The fifth-place and seventh-place teams in the Big West will showdown tonight as Long Beach State will be heading to CS Fullerton to take on the Titans. We’ll preview the game before going over my best bet for the action.
On January 14th, Long Beach State had a 2-4 conference record, but they have since rattled off four-straight wins to bring themselves up to 5th place in the Big West. It’s all about tempo for LBSU, as according to KenPom, they run at the third fastest tempo in the country. On average, they are attempting 64.8 field goal attempts per game, leading to them being ranked 20th in field goals made per game.
Stylistically these two teams are very different, with Cal State Fullerton running at a tempo that ranks 304th in the country according to KenPom. The Titans rely mainly on their defense to win them games, and they enter tonight fresh off a game in which they held Cal Poly to only 34 points in the game. CS Fullerton is 97th in the country in defensive efficiency, while LBSU is 151st in that category, according to KenPom, so it’s clear these teams have picked up their six conference wins differently.
When these two teams met on January 19th, LBSU was able to pick up the win at home with a final score of 72-67. The Beach forced the Titans to play at their tempo, resulting in Fullerton attempting 72 shots from the field when they typically average 54.8 a game. With the Titans shooting 41.6% this season, running at that tempo is not conducive to their play style.
The other area in which LBSU caused problems for the Titans is on the boards. The Beach outrebounded Fullerton 45 to 29 in the game. With a combined 134 shots taken in the game, there were plenty of rebounding opportunities, which is another reason why whoever dictates the pace tonight will play a significant factor in who walks away with the win.
CS Fullerton is currently listed as -2 point favorites, and I’ll be backing them for my play in this one. The Titans were without their leading scorer Latrell Wrightsell Jr. for the first matchup between these two teams, and between missing him and playing at a less-than-ideal pace, they still only lost the game by five.
Fullerton is also a far better team at home this season, as they have a 9-1 record there as opposed to a 3-10 record on the road. If they can dictate the pace tonight in their home gym, they should be able to rely on their defense again, especially since Long Beach State is 292nd in the country in effective field goal percentage. The fast tempo of the Beach has inflated their scoring numbers, but when they are forced to slow down, their poor shooting comes to light.
LBSU is 8-12 ATS this season and 4-6 ATS on the road, so the disparity in home vs. away ATS trends favors the Titans in this one. Overall I think the Titans can execute their game plan better tonight with Wrightsell Jr. back in the lineup and come away with another home victory and cover.
Cal State Fullerton (-2)