College Basketball Odds & Picks: Stuckey’s Top 7 Games to Bet on Saturday, including Iowa State vs. Oklahoma and More
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Austin Peay Governors guard Terry Taylor (21).
- Stuckey breaks down the top 7 college basketball games that he's targeting to build his Saturday betting card.
- From Iowa State vs. Oklahoma to Portland State vs. Montana, Stuckey's got you covered with the key games to bet on Saturday's loaded college basketball slate.
- Below, find his comprehensive breakdown for each of his top matchups, including odds and his picks for each game.
One of the key storylines of the college basketball season has obviously been the impact of COVID-19. Finding out which players are out on a nightly basis has made betting feel like a lottery at times, but I’m not complaining as long as we have a season — and more importantly, March Madness.
COVID-19 protocols have also forced many teams to pause all activities for extended periods of time. Those teams have significantly underachieved when returning to action. Teams that have returned after a break of 14 or more days have gone 45-61-2 ATS (42.5%) against teams that aren’t in the same situation. They’ve failed to cover by an average of 1.6 points per game — and the numbers get worse as the break gets longer. But, obviously, you’re working with a much smaller sample size.
We have quite a few teams returning from long breaks on Saturday, including:
- Nebraska (27 days off) at Michigan State
- Charleston (20 days off) vs. Towson
- Boston College (21 days off) vs. N.C. State
It’s just something to be aware of — not something to blindly bet. The market adjusts to these things, which we’ve begun to witness pretty drastically in these spots over the past week: Four of the last five teams returning from long breaks got to the window after the lines moved heavily against each. The market can even sometimes overreact.
And, to answer a question I received a few times via Twitter: Those same teams off breaks of 14 or more days have gone 52-56 ATS (48.1%) in the first half.
Regression Candidate Du Jour: Incarnate Word
The Cardinals are shooting over 40% from 3 and holding opponents to 28% in that same category. There is no way they can maintain that level of efficiency on either end of the court. The regression monster looms and could show its face against Texas A&M Corpus Christi this weekend.
Circled Saturday Spots
Lastly, here six of the afternoon spots I have circled, along with my ideal target spreads.
Iowa State vs. Oklahoma | Noon ET
It’s been a disappointing year in Ames for the 2-10 Cyclones, whose only two victories came against SWAC teams. The opposite has been true for the Sooners, who defeated four top-10 teams in the month of January — the first team in over 40 years to accomplish that feat.
That said, I’m actually looking to back Iowa State here if the number is right. The ‘Clones have at least shown some fight during conference play. They lost by a combined 11 points on the road at Texas and at West Virginia. They also hung with Baylor in an 11-point home loss and — most recently — came up just short at home against West Virginia.
Ultimately, I don’t think Iowa State is as bad as some of the metrics suggest. It had to deal with a two-week COVID-19 pause in the middle of January; then it played without several starters over the past few weeks due to lingering COVID-19 protocols.
However, the Cyclones recently got back Tre Jackson, Solomon Young and Jalen Coleman-Lands — each of whom played in that 4-point loss to the Mountaineers. And based on head coach Steve Prohm’s comments, it appears junior starting guard Javan Johnson will return to the lineup in Norman for the first time since Jan. 9. The team should finally be close to full strength.
I still have major questions about Oklahoma’s perimeter defense, which ranks in the 25th percentile against long jump shots, per Synergy. That could be good news for the Iowa State shooters who likely have some positive regression coming based on their historical averages. Furthermore, Oklahoma doesn’t have the size to fully exploit a smaller Cyclones squad.
This is also a potentially very sleepy spot for Oklahoma. The Sooners just finished up a stretch of four games against top-25 teams. Now, they have to get up for a noon tip against a winless Iowa State team that is still fighting hard for that elusive first conference win.
Target Price: Iowa State +14 or better
Photo: David K Purdy/Getty Images.
Ball State vs. Toledo | Noon ET
I think we can get some value on Ball State at home after two straight blowout losses against Akron and Buffalo. I don’t take much from those games as the Cardinals didn’t have KJ Walton, who is critical to everything they do. He not only leads the team in scoring, but he is elite defensively.
I’m assuming Walton returns from COVID-19 protocols — which I think he should … although it seems every team has different rules.
Toledo has been a covering machine, led by an offense that now ranks sixth nationally in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (AdjO), per KenPom. Senior point guard Marreon Jackson is the engine that makes the car go, and that vehicle is packed with plus-shooters to whom he can kick it out.
However, the 3-point regression monster looms. The Rockets are shooting 39.1% from deep,while holding opponents to 28.8%. The offensive numbers might not drop too much, but the defensive numbers reflect a great deal of good fortune in my opinion.
I also think Ball State matches up fairly well. The Cardinals are an excellent perimeter defense, and Toledo doesn’t really excel in the areas Ball State struggles to defend (pick and roll, put backs).
Ball State is also one of the heaviest pick-and-roll offenses in the country. They should have some success in that department against Akron’s defense.
Assuming that Walton indeed returns, the Cardinals should now be at full strength after recently getting a few starters back due to COVID-19 protocols and seeing the debut of Jarron Coleman. I think they hang around here.
Target Price: Ball State +7 or better
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.
Belmont at SIU-Edwardsville | 1:30 p.m. ET
No need to get deep into the weeds here as Belmont is very good and SIUE is very bad. There are obvious matchup advantages all over the court for the Bruins.
What I wanted to point out here is SIUE’s brutal recent schedule. This home game against Belmont will mark its fourth game in the month of February … and it’s only Feb. 6! Take a look at this recent stretch:
- Jan. 26 at EIU
- Jan. 28 at SEMO
- Jan. 30 at UT-Martin
- Feb. 1 vs. Austin Peay
- Feb. 2 vs. EIU
- Feb. 4 vs Tennessee State
That’s as bad as it gets. I’m not sure they will have the legs to defend Belmont’s motion. When these teams met in January, Belmont won 114-62. If the Bruins show up, this one could get out of hand quickly.
Target Price: Belmont -14 or better
Photo: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images.
Austin Peay at Morehead State | 2 p.m. ET
Let’s stay in the OVC. Morehead State has been one of the most surprising mid-major teams in the country so far. The Eagles have won 10 straight and currently sit all alone in second place in the conference behind Belmont.
How have they done it? On the boards and on the defensive end, where they rank in the 91st percentile nationally in half-court defense, per Synergy. On the other end of the floor, it’s a fairly balanced offense that isn’t very efficient. The emergence of 6-foot-10 freshman Johni Broome, who leads the team in points and rebounds, has really provided a boost on both ends.
Meanwhile, Austin Peay had a very disappointing start to the year, and I had high expectations for the Govs with Terry Taylor and Jordyn Adams opting to return after testing the NBA waters.
Taylor is the best player in all of mid-major basketball for my money. The reigning OVC player of the year led the team in points, rebounds, steals and blocks last season. Technically listed as a 6-foot-5 guard, Taylor nonetheless dominates at the rim and plays about four inches bigger. He’s averaging a double-double (21 points and 11 rebounds) this season.
Adams has had a down year, as his scoring average has dropped from 17 to 10 points per game. However, he missed five games beginning at the end of December and is just starting to look like himself again.
For me, Austin Peay finally looked like the team I expected to see this year in the coin-flip home loss to Belmont on Jan. 28. I think the market is still undervaluing its current level.
This really is a matchup of strength vs. strength when Austin Peay has the ball and weakness vs. weakness when Morehead State does. Ultimately, I think the difference will come down to Terry Taylor (who I could see getting Broome into foul trouble) and Morehead’s turnover issues.
Austin Peay excels in one area on the defensive end: Forcing turnovers, which it does at a top-75 rate. That spells trouble for a Morehead offense that ranks 339th in turnover rate among Division-I. And despite its lack of raw size, Peay can compete on the glass here.
The Governors ended EKU’s nine-game winning streak on Thursday night. I think they can back that up by ending the 10-game winning streak of another team from the Bluegrass State on Saturday.
Target Price: Austin Peay +2 or better
Photo: Stephen Nowland/NCAA Photos via Getty Images.
Denver vs. North Dakota | 2 p.m. ET
This is an absolutely disgusting game between two horrid teams. It’s just a tough spot here for North Dakota on a back-to-back in altitude after an overtime win on Friday. And for what it’s worth, the Fighting Hawks have been very poor in the second game of the Summit League back-to-back series this season.
After a two-week break, Denver fell behind by 13 in the first half before finding its way back into the game and ultimately missing a 3 to win at the end of regulation. This will likely mark the best opportunity for the Pioneers to get their first (and maybe only) conference win of the season.
Target Price: Denver +1 or better
Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images.
Portland State vs. Montana | 3:05 p.m. ET
Portland State lost a heartbreaker to Montana on Thursday night in overtime after the Grizzlies hit a miracle 3 to force overtime. Despite shooting a paltry 6-for-29 from beyond the arc and 8-for-16 from the line, the Vikings still should have won that game.
Portland State presses at the highest rate in the country (43%), and that can be problematic for a Montana team that is turnover-prone and doesn’t have a bevy of ball-handlers. It’s also not an easy style to play against for the second time in three games. As a result, the very deep PSU squad has actually had some incredible turnarounds in the second game of series in Big Sky play. Here are its three results in that scenario so far this season:
- Defeated Weber State by 2 after losing by 28 in Game 1
- Defeated Idaho State by 26 after losing by 7 in Game 1
- Lost at Montana State by 5 after losing by 7 in Game 1
PSU’s half-court offense is atrocious, and it did lose Amari McCray for the season due to a knee injury earlier in the week. However, I think it can do enough with the press and on the glass to avenge that overtime loss.
Target price: Portland State +2 or better