Saturday College Basketball Betting Pick & Roll: Calabrese & McGrath’s Best Bets (Feb. 5)
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: John Harrar (Penn State)
- College basketball betting analysts, Mike Calabrese and Tanner McGrath, join forces to deliver their best college basketball bets on Saturday in their weekly Pick & Roll.
- The Action Network's betting duo has posted a 24-16 record against the spread (ATS) this season and have provided four picks for Feb. 5.
- Read on for their full betting analysis for all four Saturday games they're targeting, including strike prices for each of their best bets.
The Two-Man Weave ran into a pack-line defense last Saturday, dropping three of their four plays. But we haven’t run up a 64% hit rate (24-16 ATS) by allowing one bad day to turn into a slump. Shooters shoot their way out of cold streaks, and we intend on doing the same.
For Mike Calabrese, that means returning to his mid-major roots — the more obscure the better. And for Tanner McGrath, a recent 5-0 night has given him the confidence to target a pair of high-major contests teeming with value.
So, let’s break the press, and find some pick-and-pop opportunities in the half-court to make you some money on this glorious college basketball Saturday.
McGrath's Top 2 Saturday Picks
St. John's vs. Butler
Butler has been brutal this season.
The year-long defensive statistics aren’t bad, but in conference play, the Bulldogs have fallen to ninth in the Big East in defensive efficiency. They’re also dead last in conference-only offensive efficiency.
But LaVall Jordan & Co. are usually tough at home. The team has picked up home wins over Creighton and DePaul this season, and while Butler is just 1-5 ATS as a home dog this season, it went 5-1 ATS in that spot last season.
The Bulldogs could also use a win after dropping a tough road game to Xavier by two points.
Luckily, Butler is getting St. John’s in a hell spot. SJU just beat down on Georgetown on Thursday, is playing its second road game in three days at noon on Saturday and the team is looking ahead to Villanova on Tuesday.
The key will be containing Julian Champagnie. He’s coming off of a 27-point performance against Georgetown, but he hasn’t been playing great. He scored a total of 31 points in the prior five games (6.2 per game).
I think St. John’s is going to be fast asleep Saturday morning in Indianapolis. Butler’s going to catch the Johnnies and pick up a much-needed conference win.
Play this one down to a PK.
Pick: Butler +1 (Play to PK)
Penn State vs. Wisconsin
Micah Shrewsberry deserves some love. He’s dealing with a depleted roster, but has his squad playing above its means.
Penn State plays true team basketball, and the ball-movement is satisfying to watch. The Nittany Lions have picked up some good wins along the way, including Indiana and Iowa.
PSU is also great to back as underdogs. Shrewsberry mucks the game up, as his team plays very solid interior defense (third in the Big Ten in 2-point defense) at a slow pace (349th nationally in tempo) while rebounding well (top-80 nationally in defensive rebounding rate).
As a result, the Nittany Lions are 6-3 ATS as an underdog this season.
Penn State will now travel to Madison, catching eight against a Badgers team coming off of a brutal road loss (Illinois). But can we buy the Badgers in a bounce-back spot this easily?
First, Penn State will play on two extra days of rest. Second, Wisco could be looking forward to a matchup with Sparty on Tuesday.
So, it’s not the most favorable spot to be laying eight points against a frisky underdog team.
The most important matchups will be with Brad Davison and Johnny Davis (obviously). But I think Shrewsberry can throw Myles Dread and Seth Lundy at Davis, considering they both rank above the 70th percentile of D-I players in half-court PPP allowed.
Meanwhile, the point guard rotation of Jalen Pickett and Sam Sessoms has been similarly successful, and they will hopefully neutralize Davison.
This is too many points for a gritty Big Ten battle. Look for a full team effort from Penn State while Greg Gard just tries to get in-and-out with a win.
I expect Gard to be successful, but the Nittany Lions will hang around within a few possessions.
Pick: Penn State +8.5
Calabrese's Top 2 Saturday Picks
Mercer vs. Chattanooga
Mercer’s recent triumph over Wofford pushed the Bears into third place in the SoCon, while Chattanooga’s first setback in three weeks knocked the Mocs out of first place.
I was waiting for UTC to stumble, or more specifically, its all-world wing Malachi Smith to struggle.
Smith is in rarified air, averaging 20+ points, 6+ rebounds and 3+ assists per game in 2022. But on Wednesday night against Samford, nothing was going right for the Mocs’ offensive engine.
He shot a ghastly 4-for-12 from the field and didn’t add any points from the foul line for just the second time this season. As a result, UTC dropped the game to Samford as a seven-point favorite.
Having been a season-long observer of Smith and this Mocs team, I can tell you that a bounce-back is likely.
Following losses this season, Smith is averaging 26.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.5 foul shot attempts per game. He’s active, he’s aggressive and he stuffs the stat sheet when the Mocs need to shake off a defeat.
Mercer, meanwhile, is one of the worst defensive teams in the SoCon. KenPom grades it out as the 276th-ranked defense, and according to his metrics, it should be worse.
Mercer has the 15th-highest “luck” ranking, meaning that teams should be converting more open shots.
Making matters worse for the Bears is their size issues. They only start one player taller than 6-foot-6, and that shows in the rebounding department. Mercer only collects 6.5 offensive boards per game (315th) and its defensive rebounding is equally troubling (252nd).
Chattanooga’s offensive rebounding percentage is tops in the SoCon and 28th nationally (32.4%). Kansas transfer Silvio De Sousa already has four 11+ rebound performances in conference play, and can be the key in this one, as well.
When De Sousa avoids foul trouble (two or fewer), UTC is 4-2-1 ATS and far more effective on the glass. With no real size to bother him, I foresee a big game from De Sousa and Smith en route to a runway victory.
Pick: Chattanooga -12
Seattle U vs. New Mexico State
The WAC has pretty much run through New Mexico State for the better part of the last five years. Since 2016, the Aggies have won 85% of their conference games (79-14) and punched three separate tickets to the Big Dance.
But despite all that success, they’ve only covered 44% of the time as a favorite during that time period. And when they do win, it’s almost always because they create turnovers.
In the past five years leading up to this season, the Aggies averaged 13 opponent turnovers per game. That number has fallen off to 11 this season.
They’ve made up for that defensive deficit by leaning on Teddy Allen. The two-time high-major transfer (WVU, Nebraska) is averaging 19 points and nearly seven rebounds per game. His aggressive style of play has helped elevate NMSU, as a whole, with the Aggies now ranking 23rd nationally in 2-point shooting percentage.
Sir’Jabari Rice has taken up the mantle as the Aggies’ second-option offensively. Rice is averaging an impressive 18 points and nine rebounds, while attempting seven foul shots per game across his last three.
But outside of Allen and Rice, NMSU doesn’t have much it can rely upon with any high level of confidence.
The Aggies are really sloppy with the basketball, and allow a ton of looks from 3-point range. Up to this point, they haven’t been burned by a strong 3-point shooting team, which explains why KenPom’s “luck rating” slots them second nationally.
I’ve been waiting for positive regression from their opponents, and the Redhawks fit the bill.
Seattle handles the ball very well, particularly when Darrion Trammell (16.3 PPG, 5.6 APG) is running the show. Winners of nine of its last 10, SU is the second-highest scoring team in the WAC and the second-best 3-point shooting team.
I’m counting on big games from Trammell and Cameron Tyson (41.5% 3PT), as Seattle flirts with an outright upset in this battle of first-place teams in the WAC.
Pick: Seattle +7.5 (Play to +2)