UC Irvine vs. Hawaii Pick Against the Spread – 2/15/20
California-Irvine Anteaters (16-10 SU, 12-12 ATS) vs. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (14-9 SU, 9-13 ATS)
When: Saturday, February 15, Midnight
Where: Stan Sheriff Center, Honolulu
Point Spread: UCI -3/HAW +3 (5Dimes - 25 team parlays, 20 point teasers, -105 odds!)
Total: O/U 137.5
Last Time Out:
UC-Irvine beat California-Riverside 63-59; Hawaii lost 50-49 to Long Beach State
Scouting the Anteaters:
Remember these guys? Irvine was the champion of the Big West last year and knocked off Kansas State as a 13 seed for the only real upset of the 2019 tournament. This year’s team is down three starters from that squad, but they’ve still got some solid pieces from that team, namely Evan Leonard, who hit a pair of crucial 3-pointers to earn the win over the Wildcats.
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This year’s team has proven far more vulnerable inside the league than it was a year ago. However, it’s still done enough to put itself in a position to return to the NCAA tournament, although it would be in a much more precarious position than it was a year ago. The way this year’s team wins is by getting to its target score of 68 points and letting the chips fall where they might. Getting to 68 hasn’t been a sure thing by any means for the Anteaters, but when they don’t get there, it’s almost a sure defeat: Irvine is 1-7 when it scores less than 68 points, and the one win was their previous victory over Riverside.
Scouting the Rainbow Warriors:
Hawaii seemed to be the team that was on track to take Irvine’s title if the Anteaters faltered, but three straight losses in the league have changed that reality. The Warriors have been doing most of their damage in the league at home, as they managed to win four straight at the Sheriff Center to set themselves up with a 5-1 record in the league. But there’s concern over whether that was because Hawaii is a genuinely strong home team. Or, is it because the Warriors were facing some of the worst the Big West has to offer. Of the four wins, three came over teams that are below .500 overall, and Hawaii just followed all of that by returning home and finding a way to lose to last-place Long Beach State.
Eddie Stansberry has been asked to carry the load for Hawaii all season, and there’s starting to be some real concerns as to how well the senior is going to hold up. In the Warriors’ past five games, Stansberry sat for a combined 14 minutes, and four of those barely count because they came in a game that went to overtime, meaning that Stansberry played 41 minutes in that loss to Cal Poly. He looked more like himself against Long Beach, scoring 19 points in the loss, but in the two preceding games, he combined for just 14 points and shot less than 25 percent from the floor in both games. If he’s not hitting, Hawaii’s not winning.
The plane ride. Hawaii joining the Big West totally changed what was one of the most compact leagues in college basketball, as it took a league that was entirely based in California and added a trip off the mainland to Hawaii. As such, the Warriors tend to play long stretches of games either home or away, and the California teams have to deal with the reality of crossing the Pacific and changing time zones for a conference game. It’s always a wild card as to how a team is going to react to actually leaving the mainland and playing on the islands.
UC Irvine will Cover if:
The Anteaters can bludgeon Hawaii on the boards. Irvine did whatever it wanted inside in the first meeting between the teams, winning the battle of the rebounds by a 49-34 margin on its way to a 14-point overall victory. The establishment of Collin Welp as a genuine scorer and rebounder has given the Anteaters a reliable option in the paint to pair alongside Tommy Rutherford and has made Irvine an unusually tall team for the mid-major level. Hawaii has to find a way to at least keep the rebound margin reasonable.
Hawaii will Cover if:
The Warriors can stay in the game long enough to get to the free-throw line. Hawaii is one of the best teams in the nation from the stripe, as all five Hawaii starters shoot better than 70 percent from the foul line, topped by Stansberry at 89.2 percent. If this game turns into a free throw contest, the Warriors are in great shape.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
When I look at Hawaii, I see a team that is too reliant on one player and has worn him down over the course of a long season. I’ve seen it happen several times before, especially at the small school level, simply because these teams don’t often get this kind of star player. Irvine has a more balanced attack and knows how to handle this trip to the islands, and I think this is a very manageable spread.
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