College basketball odds, picks: Our staff’s top 5 bets for Saturday
It can’t be said enough: College basketball’s Saturday regulation is stacked straight.
There are five duels in each ranking, including a top-five duel and a top-ten duel. That’s not to mention the CBS Sports Classic, which puts four blue bloods at Madison Square Garden.
So, with that in mind, our five best bets for your Saturday menu. Dive in now for the best college basketball odds and picks.
Top 5 college basketball bets on Saturday
The team logos in the table below represent each of the games the college basketball team is targeting on Saturday’s slate. Click on the team logos for a match below to go to a specific bet discussed in this article.
Alabama vs. Gonzaga
I love this spot for Zags for a few different reasons.
First, this is a massive revenge opportunity for Gonzaga after the Crimson Tide upset her a year earlier in Spokane.
Mark Few’s team hasn’t had as strong a non-conference performance as it has in recent years, so this is one of the last real chances to secure a major CV win before starting play in the West Coast Conference.
Additionally, Alabama is entering this prime contest for disappointment. The Tide were fresh from a win on the road in Houston last Saturday, followed by a hard-fought home win over Memphis on Tuesday night.
I don’t think Alabama is as good as its No. 4 rating would suggest, and I’m expecting some negative shooting rampage on Saturday afternoon in Birmingham.
Drew Tim should be able to work his way into the paint against the Bama forward line, and Few is starting to get more consistent production from his guards.
This is still a top-five offense nationally (per KenPom), so I have no qualms about the Zags being able to keep up with Alabama if this turns into a track meet.
Alabama will do its fair share, but I expect the Zags to be the most efficient and determined ball club in this club.
I’m taking on Gonzaga on the money line on what should be a fun Saturday.
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Houston vs. Virginia
This is one of my favorite buy-low points for the Saturday schedule.
Dropping Virginia behind in the rankings after an upset home loss to Alabama, Houston now has a chance to compete inside John Paul Jones Arena against a Cavaliers team that has avoided danger for the past two weeks.
Alabama’s loss certainly stuck with Houston, who blew the lead late on (2.6 odds to win at a point for the Tide Tide).
In their last two games, Virginia beat both Florida State and James Madison by five points. That comes despite the offenses being stifled and forced to shoot a combined 29.5% percentage on two-point field goals.
Now they paint a physical offense based on physique, both on the glass and around the rim. Houston ranks fifth in offensive rebound rate and must take advantage of Virginia’s weak perimeter defense.
The Cavaliers are 169th in keeping opponents off the offensive glass and 214th worse in defensive 3s. Although Houston isn’t a great 3-point shooting team, it’s only a matter of time before Marcus Sasser returns to form after a slow start to the season.
Sasser was the star of Houston’s offense and shot 43.7% from the perimeter preseason. This number has dropped to 30.6% this year.
Houston’s defense should also cause a lot of disruption in Virginia’s offense. The Cougars are in the top 3 in 2- and 3-point attempts defense and 13th in turnover.
As usual, Kelvin Sampson’s defense is stifling and is the number one defense in college basketball.
UVA’s Reese Beckman is in doubt with a hamstring injury, but I doubt he’ll miss this match. If the youngster misses Saturday, that’s just another positive in Houston’s direction.
This will be a hard-hitting, low-scoring game. But I think Houston is better built to hit and force a turnaround. It’s only a matter of time before Sasser returns to his old self too, and there’s no time more perfect than facing the nation’s second team.
Texas A&M vs Memphis
Memphis team total over 77
by Brit Pound
If the same Texas A&M defense is going to show up away from home, I don’t see how the Aggies are going to be able to slow this Memphis team down.
In games away from College Station this year, Buzz Williams’ team has allowed opponents to beat that same total in three of five, which were contests where the Aggies allowed 88 to Murray State (225 AdjO), 103 to Colorado (69 AdjO) and 86 to Boise State (discipline 188).
Meanwhile, that same bet has won in four of the final five for the Tigers, who have managed to put up 82 points on the road in No. 19 Auburn (No. 7) and No. 4 Alabama (No. 14).
On the season, Penny Hardaway’s club ranks 30th in modified offensive efficiency, so there’s a clear advantage here.
Another point for the Tigers to pounce on will be on the offensive glass, as Memphis is in the top 40 in offensive rebound percentage. On the other hand, the Aggies are just outside the top 200 in rebounding defense.
You have a weak defensive team that also gives you multiple second chances. When you add the fact that these two teams like to play at a higher pace, it really makes this a great place to support Penny’s team to hover above the team’s total.
pluck or pluck: Memphis Team total over 77 (play up to 79)
Nebraska vs. Kansas State
by DJ James
Kansas State and Nebraska meet in Kansas City on Saturday for the Wildcat Classic. KSU has a slight advantage against the odds, going into this game with a 6-4 record while Nebraska is 5-6.
KSU is better at both ends of the floor, ranking 78th and 41st in modified offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively, according to KenPom.
The Cornhuskers ranked 108th and 65th, respectively, but some luck counted for them. Opponents shoot a touch more than 60% from the free throw line, which has absolutely nothing to do with Nebraska’s performance.
Kansas State won’t necessarily shoot a lot of free throws, but it does shoot over 72% on a hit.
In addition, the Wildcats are 54% effective from two-point range, producing 55% of their total points. The Cornhuskers are really bad at inside guard, allowing opponents to shoot 50% more.
Defensively, the Wildcats will limit Nebraska’s inside pickings, as the Huskers command 56.1% of total point distribution. KSU keeps its opponents under 48%. Nebraska will need to find a way to produce from elsewhere because it is only effective within the perimeter.
Find Nae’Qwan Tomlin for a great day out. Standing at 6-foot-10, no one on the Cornhuskers can match his height. He is an excellent shot blocker and must hit a lot of rebounds.
KSU should win this ball game by about two possessions.
Oklahoma State vs. Wichita State
Oklahoma State travels to Wichita to take on the Shocks in what will be a defensive slugfest.
Both teams rank within the top 12 nationally in effective FG percentage allowed. This defensive match is reflected in a score of just 129 at the time of writing.
In addition to both teams having played on the defensive side, they have left a lot to be desired offensively this season.
The Cowboys and Shockers both rank outside the top 270 in 3P%, which is unlikely to improve against two defenses that rank inside the top 50 in defense after the arc.
Additionally, Oklahoma State has struggled to sponsor Ball this season. The Cowboys turnover percentage is one of the highest in the country at 21.7%. In a game that is likely to be low-scoring, every possession will be crucial.
The Cowboys’ possessions would also be limited by the pace of play in Wichita State. The Shockers are one of the slowest teams in the country, averaging just 65.5 possessions per game.
I would gladly take the points with the home team, who would win the battle for possession in a defensive rock battle.
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