College Basketball Betting Picks: Our Staff’s 5 Best Bets for Saturday
Boyd Ivey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Yoeli Childs
Start one of the biggest gambling weekends of the year off right with some college basketball winners on Saturday.
Our staff has been hard at work cutting down the 151-game slate to one favorite play each.
Here’s what they’re betting on Saturday:
College Basketball Betting Picks
Odds as of Saturday morning and via DraftKings, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.
- Odds: Grand Canyon at New Mexico State-11
- Over/Under: 135.5
- Time: 4 p.m. ET
- TV: WAC Digital Network
The Aggies have made the NCAA Tournament in eight of the last 10 years. You would think that would make them an overvalued mid-major, but then you check their record in those eight appearances (0-8) and it becomes clear why NMSU and the WAC are still considered a basketball backwater.
This is worth mentioning because perception becomes reality when it comes to betting markets. Had the Aggies knocked off Auburn in the first round last March, a game they lost by a single point, they would have been remembered fondly as the Cinderella du jour.
Fast-forward to this season, and NMSU is cruising in WAC play once again. The Aggies have won 10 straight, and are 6-3 against the spread since Dec. 14. Yet despite all that success, they’re still not laying huge numbers at home.
Aside from their recent track record, the Aggies slow pace has the potential to drive Grand Canyon crazy. The Aggies play at the slowest pace in the WAC and the 337th slowest pace in all of college basketball. This will magnify the importance of each possession.
The halfcourt nature of this battle won’t favor the Antelopes for a few key reasons. Grand Canyon doesn’t create turnovers (11.4 tpg, 318th), so you can say goodbye to easy transition buckets.
And GCU doesn’t maximize its points per possession by making threes (5.9 3pg, 288th). Toss in the fact that they struggle away from home (2-4 ATS) and the value in this spot is clear.
Grab an elite mid-major team before its name value goes up.
Pick: NMSU -11
- Odds: Michigan -1 vs. Rutgers
- Over/Under: 133.5
- Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
- TV: BTN
The Wolverines snapped a four-game cover-less streak with a 79-68 outright win at Nebraska on Tuesday, but there’s still buy-low value on Juwan Howard’s squad at Madison Square Garden against Rutgers.
Michigan will get point guard Zavier Simpson (suspension) back in the lineup while forward Isaiah Livers (groin) is listed as a game-time decision. Even if Livers doesn’t see the floor, having Simpson on the floor against a ballhawk like Rutgers’ Geo Baker is a massive plus.
I’m expecting the Wolverines’ perimeter shooting (34.2%) to start to regress positively in this one, which is where the Scarlet Knights’ defense is most susceptible (68th-highest opponents’ 3-point scoring rate).
Two-guard Eli Brooks already broke out a bit vs. the Cornhuskers, going 4-of-10 from behind the arc. Livers’ floor-spacing ability would be an added bonus as well.
This play is also a sell-high spot on Rutgers, which is 1-5 away from home and unbeaten at home. That’s made the Knights a little overvalued in this neutral court spot.
Even though MSG could be considered a slight crowd advantage for the Scarlet Knights, expect a strong Wolverines contingent.
Pick: Michigan -1
- Odds: Tulsa +2
- Over/Under: 130.5
- Time: 6 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPNU
The Tulsa Golden Hurricane have been the toast of the American Athletic Conference after being picked preseason to finish 10th in the league. Frank Haith has exceeded expectations with a 6-1 conference record behind the league’s stingiest defense.
Running a 3-2 zone with man-to-man concepts, teams that struggle passing from the arc and generating points in the paint have fallen to Tulsa.
Enter Wichita State and a 5-2 conference record. The Shockers have been the worst shooting team from 2-point range in conference play at 39.9%. In seven conference games, Wichita State has produced a field goal percentage of 44.7 on shots within five feet of the basket. The Shockers do their damage from 3-point range.
The Shockers rank dead last in AAC play in offensive and defensive block rate, while supporting only the 10th best percentage in free throw shots.
The Tulsa 3-2 zone will not only give Wichita State guards issues passing into the paint, but shooting from the arc as well. The Golden Hurricane are the best 3-point defense in the conference, allowing shots beyond the arc to fall just 23.4% of the time.
Each team has had a week off to prepare, which may be a benefit for Tulsa against Wichita State perimeter shooters who will need to find their rhythm.
Expect a low-scoring first half played at Tulsa’s tempo rank of 292nd. The early steam has been all over Wichita State, giving value to the last Tulsa number posted.
Pick: Tulsa +2 or better
- Odds: San Diego State -7.5
- Over/Under: 130.5
- Time: 10 p.m. ET
- TV: CBSSN
My favorite bet of the day is on the Aggies, who are back on a roll. This team went through a funk early on in conference play as it dealt with a number of injuries to key players, but a now-healthy unit looks like the team I expected preseason and the one that secured neutral court wins over Florida and LSU prior to conference play.
When these two teams met early last month, Utah State was a 2.5-point favorite. SDSU won that game pretty easily but Neemis Queta (who we didn’t know was going to suit up until a few hours before tip) clearly wasn’t 100%.
SDSU won that game pretty easily and has deserved a bump since as it remains unbeaten, but this line is simply too high.
Back to the Aggies, who I think have a shot at pulling off a huge resume-boosting win and ending SDSU’s undefeated streak.
- Odds: BYU -6
- Over/Under: 143.5
- Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN2
I’ve been firmly on the BYU bandwagon all year and see no reason to get off in this spot.
St. Mary’s barely survived its Jan. 9 meeting with the Cougars at home, escaping with an 87-84 overtime win. However, the Gaels earned that win without having to face BYU senior forward Yoeli Childs (21.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg).
With Childs back, the Cougars become a much more formidable opponent, especially at home. The Cougars rank first overall with a team 3P average of 41.8%. In their eight WCC games, BYU is shooting a blistering 46.5% from beyond the arc.
BYU has improved their defensive pressure and ranks first among all conference teams in defensive turnover percentage and 53rd nationally at limiting their opponents’ offensive rebounds.
St. Mary’s defensive weakness is inside the paint, where it’s allowed opponents to score at a 51.4% rate in conference play. With the need to contain Childs, the Gaels will inevitably leave open 3-point attempts for TJ Haws (37.1%), Alex Barcello (47.4%), and Jake Toolson (48.4%).
BYU has scored at least 93 points in each of its past three WCC home games.
Bettors may still remember the bitter BYU loss at San Francisco, where the Dons shot an insane 52% (13 of 25) from 3P, including guard Khalil Shabazz scoring a career-high 32 points on a perfect 6 for 6 from deep. That performance has the market a little lower than it should be on BYU.
BYU is a solid 14-8 against the spread, including covers in four consecutive home games, while St. Mary’s is just 11-11 ATS with four consecutive covers against inferior opponents to BYU.
I expect the Cougars to roll at home against a St. Mary’s team that will struggle to defend the inside-outside offensive efficiency of the Cougars in Provo.
Pick: BYU -6