UMBC vs. Vermont prediction: College basketball odds, picks, best bets for Thursday
Sports betting is going legal in Vermont.
As a Vermont native and avid sports bettor I somehow made a career out of it I couldnt be more excited for the Green Mountain State to join he sports gambling revolution.
To celebrate this momentous achievement, lets talk about Vermont Catamount basketball — and America East basketball more generally, which is exciting for me given I know more about the conference than just about anything else.
Perennial AmEast champ Vermont began conference play with a rock-solid home win over upstart Maine, winning by seven despite an uncharacteristic 3-for-17 shooting from beyond the arc.
Theyll host the UMBC Retrievers on Thursday — the debut of sports gambling in Vermont and it seems like the Catamounts should run away with this one because UMBC is horrific.
But the spread has soared a tad high.
Im hesitant to back the slower-paced Cats as 17-point conference favorites. But I refuse to back UMBC at any number with how the Retrievers are playing.
That said, I think theres good value on the “under” in this matchup so that we can kick off Vermont sports betting with a gambling win Thursday night in Burlington.
UMBC vs. Vermont prediction
(7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
UMBCs interior defense is a mess.
The Retrievers are working with an entirely new roster this year, including a new, inexperienced transfer frontcourt of Khydarius Smith, Max Llorca-Lloyd and Ashton Reese.
Not surprisingly, opponents are scoring at will on the low block. The Retrievers rank 298th nationally in 2-point shooting allowed (53.8%), 316th in defensive turnover rate (14.9%), 262nd in block rate (7.5%), and 258th in defensive rebounding rate (31.4%).
Theyre allowing a whopping 41 paint points per game, ranking in the second percentile of D-I teams.
UMBC's interior defense yeeeeeesh pic.twitter.com/0ea70Mm6eB
— Tanner McGrath (@tannerstruth) January 5, 2024Lucky for them, Vermont doesnt want to score on the interior.
The Cats are a five-out, perimeter-based shooting offense predicated on tough 3-point shot-making. They use uber-stretch power forward Matt Veretto to space the floor as wide as possible, pass the ball around the horn to find a calculated 3-point shot and let it rip.
The Cats rank 40th nationally in 3-point rate (44%) and in the seventh percentile nationally in 2-point field goal attempts per game (31). John Becker-led teams want to shoot from deep.
But the Retrievers have a shot at stopping that. They rank top-60 nationally in 3-point rate allowed (33%), consistently running opponents off the arc.
If the Retrivers can defend the perimeter effectively, they could throw off Vermonts offensive flow. Even if they get cooked by Vermonts big men off the roll, the Cats cant put up a crooked number without its usual elite perimeter shooting.
UMBC coach Jim Ferry. APFor what its worth, Vermont isnt generating many open looks. Only a third of its catch-and-shoot opportunities are coming unguarded, the fourth-lowest nationally.
Even if UMBC hasnt been elite at closing out, Vermont likely still faces tough jumpers all night.
UMBCs wing core of Dion Brown, Anthony Valentine and Ashton Reese arent elite defenders, but they are good enough to stick closely to Vermonts shooting core of Veretto, TJ Hurley, and Aaron Deloney.
It’s also worth mentioning that Deloney, Vermont’s lead guard, is struggling. He’s shooting less than 30% from deep with an average 103.7 ORtg. He’s been inconsistent, and an off night from him means one less weapon for the Retrievers to worry about.
Conversely, I expect UMBC to look uncomfortable offensively all night.
Jim Ferry-led offenses run. The Retrievers play at the nations third-highest pace and get out in transition at a top-40 rate. Brown, Bryce Jonson, Marcus Banks and Franck Emmou sprint toward the rim every time they touch the ball.
None are efficient in transition, but theyll run the floor no matter what.
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But Vermont doesnt let you get out in the open court.
The Cats run at a plodding pace (334th nationally in tempo) and are among the nations best ball-handling teams (22nd in turnover rate). Plus, their perimeter-based offense means they dont get stuck on the interior, so they have a head start on any potential transition runners.
As a result, they allow the 11th-fewest transition possessions per game (8.1).
The Retrievers wont have any opportunities to run the floor especially off turnovers and rebounds and Vermonts plodding half-court offense will limit possessions overall.
They also cant score once you force them into half-court sets. UMBC ranks 283rd nationally in half-court PPP (0.96).
The way to beat Vermont is by posting them up, as the Cats interior defense is questionable at best Veretto and Nick Fiorillo are struggling to protect the rim, even as Ileri Ayo-Faleye has been fantastic in that regard. But, as we know, UMBCs inexperienced frontcourt cant expose that vulnerability.
Vermont should win comfortably. The Cats have too much talent, and the Retrievers are in full rebuild mode.
That said, Vermont should also control the tempo, which will slow this game to a snails pace and force UMBC to score in the half-court, an area where the Retrievers are incapable.
Altogether, I like the Under.
The market prices UMBC totals super high because of the Retrievers’ lightning-quick pace, but I feel confident this matchup will be played in Vermont’s style, which is slow, steady and all in the halfcourt.
UMBC will look uncomfortable all night, but Vermont might struggle to create its average 3-point volume.
Projections agree with me, as ShotQualityBets projects this total Under 150.
For what its worth, the past three matchups between these two have stayed well under the closing total, and all three of those matchups closed between 142 and 144.
The last UMBC-UVM game to hit 160 points came in 2006 because the Cats always dictate the tempo; the Retrievers havent hit 70 points in a game against Vermont since February of 2020.
UMBC vs. Vermont pick
Under 153.5 (-110, FanDuel) | Play to under 150
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