Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 1:15 PM EST odds are subject to change.
Bellarmine +350 over Louisville
KFC Yum! Center - Louisville, KY
Steaming: ACC Network
9:00 PM EST. Yeah, we're going to take a crack at the Knights at 3½-1 because they have a decent shot of winning here. We’ll also take the eight points being offered so officially, we’ll split this up. We’ll take one unit in Bellarmine at +350 and 1 unit on Bellarmine taking back 8 points.
Louisville has pedigree galore while Bellarmine has none. Frankly, that’s probably why the Cardinals are so overpriced here. The current rule that prohibits a team transitioning to D1 from competing in the NCAA Tournament for a four-year period is completely ridiculous. This rule prevented the Knights from punching their first bid to the Big Dance after winning the ASUN conference tournament last March. The ASUN bid was instead granted to regular season champ Jacksonville State, who lost in the semifinals. This will be Bellarmine’s third season as a Division I program, and it will look to continue to be a presence near the top of the ASUN standings. Through two seasons, Bellarmine is 21-8 in ASUN play, a mark only bested by league power Liberty. For Knights head coach Scott Davenport, the focus isn’t on ASUN play or the month of March quite yet. He likes to approach every year in segments, which has contributed to his success at the program ever since he took over in 2005. “We play a season in segments,” said Davenport. “Right now it’s the non-conference schedule, which prepares us for the regular ASUN season. We are measured in our focus.
Davenport’s squads always check the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts” box, and much of that can be attributed to his coaching (though he would give all the credit to his players and staff). You’d be hard-pressed to find a better offensive mind in the head coaching ranks today, and that shines through when watching the Knights in action. Bellarmine’s offense is a symphony of motion and cutting, with excellent ball movement serving as the conductor. The Knights rarely make mistakes and get clean looks at the basket nearly every time down the floor. In 2021-22, Bellarmine ranked ninth nationally in field-goal percentage at the rim, first in field goal percentage on 2-point jumpers, and seventh in field goal percentage in transition, per Hoop-Math. According to Synergy, the Knights ranked second nationally in rate of plays ended via spot-ups (i.e. catch-and shoot). In both Division I seasons, Bellarmine has ranked inside the top two of the ASUN in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom.
When Chris Mack stepped down as Louisville's head coach midway through last season, it didn’t come as a total shock. But no one would have expected that the Mack Era would end this way — not when he was hired in 2018, and certainly not after a 24-7 campaign (15-5 in the ACC) in a 2019-20 season in which there was no NCAA tourney due to COVID. Four seasons and done. Mack was replaced by one of Louisville’s own. Kenny Payne played for Denny Crum and the Cardinals from 1985-89. He was a member of the 1986 national title team and wound up as an assistant coach at Oregon and Kentucky before spending the past two seasons with the New York Knicks. He’s revered in Louisville and by just about everyone he has coached in college and in the NBA. This is a program that’s won three national championships and been to 10 Final Fours. The fans are hoping that Payne can bring some stability to a program that became a laughing stock at the end of Rick Pitino’s tenure and couldn’t keep the turnaround going at the end of Mack’s run. It’ll take some time but Louisville is Louisville is Louisville and on a night with not a lot of games available, the man on the street will be attracted to a blue blood playing a team nobody has heard of. It’s fool's gold.
Louisville does not have proven players. It played two exhibition games before the start of the season. Their first, against Division-II Lenoir Rhyne, ended in a 57-47 loss for the Cardinals. Louisville’s second game was against Chaminade, a game Louisville won by seven which is less than the eight points allotted here. To give you an idea of how weak that preseason victory was, note that Chaminade played Ohio State and Cincinnati lost by 44 and 43 points respectively. The upset potential here looms large. Bellarmine coming in under is also great value.
Bellarmine +350 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 7.00)