I expect some pace tonight in the UConn-Temple game. I believe oddsmakers do as well, considering they opened the total at 149 when this match-up hasn’t had that many points scored combined in its last 5+ meetings.
As we know, UConn has a new coach this year. Dan Hurley has picked up the tempo with this Huskies team, as they rank 101st in average offensive possession length. They average 61.3 field goals per game, which is over 4 shots more than the team averaged last year (57.2), and ranks top 50 overall.
Fran Dunphy has the Owls playing with more pace this season as well, as they rank 120th overall in average offensive possession length, up from 129th last year and 216th the year before. I have reason to think that this increase in tempo has something to do with Temple’s drop off on the defensive end this season.
Higher pace means more shot attempts and, often times, more fouls. I have talked about it all season long, so by now you know how I love using free throw rate in addition to average possession length when I attack totals.
Both teams foul A LOT. We know UConn is prone to fouling; we have talked about it before. They rank 331st overall in defensive free throw rate, allowing opponents to shoot 43% of their shots from the free throw line. Well, Temple is not too much better, as they rank 240th in defensive free throw rate, allowing opponents to shoot 35.4% of shots from the free throw line.
Both of these teams shoot over 73% from the free throw line.
Last season, the Owls had two 6’10” forwards in the paint, Obi Enechionyia and Ernest Aflakpui. Obi was truly elite in the shot blocking department last season, as he had a block percentage of 5.3%, ranking 157th out of 2152 eligible players per Ken Pom. Obi was very disciplined as well, as he only averaged 3.6 fouls per 40 minutes. Since Obi departed, Temple’s team defensive block percentage dropped from 9.0% to 6.5%, which ranks 298th out of the 353 D1 college basketball teams. Aflakpui is still a big body, but he does not play the level of defense that Obi did. He has block rate of only 2% and averages 5.5 fouls committed per 40 minutes. Junior Damion Moore and sophomore Justyn Hamilton are the team’s best shot blockers, but they also struggle with fouls. Moore averages 4.7 fouls committed per 40 minutes, while Hamilton averages 5.7.
Temple’s Defense vs UConn’s Offense
A casual college basketball fan may overhype Temple’s defense because of last season, but the fact of the matter is they are pretty average. They allow opponents to score 71.5 points per game against them at home, and they have prevented opponents from scoring at least 70 points only twice in their 10 games since the turn of the new year. In conference play, Temple allows opponents to shoot 54.1% from inside the arc. They do a pretty good job at defending the three point line, but in this match-up, the two point defense is going to be exposed by the UConn guards.
It makes so much sense to me that the Temple defense has regressed. Last season, they ranked 343rd in average defensive possession length. They were able to successfully play defense for an average of 18.6 seconds (18.7 in conference play), forcing opposing offenses into bad shots late in the shot clock. This season, Temple only plays defense for an average of 17.4 seconds per defensive possession, and that number shrinks down to 16.9 in conference play. That is almost a full 2 second difference from last season.
What is the significance of that? Well, the Temple defense isn’t forcing bad shots, but rather are allowing their opponents to shoot high percentage shots, as further evidenced by their drop off in defensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage on defense.
UConn has been playing great basketball lately, winning three out of its last four games. But even further back than that, the Husky offense seemingly has turned a corner after its home loss to UCF on Jan 5. Since that game, the Huskies have put up 76 at SMU, 72 in OT at Cincy, 83 at Tulsa, 87 vs Tulane, 80 vs Wichita, 67 at UCF, and 76 vs ECU.
Both of these teams are involved in high scoring games when they face off against uptempo teams. UConn games have an average of 154 total points in match-ups against offenses who average less than 17.5 seconds per possession and an average of 151.27 total points in match-ups against defenses who average less than 17.5 seconds per possession. Seven of UConn’s contests have been against teams who average less than 17.5 seconds per possession on BOTH offense AND defense, and the average point total in those games is 150.42.
Temple averages 17.0 seconds on offense and 17.4 seconds on defense.
Temple games have an average of 146.2 total points per game in match-ups against offenses who average less than 17.5 seconds per possession and an average of 148.47 total points per game in match-ups against defenses who average less than 17.5 seconds per possession. Six of Temple’s contests have been against teams who average less than 17.5 seconds per possession on both offense and defense, and the average point total in those games is 152.67.
UConn averages 16.8 seconds on offense and 16.8 seconds on defense (Mmm! Consistency! Me like!).
With the way these teams have been playing, I have a hard time seeing this game stay under the total. I expect a high tempo in this game, with a lot of fast breaks, a lot of drives down the lane, and a lot of fouls. This is going to be a game that features very good guard play. Look for Jalen Adams to bounce back in a big way after Coach Hurley benched him against ECU, and look for the rest of the Huskies to feed off of his energy. Look for Quinton Rose, Shizz Alston, and Nate Pierre-Louis to get good, high percentage shots and force contact to get to the free throw line. I expect over 40 free throws to be shot in this game, which should give us a great chance to cash in on the over.
The Pick: UConn @ Temple Over 146
Good luck to those that tail!