As we enter the back half of the MAAC conference season, each game's importance is starting to grow. Another important one will be played tonight, with Fairfield heading to take on first-place Rider, and we’ll preview the game before going over my two plays for the action.
Thanks to a seven-game win streak, the Rider Broncs sit in first place in the MAAC standings with seven regular season games left. Their play on both ends of the floor has been impressive as of late, but the ability to hold every opponent since January 6th under 72 points is arguably the most remarkable aspect of their recent play.
The Broncs are fresh off a win in which they held Manhattan to 38% from the field, which now has them ranked 52nd in the country in opponent shooting percentage. Their recent win streak has also improved the Broncs' offensive numbers, as they are ranked 129th in the country in offensive efficiency rating, according to KenPom.
Part of Rider’s seven-game win streak features an overtime win on the road against their opponent tonight, the Fairfield Stags. The most impressive aspect of that win was that the teams went into overtime with a score of 65-65, and the Broncs went on to hold the Stags to just four overtime points en route to a 78-69 victory.
Not being able to score 70 points in a game that goes to overtime is a prime example of why the Stags rank 308th in the country in offensive efficiency rating, according to KenPom. Fairfield’s effective field goal percentage of 44.6% ranks 353rd out of 363 teams in D1 basketball, so it's safe to say the Stags would not have been able to secure their ten wins without their defense.
The Stags rank 55th in opponents' points per game, and in their last four wins, they managed to hold their opponents to 60 points or less. One of their biggest defensive strengths is their ability to run teams off the three-point line, as they currently rank 6th in opponents' three-pointers made per game.
Rider is currently favored by -4.5, and I’ll be taking them for my first bet in the game. The Broncs have covered their last four games, and in the previous seven meetings between these two teams, the home team has gone 5-2 ATS. Fairfield has been a good ATS team this season, except when they play a team with a winning record, as in their last nine games against a winning team, they are 2-7 ATS.
I don’t think the Stags have the offensive capability to stick in the game with the Broncs, especially on the road. When these two teams last met, the Stags had a 36-point first half, which is an outlier for them, as they usually, on average, 28.1 points in the first half. It’s unlikely the Stags can produce another half like that, especially with Rider holding opponents to an average shooting percentage of 41.3%.
In the second half and overtime of their last match-up, the Broncs held Fairfield to a combined 33 points, which is four points less than they scored in the second half alone. With the Broncs fresh off shooting 47% from the field in their last game and holding their opponent to 56 points, I think they can carry that momentum into tonight and get the cover.
The point total in this game is currently set at 132 points, and I’ll be taking the under for my second bet. The over is a combined 16-26 in the 42 total games played by these teams, and the only reason the game went over the total in their last match-up was because of overtime.
Fairfield runs at the 307th slowest tempo in the country, while Rider runs at the 284th slowest, according to KenPom, so each team will not have a large number of possessions. With the way Fairfield is shooting the ball this season, I don’t think they can put together a big offensive output with the lower amount of possessions.