Saturday’s College Basketball Betting Previews: Villanova-Kansas, Gonzaga-North Carolina
USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kansas Jayhawks guard Devon Dotson (11), Villanova Wildcats forward Eric Paschall (4).
Although college football’s bowl season kicks off tomorrow afternoon, we’ve also been blessed with a sublime college basketball slate. Not only does the AP’s No. 1-ranked Kansas host No. 17 Villanova in a Final Four rematch, but No. 4 Gonzaga also faces No. 12 North Carolina in what could be preview for Minneapolis in March.
Which sides present more value? Let’s breakdown each contest.
>> All odds as of Friday night. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NCAAB odds and track your bets.
Villanova Wildcats at Kansas Jayhawks
- Spread: Kansas -7.5
- Over/under: 143.5
- Tip: Noon ET
- TV channel: ESPN
Don’t buy the notion that the Wildcats (6-5 against the spread) were looking ahead to this game before their loss to Penn on Tuesday. Villanova continued to display its flaws, struggling from behind the arc until desperation time kicked in and committing 11 turnovers.
The Jayhawks (4-4 ATS) are in position to rebound following a three-point win over a strong mid-major in New Mexico State.
Led by Kansas’ matchup zone defense, the Wildcats will have a tough time finding room in the lane against the 70th-lowest two-point percentage (46.4%) in the country.
Even without 7-foot, 270-pound Udoka Azubuike (ankle), I’m expecting Bill Self’s small-ball approach to still be effective given its quickness, forcing Jay Wright’s unit to once again rely on 40.4% of its offense to come via 3s. The Jayhawks have generated a 10.3% Steal Rate, too, playing right into their hands against a team that’s been forced to operate through turnover-prone Eric Paschall (17.9%) at times.
Don’t forget about Kansas’ seventh-rated Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (117.0 points per 100 possessions), which has primarily run through the 6-foot-9 Dedric Lawson with Azubuike on the bench. Paschall is a sound defender, but I’d expect Lawson to command enough double teams for the 60th-best 3-point shooting team (37.7%) in Division I to take advantage.
According to our Bet Labs data, Kansas is 5-3 (62.5%) ATS when favored between 7.5-10 points over the past three seasons. That percentage will rise following Saturday’s affair.
THE PICK: Jayhawks -7.5
Gonzaga Bulldogs at North Carolina Tar Heels
- Spread: North Carolina -2.5
- Over/under: 174.5
- Tip: 7 p.m. ET
- TV channel: ESPN2
Before presuming the Bulldogs (7-3 ATS) are bound for a second straight loss after falling to Tennessee on Sunday, Gonzaga held a nine-point lead over the Volunteers with 6:15 left. The Tar Heels (4-3-2 ATS) aren’t an elite defensive group like Rick Barnes’ bunch, and their best win came against an inconsistent UCLA team, which held a five-point lead at halftime.
Expect Gonzaga to play inside-out from the jump, leaning on the third-highest two-point percentage (60.1%) in the country — guided by the 6-foot-8 duo of Rui Hachimura (22.2 points per game) and Brandon Clarke (16.8 ppg) — against an uninspiring defensive core of Cameron Johnson, Garrison Brooks and Luke Maye.
North Carolina has struggled to defend the perimeter as well, allowing the Bulldogs to work outside with the 40th-highest 3-point clip (60.1%) in DI.
Even without backup point guard Geno Crandall (fractured right hand), who provided Mark Few’s team with another sound ball handler, it’s not as if Josh Perkins was completely ineffective in his last affair (9:1 assist-to-turnover ratio).
The 6-foot-3 ball guard was bothered by Jordan Bone’s defense, going scoreless, but the Tar Heels’ Coby White represents a much less difficult matchup at that end of the court.
Moreover, Clarke (11.9% Block Rate) has evolved into a Jordan Bell-like defensive presence, aiding Gonzaga against a squad with 56.4% of its offense coming from inside the arc. Despite a tough road environment, the Bulldogs should bounce back against a much less physical group than the Vols, which posted 1.12 Points Per Possession.
The Bulldogs are 2-2 (50.0%) ATS as an underdog over the past two seasons, per Bet Labs. Few’s crew will leap above .500 in its final chance to impress before its weak conference schedule tips off.
THE PICK: Gonzaga +2.5