BYU Cougars vs Oregon Ducks Prediction
The Oregon Ducks will host the BYU Cougars in a semi-home game at the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter in Portland, Oregon. They generally play at the Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon, and this will essentially be a home away from home game for the Ducks.
Oregon’s looked the part of a dominant Pac 12 once again, starting the season out with 17 and 23 point wins against Texas Southern and SMU. The West Coast Conference’s (WCC) BYU’s looked the part early, as well, beating Cleveland State and San Diego State by 10 and 6 points, respectively.
Oregon opened as -4 point favorites, and the line hasn’t moved at this point. The game total is also set at 141.5 points, expecting somewhat of an offensive battle between two of the slower offenses in the NCAA.
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It’s early in the season, but Oregon’s already seen somewhat mixed results against the spread (ATS). They’re 1-1 through 2 games, with a 20 point average margin of victory. They also boast a +5.8 ATS +/- at this point. Ultimately, the Ducks fell 4 points shy of covering a -21 point spread against Texas Southern before winning by 23 points as a -7.5 point favorite against SMU.
BYU also owns a 1-1 ATS record early this season. They’re winning their games by an average of 8 points while recording a -0.8 ATS +/- through 2 contests. They failed to cover a -14.5 point spread against Cleveland State, winning by 10. In their next game, the Cougars beat San Diego State by 6 as -3 point favorites.
Neither team has a massive leg up against the spread, although we’re only a couple of games into the season. There are plenty of reasons to back one of the nation's highest upside teams in this game, though.
Oregon’s a team that consistently boasts the ability to blitz their opponents in the first half of their games. Through only 2 games in 2021, the Ducks rank 27th in the nation in first-half points per game (43). They also rank 38th in first-half margin (+12.5), even with a game against a respectable SMU team.
Unsurprisingly, Oregon got out to an early lead against a weak Texas Southern team. They outscored them 36 to 26 in the first game of the season. The more surprising game was the Ducks' early onslaught of SMU. They scored 32 points in the first 10 minutes of the game, leading 50 to 35 at halftime.
BYU hasn’t been as successful early in games, averaging only 33 first-half points per game early this season. That ranks only 162nd in the NCAA. With that being said, they do boast a +4.5 first-half point differential, although this only ranks 112th in the country thus far.
BYU got out to an early lead against Cleveland State, as they outscored them 33 to 27 in their first game of the season. In a significantly tougher test against San Diego State, the Cougars weren’t quite as successful. They ended the half with a 32 to 30 lead, although they scored only 13 points in the first 10 minutes of the game.
Oregon boasts the ability to get out to an early lead in this game, especially in a particular matchup that favors the size of their rotation.
Oregon wants to run a short rotation of six players that are all upperclassman this season. Getting junior and senior leadership should allow them success, specifically early in the season and in important games, although there is one potential issue with this type of rotation. A lack of pure size.
Oregon certainly has some length in their rotation, although each of their six key players is 6’8 or shorter. Transfer Quincy Guerrier is the starting center with Eric Williams, Will Richardson, and Rivaldo Soares key players between 6’5 and 6’7. Transfers Jacob Young and De’Vion Harmon round out the rotation at 6’3 and 6’2, respectively.
It’s important to note that the Ducks have the ability to go big. Franck Kepnang, who’s played a role in the rotation early this season, stands 6’11 as a sophomore. They also have Nate Bittle and Isaac Johnson as 7’0 freshmen, although they should factor in more down the stretch than early on. Bittle specifically comes with tremendous upside as a 5-star recruit, although he’s only played 11 minutes early this season.
Even with plenty of size on the bench, it’s clear Oregon wants to lean on their smaller, more versatile upperclassmen in big games early this season.
Insert an undersized BYU rotation tonight. Similar to Oregon, a lot of the Cougars rotation is made up of upperclassmen. Sophomore Caleb Lohner and freshman Fousseyni Traore are the exceptions.
Regardless of age, BYU possesses a starting rotation similar to Oregon. They have some length with small guards. Lohner stands at 6’8 and starts at center. They’ve also given 6’6 Traore roughly 21% of his minutes at center this season. Gavin Baxter’s the only player taller than Lohner, standing 6’9 and playing only 32.5% of BYU’s minutes through 2 games.
Ultimately, Oregon will have the choice of whether they want to use their top lineup and match BYU’s size, or lack thereof, or if they want to focus heavier on their bigs, giving them an edge in the paint. I expect them to choose the former, relying on their superior shooting ability to lead them to victory in this game.
The Ducks boast a team full of shooters, and that’s been on display early this season. They’re shooting 37.5% from beyond the arc through 2 games, ranking 85th in the country in that category. They also rank in the top-100 of the NCAA in 3PA/FGA (43.4%) and 3-point point distribution (37.3%).
Will Richardson’s one of the team’s leaders, shooting 61.5% from beyond the arc early this season. Obviously, this percentage isn’t sustainable, although he’s an elite shooter. He’s shooting 41% from the 3-point range throughout his career, making 63 of 143 attempts (44.1%) over his last 2 seasons.
Eric Williams is another dominant option in the offense, although he’s struggled with his range early this season. Still, he’s shooting 36.2% from deep throughout his career, including 34.8% in his first season at Oregon last year.
Jacob Young, De’Vion Harmon, Quincy Guerrier, and Rivaldo Soares have all seen mixed results with their shooting throughout their careers. With that being said, they have the capabilities to hit from deep, and opposing teams will need to respect that. Young specifically sticks out after shooting 36.9% from beyond the arc with Rutgers last season.
BYU’s 3-point defense looks elite at this point in the season, holding their opponents to only 24.3%. With that being said, there’s very little reason to believe Cleveland State or San Diego State will be dominant teams from behind the arc, and this seems to be more matchup-based than BYU featuring one of the best 3-point defenses in the NCAA.
Excluding Alex Barcello, who’s consistently been an elite shooter throughout his career, the Cougars' offense has disappointed from beyond the arc. They shot only 5-19 from deep against Cleveland State, who allowed Ohio to shoot 12-31 from beyond the arc in their second game.
BYU certainly has a few shooters on their team, as Trevin Knell shot 46.6% from deep last season. With that being said, it was a massive improvement from his 26.1% as a freshman, and he’s started the 2021 season off 2-10.
These two teams feature similar-sized rotations, although they don’t feature similar skillsets. It gives us a great edge on one of the two teams tonight.
BYU doesn’t feature the type of team that should give Oregon troubles in this game. There will be a clear shooting edge from the Ducks, and they could also have edges in turnovers, offensive rebounding (slight), and free throws throughout this game.
I expect them to start fast, as they have early this season, while BYU continues to struggle early in games. I do think it’s viable to bet Oregon -4 for the whole game, although I slightly prefer the first half tonight.
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