UC Irvine Anteaters guard Jeron Artest (15) looks to pass the ball as Colorado Buffaloes guard Shane Gatling (0) defends in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, in Boulder, Colo. Colorado won 69-53. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
- UC Riverside (8-4, 4-2 Big West) battles UC Irvine (10-6, 6-2 Big West) on Friday, Feb. 12, at 7pm ET
- Irvine has dropped two of its past three games to fall out of first in the Big West division
- The odds for the game, as well as matchup analysis and a pick, can be found in below
Two of the coolest nicknames in college basketball, the UC Riverside Highlanders and UC Irvine Anteaters, will meet for the first of two consecutive meetings on Friday, Feb. 12 at 7pm ET.
OK, we realize the nicknames don’t matter. What does matter is that Irvine has slipped to second in the Big West standings thanks to a pair of losses in its past three games, while Riverside enters Friday as winners in four of its past five. Despite that, UC Irvine still enters as the favorite.
Here’s a look at the odds:
UC Irvine vs UC Riverside Odds
|UC Irvine||-1.0 (-110)||-N/A||Over 123.5 (-110)|
|UC Riverside||+1.0 (-110)||+N/A||Under 123.5 (-110)|
Odds taken Feb. 11th at FanDuel
How They’ve Fared Recently
Irvine started Big West conference play with a two-game sweep of UC Santa Barbara back in December, then cruised to four additional wins that vaulted them to the top of the standings. Now they’re back down to Earth a bit with a pair of losses in their past three games, but both of those defeats came by thin margins.
One night after beating Hawaii (193rd in KenPom) by two points, Irvine lost by one in overtime. A week later, Irvine dusted Cal State Bakersfield (142nd in KenPom) by 17 — then lost by five the next day.
‘Eaters hold Hawai’i scoreless for the final 6+ minutes of the half and use this smoooooth Collin Welp fade away to tie the game. #StillHungry pic.twitter.com/IoXdgFhG1k
— UCI Men’s Basketball (@UCImbb) January 31, 2021
What the Anteaters excel at is defense, holding opponents to 45.4 percent effective field goal shooting (21st in NCAA Division I). They are most proficient at protecting mid- and short-range shots, allowing the 12th-lowest 2-pt. field goal percentage in D-I.
Fortunately for Riverside, most of their damage is done beyond the arc. The Highlanders shoot 38.2 percent from 3-pt. range (22nd in D-I), with four players shooting over 40 percent on a minimum of 30 attempts.
Riverside is arguably even better defensively than Irvine, placing second in opponent effective field goal percentage and third in 2-pt. field goal percentage allowed.
We’re off with a bye this week, so enjoy this #TBT to last Saturday’s 70-63 win over CSU Bakersfield. #GoHighlanders pic.twitter.com/faoNjCcNS1
— UCR Men’s Basketball (@UCRMBB) January 28, 2021
It’s important to note though, that Riverside has simply been beating up on lesser opponents. They only have one win against a KenPom top 150 team, while Irvine has three.
Irvine is 8-5-1 against the spread, with a 2-3-1 ATS record on the road. The Anteaters had ripped off a six-game ATS win streak, but they’ve gone just 1-2-1 since. Oh, and they’ve seen the under hit in six consecutive games, four of which have come by a double-digit margin.
JC working on a new career high. 👏👏👏
Watch live on ESPN3 | https://t.co/zAOwjUWHHM pic.twitter.com/WSeDW7xVpb
— UCI Men’s Basketball (@UCImbb) January 24, 2021
Riverside is 8-3-1 ATS overall, including a 2-3 ATS home mark. They’ve covered in five of their past six games, though only one of those was as the underdog. The under has hit in five of their past seven.
Irvine and Riverside have played five times in the previous two seasons, with Irvine winning all five straight up (they’ve actually won the past 10 straight up), as well as four of five ATS.
Take Riverside’s recent string of success as a gift that likely has made this spread softer than it should be for Irvine. Then take advantage of that gift. We advise the under as well because both teams present strong trends on that front.
Pick: Irvine -1.0 (-110); Under 123.5 (-110)
Jordan Horrobin is a sports journalist whose MLB, NHL, NFL and NCAA work has appeared in outlets such as The Athletic, MLB.com, the Detroit Free Press and more. He is currently based in Toronto, also working as a contributor for Forbes.com and a freelance editor for Sportsnet.