Thursday, February 22

Middle Tennessee vs. UNC Wilmington: Betting Guide to CBI Title Game

Middle Tennessee vs. UNC Wilmington Odds

While it’s not the NIT or NCAA Tournament, the CBI is still entertaining, especially from a bettor’s perspective.

The final will include two teams that overachieved this season. While both wished they were in the Big Dance, a CBI title would be a perfect way to end their campaigns.

So, which team has the value?

The Blue Raiders were a covering machine this season.

At 25-7-1 ATS, MTSU was the best team ATS in the country. It covered 78.1% of the time, with a whopping 5.2-point average covering margin.

This team is a buzzsaw.

Middle Tennessee was chaotic on defense, but it was similarly chaotic on offense. The Blue Raiders were first in the C-USA in defensive turnover rate, but also ranked 11th in the C-USA in offensive turnover rate.

But the Blue Raiders can attack the rim. They’re one of the top-50 teams nationally in efficiency finishing at the rim, and they finished top-75 in 2-point shooting (52.4%).

The biggest matchup here is MTSU’s 3-point rate against UNCW’s 3-point defense. MTSU shoots 3s at the 63rd-highest rate nationally (42.7% 3PA/FGA), while UNCW allows the 33rd-lowest 3-point rate nationally (32.7% 3PA/FGA).

Middle Tennessee isn’t ultra-efficient from beyond the arc, but UNCW isn’t ultra-efficient defending the 3-point arc. The Seahawks are top-90 nationally in defending catch-and-shoot 3-point opportunities, but MTSU trends towards isolation, off-the-dribble 3s, where UNCW is sub-250 in defensive efficiency.

After tearing up the CAA, the Seahawks had to disappointingly accept a bid to the CBI.

But the ‘Hawks proved their worth. They dominated VMI, beat No. 1 seeded Drake and then torched Northern Colorado, 80-64, after closing as 2.5-point favorites.

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It’s been a solid end to an anticlimactic season, but the ‘Hawks would like the CBI title to send them into the offseason.

Nobody likes isolation more than UNCW. The Seahawks run iso at the 11th-highest frequency nationally, with Jaylen Sims and Mike Okauru putting up a combined 23 FGA per game.

While the shots usually didn’t fall for the ‘Hawks (ninth in the CAA in eFG%), they always got an attempt up because they take care of the ball (first in the CAA in offensive turnover rate).

UNCW also turned over its opponents a lot. UNCW finished second in the CAA in turnover margin at +3.35, just behind Hofstra at +4.38.

Image credit: CBB Analytics

Additionally, the Seahawks weren’t great at defending shots, either. But UNCW is due for a ton of negative shooting regression on that end. Its 38 3P% allowed was dead last in the CAA, but ShotQuality projects that number should’ve been closer to 33%.

Middle Tennessee vs. UNC Wilmington Betting Pick

Middle Tennessee has covered in almost 80% of the games it’s played this season.

I’m willing to trust the Blue Raiders one more time, specifically because they’re top-70 nationally in efficiency defending isolation opportunities.

The Blue Raiders are undersized on the interior, but their wings can defend the mid-range as well as anyone in the CBI.

Meanwhile, look for Middle Tennessee to shoot off-the-dribble 3s often. UNCW was 259th in efficiency defending off-the-dribble 3s this season, so expect MTSU to feast off of that.

Finally, MTSU is one of the better free-throw shooting teams in the nation. So if this game comes down to free throws late, I trust the Blue Raiders to make those shots and sneak past the 4.5-point spread.

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I’ll back the Blue Raiders up to -5.

Pick: Middle Tennessee -4.5 (Play to -5)

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