College Basketball Odds, Picks: Our Best Bets for Saturday, Including Florida vs. Auburn (February 19)
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Walker Kessler (Auburn)
- Welcome to another college basketball Saturday full of wall-to-wall action.
- Our college hoops staff broke down five games and shared their top betting pick for each, including Auburn vs. Florida.
- So, check out all five bets and breakdowns below.
College basketball fans and bettors know that Saturday’s are a loaded day for the sport, as games are played from noon to midnight across all conferences.
However, the early window for this Saturday is just flat out absurd. Three all-top-25 matchups will take place before 1:30 p.m. ET, which is basically unheard of even during the strongest of schedules.
That’s why this piece will focus on the noon and afternoon games, including one of those all-ranked battles between Illinois and Michigan State.
Below, you will find five total best bets, including four power-conference matchups and one important duel in the Atlantic 10.
Saturday’s College Basketball Best Bets
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college basketball staff is targeting from today’s slate of games. Click the team logos for one the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.
|Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.|
Illinois vs. Michigan State
Illinois looks to keep its Big Ten Championship hopes alive as it travels to Michigan State.
The last time these two teams met, the Illini snuck past Sparty with a 56-55 victory. But Illinois was without Kofi Cockburn and Andre Curbelo in that matchup.
Now, it matches up against a Michigan State program that has been struggling of late. The Spartans have lost three of their last four while shooting just 42% from the field.
Tom Izzo’s squad finds more than half of its points from 2-point territory. But the Illinois defense is elite at guarding inside the perimeter, where it ranks 14th in the nation by allowing just 44% from the field.
Illinois is also coming off of a loss to Rutgers at the RAC. It was the worst shooting night of the season for the Illini, who started out hitting just 1-of-14 from beyond the arc in the first half.
The Illini were unable to overcome the nine-point halftime deficit, but ShotQuality gave them a 92% chance to win the game.
Michigan State is going to have no answer for slowing down Cockburn, who’s hitting 60% from the field. He opens up the floor for a plethora of 3-point shooters who have connected on 36% of their attempts.
Illinois will get back to its winning ways on the road in this matchup and keep its Big Ten regular-season title hopes alive.
Pick: Illinois +1.5 (Play to -2)
Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest
Notre Dame continues to be undervalued in the market when away from home, and I’m playing the Irish once again in a road spot.
ND enters this one 6-2 in ACC road games and winners of its last four such contests, covering all of them. Mike Brey has gotten his team to embrace the “road dog” mindset, and it has shown on the defensive end of the floor.
Wake enters this game coming off of a gut-wrenching loss to Duke at Cameron Indoor in which Mark Williams tipped in the game-winning basket with less than a second remaining.
Both of these teams have a lot to play for — No. 1, battling for positioning in the ACC, but also in solidifying a spot in the NCAA Tournament. As a result, I give neither side an advantage from a situational standpoint.
I just think six points is too many here for a Wake Forest team that is pretty mediocre defensively. The Irish should be able to find quality looks throughout the game, and their defense is vastly improved from a year ago.
Alondes Williams has been fabulous for the Demon Deacons and will present some matchup problems for the Irish. Expect Brey to go to a zone defense for a fair amount of the game to try to get Williams out of rhythm.
I anticipate a very close and competitive battle in this early tip in Winston-Salem.
Wake is rightfully favored, but by a margin I believe is just too big. Give me the Irish and the points.
Pick: Notre Dame +6
Oklahoma vs. Iowa State
By D.J. James
These are two of the slowest-paced teams in the Big 12.
Iowa State thrives on the defensive end and ranks 225th in adjusted tempo, while Oklahoma ranks 276th in adjusted tempo, per KenPom. These are both top-30 defenses, and it will show on Saturday.
Oklahoma is horrible when it comes to protecting the ball on offense. It has a turnover rate of 21.6%. Iowa State is not much better, turning it over at a 20.2% clip. Given the slow pace expected in this game, turnovers should not turn into many fast breaks.
In addition, these teams can turn others over, so it could become pretty messy very quickly. Oklahoma turns the opposition over at a 21% rate, while Iowa State does so at a 24.9% clip.
Neither of these teams can shoot from 3-point range, either.
Oklahoma posts a 33% 3-point mark, which is even worse in Big 12 play at 30.1%. The Sooners shoot plenty of 3s, so if they’re not falling, they will have to look inside to score.
That’s one of the threats to the under here. They shoot 58.3% from 2-point range, and Iowa State is not very good at preventing opponents from scoring inside the arc.
Iowa State is a worse 3-point threat, though. The Cyclones shoot 28.4% in Big 12 contests and 31.9% overall. They do shoot a bit better inside the perimeter (50.3%), and Oklahoma’s defensive weakness also resides on the interior.
Still, these defenses are too strong, and the pace and recklessness should be enough to keep this game under the total.
Pick: Under 125 (Play to 123)
Auburn vs. Florida
No. 2 Auburn (24-2, 12-1 SEC) faces Florida (16-10, 6-7 SEC) in Gainesville as the Tigers look to move toward securing the regular-season SEC title.
Gainesville has been a notoriously tough locale for the Tigers over the last 25 years, with their last victory coming in, gulp, February 1996.
With five games remaining in the regular season, Auburn leads Kentucky and Tennessee by two games in the SEC race. Auburn has to find success on the road, where it plays three of its remaining five contests.
The Tigers come into this matchup after beating Vanderbilt, 94-80, with an impressive frontcourt display. Florida is coming off of a one-point Quad 1 loss to Texas A&M.
This will be the second meeting between the two teams this season. Auburn was victorious in the first duel, winning 85-73 even with sophomore center Walker Kessler fouling out.
Expect this game to feature a contentious battle of the big men in the four and five spots, as both teams like to work the paint.
Offensively, the Tigers have been very special all season, ranking 16th in AdjO with 115.9 points per 100 possessions. Freshman stud Jabari Smith has been a phenom to date, leading the team in minutes (720), scoring (15.8 PPG) and defensive rebounds (6.0 RPG).
On defense, the tale of the tape is even better for Auburn. The Tigers rank 12th in the nation in AdjD, allowing just 91.4 points per 100 possessions. The swarming defense does an excellent job of forcing opponents into difficult shot selection, ranking 11th in effective field goal percentage.
To contextualize the difference between the two teams, we will look to AdjE, where Auburn outpaces Florida by over 12.78 points, per KenPom.
Florida desperately needs a signature win to make a case to be included in the field of 68. The problem is that Auburn is just as focused and will be looking to crown itself as SEC champions sooner rather than later.
Back the superior Tigers, as they change the narrative on a quarter-decade of losses in Gainesville. War Eagle.
Pick: Auburn -2.5 (Play to -3)
Saint Louis vs. Davidson
By Doug Ziefel
This matchup is a tall task for the Billikens on the road. Davidson has become one of the more exciting offensive teams to watch, as it’s not afraid to let it fly.
The Wildcats’ free-shooting style has been successful due to the multiple sharpshooters on the roster. Davidson ranks 12th in effective field goal percentage and inside the top 25 in both 2- and 3-point percentages.
While defense may not precisely be Davidson’s calling card, Saint Louis does not have the weapons to keep up with the Wildcats. It only has two leading scorers in Yuri Collins and Gibson Jimerson. They both have the ability to drill shots from distance, but don’t shoot 3s with the frequency needed to exploit Davidson’s issues defending perimeter shooters.
The Wildcats will also have a considerable size advantage that will negate the Billikens on the offensive glass, which could potentially lead to a flurry of transition 3s.
Overall, the Billikens may be the better team here, but they are out of their element and will be forced into a firefight with this Wildcats offense.
Unfortunately for them, they lack the artillery to win this battle.
Back the Wildcats as short home favorites.