College Basketball Best Bets: Three Man Weave’s 3 Selections for Friday, Including 2 Ivy League Matchups

College Basketball Best Bets: Three Man Weave’s 3 Selections for Friday, Including 2 Ivy League Matchups article feature image

Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Tommy Amaker (Harvard)

Friday evenings during conference season are normally reserved for mid-major action. It's a time to learn about the smaller schools that could make noise in March while the rest of college basketball preps for Saturday's slate.

That's the theme of today's best bets, as Matt Cox of Three Man Weave explores three mid-major affairs, including two matchups in the Ivy League.

If you're looking for help crafting your betting card for Friday evening, check out his top selections below.

Friday'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.

6:30 p.m. ET
Kent State +8
7 p.m. ET
Harvard -3
7 p.m. ET
Columbia +16
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.

Kent State vs. Ohio

Friday, Jan. 7
6:30 p.m. ET
CBS Sports Network
Kent State +8

No, it’s not THE state university of Ohio. But Ohio U is still to be respected, as it is currently the top dog in the MAC sandbox.

The Bobcats boast a 2-0 league record and sit alone atop the MAC standings, a half-game ahead of Toledo and Kent State.

The latter comes to town tonight with vengagane on their mind, 10 months removed from Ohio’s 22-point blowout of Kent in the MAC Tournament. If a team ends your season dead in its tracks, that’s not easily forgotten.

The matchup edge for the Flashes tonight is twofold.

On offense, Kent boasts an array of bullies who can eat inside at will against a Dwight Wilson III-less Bobcats frontcourt.

Look no further than last year, when the Flashes dominated the Bobcats in Athens by bombarding the boards relentlessly. Kent State tallied 14 offensive rebounds that night, which amounted to a whopping 47% offensive rebounding rate over 71 possessions.

Danny Pippen isn’t walking through that door tonight, but the likes of Tervell Beck and Justyn Hamilton — along with Georgia transfer Andrew Garcia — will be a handful to keep off the glass.

Defensively, the Flashes face a tall task in slowing down a prolific Bobcats offense, spearheaded by burgeoning star Mark Sears. Fortunately, the Flashes point guard Sincere Carry has blossomed into a shutdown stopper at the point of attack, and he’s well equipped to keep Sears from catching fire.

Presumably, Carry will likely draw the Sears assignment and must cut off the head of the snake by corralling Sears in the half court.

For Kent, its lack of depth is certainly concerning and the potential fatigue arising from a thin bench could rear its ugly head tonight. Early money came in on Ohio this morning, perhaps rooted in a fade of Kent State playing its third game in six days.

While worrisome, this is a pivotal game in terms of jockeying for position in the MAC standings, and the Flashes will empty the tank if they have to against the league’s top dog.

In short, this one should be a barnburner from wire-to-wire, so catching a touchdown gives plenty of wiggle room for our Flashes to sneak inside the cover zone.

Pick: Kent State +8 (Play to +7)

Brown vs. Harvard

Friday, Jan. 7
7 p.m. ET
Harvard -3

The Ivy’s flagship school, Harvard, is set to make its conference action debut tonight. The Crimson haven’t hit the hardwood since December 21st due to a COVID-ruined schedule.

Consequently, their opponent, Brown, has played three games since Christmas. The Bears lost their conference opener to Penn last Sunday, extending their losing streak to four games.

That fourth-straight loss marked the third time in those four contests Brown has failed to cover the spread. The Bears were a cover machine early on, catching opponents off guard with a heavy dose of size and athleticism.

Much like Ivy brethren Cornell, the element of surprise served as an instant boon to the Bears’ value early on. Now, as we turn the chapter to conference play, the switch is starting to flip.

Harvard’s non-conference was quite the roller coaster, but the Crimson came out on the other side with an impressive resume to boast. The Crimson nearly took down Iona on the road and defeated two sterling mid-major programs in Colgate and Northeastern.

The key to Harvard’s success has been a dynamic wing-laden lineup, which is helping Tommy Amaker navigate a banged up frontline still missing several key bodies.

Chris Ledlum, Noah Kirkwood, Kale Catchings, Luka Sakota and Louis Lesmond all stand between 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-7 – occasionally, Amaker will deploy his wing stalwarts together in a truly positionless lineup.

The secret sauce with this nucleus is their versatility and collective physical attributes. They’re the one team in the Ivy that can match Brown’s athleticism in the aggregate.

In some ways, head coach Mike Martin is mirroring Amaker’s program building strategy. Most teams in the Ivy win with execution and shooting, often ignoring top-flight athletes on the recruiting trail. Amaker’s been hoarding talent for years and Martin’s been following suit, evidenced by the physical specimens Brown will trot out there tonight.

Still, the Bears will effectively be fighting fire with fire tonight against Harvard.

On one hand, one could argue this plays to Brown’s advantage, given a similar roster DNA enables them to run with the Crimson. This worked back in 2020 – twice — as the Bears swept Harvard in the regular season.

On the other, Brown’s relative edge over most teams in the Ivy doesn’t hold up against Harvard — at least it shouldn’t.

In other words, Harvard’s sterling crop of talent is simply a richer version of Brown’s.

The Crimson should take care of business tonight in Cambridge, despite the lack of home crowd support at Lavietes Pavilion (fans are currently banned from home games).

Pick: Harvard -3 (Play to -4)

Columbia vs. Princeton

Friday, Jan. 7
7 p.m. ET
Columbia +16

A second Ivy showdown rounds out our best bets collection today. This time, we’re covering our eyes and backing one of the worst teams in college basketball: Columbia.

Since Mike Smith bolted for Michigan, the Lions have been a downtrodden Ivy team. The 3-9 record to date is the obvious eyesore, but the margin of defeat in many of those losses is borderline frightening.

However, their disgusting performances in the non-conference set up the ultimate buy-low opportunity on the Lions, especially in the conference opener against one of the Ivy League frontrunners in Princeton.

The Lions have fallen all the way to 347th in KenPom’s national rankings, but there’s legitimate evidence that a minor upswing is imminent.

Any and all optimism for Columbia revolves around the return of big man Ike Nweke. A decorated high school prospect from the DMV area, Nweke quickly ascended into one of the top big men in the Ivy two years ago.

This year, he’s been on the shelf for most of non-conference play, and Columbia’s been helpless without him.

Not only is he a dominant low-post scorer, but he’s a neutralizer defensively, the latter of which will come in handy tonight against Princeton’s Tosan Evbuomwan.

The Tigers surround Evbuomwan with a bevy of long-range snipers, playing inside-out through their interior fulcrum. Nweke’s chiseled frame is readymade to neutralize Evbuomwan one-on-one without requiring off-ball help.

As seen this season, Princeton’s offense can be lethal when opponents are forced to collapse on Evbuomwan inside.

The cherry on top in this handicap is the situational spot. Though simple in nature, large conference underdogs on the road are typically strong bets, particularly early in league play.

Teams that find themselves in those spots have often underperformed preseason expectations throughout the non-con, thus making them cheap investments at the onset of conference action.

For the Lions specifically, their underperformance is largely tied to the absence of Nweke, who is now set to play in his third straight game since returning to the fold in early December.

This one won’t be pretty, but 16 points is a mountain to climb in any conference game, particularly against an undervalued Columbia team.

Pick: Columbia +16 (Play to +15)

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