Missouri vs. Liberty NCAA Basketball Odds, Preview and Prediction

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Mark Smith #13 of the Missouri Tigers celebrates. Jamie Squire/Getty Images/AFP

We did the math, and the math says the Missouri Tigers belong in Thursday’s college basketball picks instead of the Liberty Flames.

Missouri Tigers vs. Liberty Flames

Thursday, December 2, 2021- 7:00 PM EST at Liberty Arena

College basketball is a beautiful thing. I don’t get to write about it here at the ranch as much as I do the NBA, but it’s always a pleasure – partly because making decent college basketball picks is quite simple these days. If you want to squeeze every last possible ounce of profit margin out of these matchups, then yes, you still need to put in a ton of work, but for most of us, we just want to ease gently into the sharp zone, so we can get on with enjoying the game.

Besides, Ken Pomeroy has already done much of the work for us. Wiseguys have been flocking to his famous blue webpage of advanced stats for quite some time now – his numbers date back to 2002, the dawn of the Moneyball Era in sports betting. In this award-withering article, I’ll show you how to use Pomeroy’s data to take advantage of the college basketball odds, using Thursday’s tilt between the Missouri Tigers (4-3 SU, 2-4 ATS) and the Liberty Flames (3-3 SU, 0-5 ATS) as our target.

Adjust Yourself

Pretty much every good purveyor of advanced stats these days has some kind of catch-all number they assign teams that tells you how many points (or runs, or goals) they are “worth.” In Pomeroy’s case, that number is Adjusted Efficiency Margin (AdjEM). This is how many points you can expect a team to outperform (or underperform) the average Division I team per 100 possessions. As it turns out, Missouri and Liberty have performed at roughly the same level thus far.

The Tigers check-in at plus-4.04 AdjEM, which ranks No. 128 out of this year’s 358 D-I teams; the Flames are five spots back at plus-3.42. That’s a difference of 0.62 points in Missouri’s favor. But that’s over 100 possessions, which is about right for an NBA game, but way too many for college hoops.

Keeping It 66.1

Not a problem. Pomeroy also shows each team’s Adjusted Tempo, estimating how many possessions each team will get per 40 minutes against an opponent running at an average D-I pace. As a quick and dirty estimate for Thursday’s game, add each team’s Adjusted Tempo together and divide by two; that’s 68.2 possessions for Missouri and 64.1 for Liberty – slowpokes – making an average of about 66.1 possessions.

Next, we take that 0.62-point advantage per 100 possessions for Missouri and multiply it by 66.1 percent, which gives us 0.41 points. And finally, we factor in home-court advantage, which according to Jeff Sagarin at The USA Today has been worth 3.06 points across Division I. That gives us a projected spread of Liberty –2.65 for Thursday’s contest. Easy-peasy.

Now, all we need are some actual lines to hit the NCAAB odds board. And here they finally are: BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review) just posted Liberty as a 3.5-point home favorite. Given the math we’ve done, the Tigers are the right choice here, but since there’s less than a point between our projections and the actual betting odds, make it a small wager, and may the sphere be with you.

NCAAB Pick: Missouri +3.5 (–110) with BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Missouri +3.5 (–110)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.