Friday College Basketball Pick & Roll: Calabrese & McGrath’s Top 4 Betting Picks (Nov. 11)
Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Tony Toney (12) of the UAB Blazers.
- Action Network college basketball analysts, Mike Calabrese and Tanner McGrath, deliver their top four betting picks for Friday's loaded college basketball slate.
- Our duo's betting card includes popular matchups such as UAB vs. Toledo, Michigan State vs. Gonzaga and Akron vs. Mississippi State.
- Check out their full betting analysis for all four Friday NCAA basketball picks, featuring updated odds, picks and predictions for every game.
The college hoops season is upon us, which means two things:
- The return of monster Saturday (but this week Friday) college basketball slates
- The return of Tanner McGrath and Mike Calabrese’s Saturday (but this week Friday) Pick-and-Roll
Every Friday night, Breese and McGrath will provide their two best bets for the upcoming Saturday slate.
Given it’s still college football season, the first two editions of these pieces will cover the Friday games.
In this edition, Breese covers Friday’s two biggest games while McGrath goes dumpster diving for two low-major underdogs with value.
This piece performed excellently last season, so take the two’s picks and roll into a profitable Friday.
McGrath’s Top 2 Friday Picks
Detroit Mercy vs Boston College
Imagine that Boston College, which managed to hold off Cornell for a two-point victory, opens as double-digit favorites over mid-major superstar Antoine Davis.
Breese and I are licking our lips.
Boston College did return four starters from last season, and Earl Grant enters a pivotal third season in Chestnut Hill.
However, it’s not like these four starters were any good, leading Boston College to a 13-20 record while the Eagles finished outside the top-250 nationally in eFG% and eFG% allowed.
They added no meaningful transfers, and now look to make meaningful strides in an improved ACC.
And what do you know? One game in, and Boston College looks the same.
The Eagles almost lost to Cornell, as the Big Red shot 59% from inside the arc and 36% from outside the arc. Cornell almost posted 80 points despite turning the ball over 24 times.
Now Detroit Mercy comes in boasting the nation’s best-scoring point guard.
And I’m not sure if that’s hyperbole. This is Antoine’s fifth year in the Detroit program and he’s a career 24.7 PPG scorer. Only Peter Kiss and Darius McGhee scored more than Davis on a per-game average, and Kiss graduated.
Davis is off to his typical start, with a 28-point performance in an opening-night victory.
Behind Davis, the Titans buried 37% of their 3-point attempts while shooting from deep at the 10th-highest rate nationally. They also are a fantastic free-throw shooting team, burying 77.9% of their attempts from the charity stripe last season.
Meanwhile, Boston College had the nation’s 319th-best 3-point defense (36.4% allowed) and the nation’s 217th-best free-throw shooting team.
The defense is an issue. Detroit Mercy is horrendous, and Boston College should get anything it wants (within its limited means).
However, I am cautiously optimistic. The Titans run 6-foot-7, 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-9 in the frontcourt — which includes Loyola-Chicago transfer Damezi Anderson and double-digit scoring Alabama State transfer Gerald Liddell — and hopefully have the length necessary to neutralize a bad offense.
Even if Detroit can’t stop a nosebleed, Davis should provide enough offense to keep up.
After getting walloped by Wyoming on opening night last season, Detroit kept the Titans within single digits in five straight games against Toledo, Mississippi State, Louisville, Hofstra and Northeastern. Davis averaged 25.2 PPG during the stretch.
Plus, you can always count on Grant to coach a dud. He’s 8-17-1 ATS in his career as a double-digit favorite.
Thus, I’ll buy Detroit, as long as we’re catching double digits.
Akron vs Mississippi State
Basketball is a game of spurts. Spurtability, as many would call it.
I call it momentum.
Akron is coming off a season in which it won eight straight games to earn a MAC tournament championship and an NCAA tournament berth. The Zips then took UCLA to the brink of elimination, as Xavier Castaneda drilled a deep 3 to give Akron a four-point lead with 3:24 remaining.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Instead, the Bruins reeled off eight straight points and sent Akron into the next season.
But guess what? Those Zips look ready for this season.
Castaneda is back alongside three major supporting players from last year’s team in Greg Tribble, Mikal Dawson and double-double machine Enrique Freeman.
Yes, leading scorer Ali Ali is gone, but Castaneda looks fiery to start the season. He dropped 31 in the Zips’ opening-night overtime win over South Dakota State — a win that looks much better following the Jackrabbits’ upset victory over Boise State.
Meanwhile, Mississippi State floundered at the end of last season. The Bulldogs lost 12 of their final 16 games against teams not known as the Missouri Tigers.
The Bulldogs brought Chris Jans from New Mexico State to begin this rebuild, and I agree that he’s a great hire. But there is zero momentum in Starkville, as the Bulldogs lost over 50% of their minutes from last season. Plus, Jans is working on integrating eight transfers.
Moreover, Jans is looking to grind Mississippi State’s tempo to a halt.
Akron head coach John Groce likes to do the same, as the Zips finished 352nd in tempo last season and currently rank 355th in tempo through one game this season.
A super-slow, low-possession game always gives an edge to the underdog.
Speaking of Groce: if you’re worried this line is short, remember that Groce’s Zips took Ohio State to the brink of defeat in the Buckeyes’ home opener last season. The Zips lost 67-66 on a literal last-second field goal from Zed Key.
ZED KEY WINS IT FOR @OhioStateHoops 💥
The No. 17 Buckeyes survive Akron in their season opener pic.twitter.com/wCgenZRIVb
— Bleacher Report CBB (@br_CBB) November 10, 2021
Groce can get his team up for these games. His Zips are 7-2 ATS as a non-conference underdog over the last three seasons, including a perfect 3-0 last year.
The Zips have momentum, and they will make this game a thriller.
Lucky for us, that should involve a six-point cover.
Pick: Akron +6.5 (Play to +6)
Calabrese’s Top 2 Friday Picks
UAB vs Toledo
I had high hopes for UAB’s backcourt this season. Jordan “Jelly” Walker was a 20/5 point guard a year ago, carrying the Blazers to a 27-8 record.
LSU, one of the biggest transfer portal losers, couldn’t hold onto Eric Gaines this offseason. The Tigers’ loss was UAB’s gain, and has set the stage for the Blazers to have one of the very best mid-major backcourts.
One game in and the results are eye-catching.
Against Alabama State earlier in the week, Gaines attacked the hoop (8 FTA) and was all over the stat sheet, scoring 11 points while grabbing six rebounds, dishing out four assists and snagging two steals.
But don’t let me bury the lead any further.
Walker went off in the opener. scoring 38 points on just 19 shots.
Andy Kennedy has a special backcourt, but they’ll need to toughen up on the glass. The Hornets of Alabama State collected 16 offensive rebounds on Monday.
Can Toledo’s front line take advantage of the Blazers on the glass? Absolutely.
This was on full display in their sweat-free win over Valpo in which the Rockets reeled in 12 offensive boards. RayJ Dennis looked like an All-MAC, go-to scorer, giving the Rockets 23 points.
But outside of Dennis, Toledo didn’t look super sharp. Setric Millner Jr. and JT Shumate, the Rockets’ pair of 6-foot-7 forwards, combined to shoot just 9-of-20 from the field.
Tod Kowalczyk’s bunch was one of the very best team’s at the betting window last season in conference play. The Rockets’ 16-6 record was the sixth-best ATS record in conference play in the country.
He clearly knows his opponents inside and out in the MAC, but when they faced non-conference opponents, they were mortal, posting a 6-5 ATS record.
UAB, on the other hand, thrived outside of C-USA play, finishing 8-4 ATS.
In a mid-major heavyweight fight between the preseason favorites in the MAC and C-USA, I’ll take the better backcourt and hope that the Blazers can rebound a bit better in Philly than they did in their opener.
Pick: UAB -4.5
Michigan State vs Gonzaga
In fact, two of the last three Carrier Classics scheduled were cancelled due to condensation on the playing surface (Ohio State-Marquette and Georgia-Florida in 2012).
The last one to be played between Syracuse and San Diego State on the flight deck of the USS Midway generated a lot of issues for the players. Players got sunburn during shootaround.
Winds picked up so much in-game that Syracuse played its entire 2-3 zone within a few steps of the paint. The final score? 62-49 with both teams shooting 25-for-52 from the foul line.
It was an under-bettor’s dream.
The Armed Forces Classic between the Zags and Spartans could run into similar issues. Winds are projected in the seven to eight mph range. Generally speaking anything over five mph begins to impact a shot, with shots at distance impacted more than shots near the basket.
Yes, Gonzaga can feed the reigning WCC Player of the Year Drew Timme on the low post. But Michigan State can also throw Mady Sissoko, Jaxon Kohler and Carson Cooper at him.
At least that’s 15 fouls at their disposal.
Michigan State will also look to slow things down in this game, avoiding a track meet and easy transition buckets for Mark Few’s bunch.
Gonzaga finished second nationally in offensive efficiency and 11th in possessions per game last season. Tom Izzo’s teams have played very slowly in the past five years, checking in at 210th on average in terms of pace.
And given the fact that Sparty returns exactly zero double-digit scorers, I don’t see Izzo changing his stripes now.
Gonzaga’s outburst on Monday (28 fast break points) has the potential to mislead the public a bit on this total. I’m hoping that this number hangs on and remains above 151, because anything north of that is a strong play on the under for me.