense (40%)
  • 5th in block rate (19.7%)
  • 33rd in non-steal turnover rate (12.2%)

Plus, the Huskies crash the offensive boards hard (seventh in offensive rebounding rate, 41.1%) and get to the line (36th in free-throw rate, 38.4%). The Huskies generate most of their points on the interior or at the line, and the offense has been rather efficient as such.

However, that doesn’t mean the Huskies can’t score at all three levels. Connecticut ranks top-40 nationally in 3-point shooting (37.9%) and the 85th percentile in spot-up points per possession (1.037).

Plus, the Huskies are smart offensively. Connecticut ranks 14th in adjusted offensive shot quality, meaning the team creates efficient scoring opportunities.

Senior guard RJ Cole runs the offense from the 1, and he’s leading the team in scoring (16.3 points per game) and assists (4.4 assists per game) as a result. He’s also the team’s most reliable perimeter scorer, shooting 36.7% from deep on 5.4 attempts per game.

West Virginia Mountaineers Odds

West Virginia is a good basketball team, and it should be a threat in the Big 12. However, the team hasn’t posted the strongest résumé quite yet, with just one win over a KenPom top-100 team and an 11-point loss to Marquette.

Like the Huskies, the Mountaineers are stout on the interior, generating 59.8% of their points from 2-point range (26th nationally) while ranking top-10 in defensive turnover rate (28.9%) and block rate (17.2%).

However, unlike the Huskies, shooting is a massive issue in Morgantown. The Mountaineers are 267th in 3-point shooting (30.2%) and 316th in free-throw shooting (64.5%).

However, West Virginia is also above average in spot-up situations (.945 points per possession, 62nd percentile). West Virginia also has four guys that shoot over 30% from deep, so I’m expecting some regression in the shooting department.

For some reason, the two biggest weaknesses for the Mountaineers have been 2-point defense (51.6%, 240th nationally) and defensive rebounding (33.6%, 313th nationally). West Virginia has a lengthy big man rotation and ranks top-30 in adjusted defensive shot quality, so I’m expecting regression in that department as well.

The Mountaineers are led by senior wing Taz Sherman, who is one of the highest usage players in the nation. Sherman is used on over 31% of possessions and takes over 33% of the team’s shots, both top-30 nationally. As a result, he’s dropping over 20 points per game and doing so with a 111.6 ORtg.

Plus, Sherman leads the Mountaineers perimeter defense. He’s averaging two steals per game while ranking in the 75th percentile in half-court points per possession allowed (.682).

Sherman should improve on his decision-making, however. His 3.3:2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio is nothing to write home about.

Prediction and Pick

 My pick: Connecticut +2 (-105 at DraftKings) 

West Virginia plays at one of the slowest paces in the nation (266th in tempo) while Connecticut tends to play a little quicker (142nd in tempo). Whoever wins this game will be the one who controls the pace and plays at their tempo.

That’s going to be UConn. While West Virginia likes to play slow, the team is also 46th in average length of possession allowed (16.3 seconds). The Mountaineers allow the 14th lowest percentage of shots in transition, so this isn’t about teams out-running them.

So, Cole and Hurley’s offense should have no issues getting into their sets quickly and scoring at an up-tempo pace. Plus, the Huskies have a huge advantage on the offensive boards, as they’re one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the nation going up against a very weak rebounding Mountaineer team.

KenPom makes this spread UConn -1 while Bart Torvik makes it WVU -0.4. Either way, there’s value with the Huskies catching points, whom I believe have the necessary advantages to win this road game.

Tanner joined Lineups to cover everything, but he has vast experience in, and unlimited passion for, Major League Baseball and NCAA Basketball. He’s a McGill University grad and former (Canadian) Division-I alpine ski racer who now spends his time drinking beer and betting home underdogs. Patrick Mahomes is a poor man’s Tom Brady.

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