College Basketball Betting Picks: Our Staff’s 5 Favorite Plays for Saturday
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kouat Noi
The last true Saturday of the college basketball season brings us motivated teams, others primed for letdowns and mid-majors fighting for their lives in conference tournaments.
We’ve got a little bit of all three in our staff’s favorite bets of the week.
Five of our staffers give out their favorite plays for the day, starting with TCU at Texas at 12 p.m. ET. Let’s get to it.
>> All odds as of 8 a.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and win probabilities on your bets.
Eli Hershkovich: TCU +6.5 at Texas
12 p.m. ET, ESPN2
With this one setting up as a possible play-in game into the NCAA Tournament, the line appears inflated with the Longhorns (15-15 ATS) minus leading-scorer Kerwin Roach (suspended).
Texas is set up for revenge after its four-point outright loss in to the Horned Frogs (14-16 ATS) on Jan. 23, but much of its issues stemmed from allowing 14 offensive rebounds. TCU owns the Big 12’s third-highest offensive rebounding rate (31.3%) in conference play, and I’m expecting Shaka Smart’s crew to struggled in that department again, as it’s generated the second-lowest defensive rebounding rate (30.8%).
The 6-foot-7 Kouat Noi will be a major difference-maker, as his athletic frame provides a legitimate rebounding presence from the wing spot. He totaled six offensive boards in their last meeting, too.
At the other end, the Longhorns showcase the third-highest perimeter scoring rate in league play(36.8%), but the Horned Frogs are letting up the lowest 3-point percentage (32.6%) and scoring rate (35.4%). Look for their defense to lead them to at least a bounce-back cover, following Monday’s loss — outright and ATS — to Kansas State.
Ken Barkley: Texas Tech -2 at Iowa State
2 p.m. ET, ESPNNEWs
Sure, Hilton Magic is (or was) a thing, but Iowa State is absolutely limping to the finish here — literally and figuratively. Marial Shayok is a game-time decision, but Steve Prohm has sort of hinted that if Shayok needs another game to get absolutely back to 100% (I’m paraphrasing him), then that’s OK, too. Maybe he plays, but if he does, he’s obviously going to be limited based on what I’ve read.
As for how Shayok got hurt in the first place, there was reporting earlier this week that practice got physical and spilled over into some kind of altercation between teammates, which led to Shayok’s injury, and Shayok didn’t address the media afterwards.
Also, frustrations were evident last game as teammates were yelling at each other, and the team in general was getting smashed by lowly West Virginia. I don’t think this is something that just magically figures itself out in three days before a game against the best team in the conference. Play the bounce-back spot if you wish, but with Iowa State’s current form, this number is WAY too low. I like Texas Tech.
Steve Petrella: LIU Brooklyn +5 vs. St. Francis
2 p.m. ET
The NEC semifinals are hosted at the higher seed, so this is a home game for St. Francis (PA), but I still think is too many points. LIU won this tournament last year, brought back most of its key contributors and split with the Red Flash during the regular season in a pair of close games.
St. Francis relies on its offensive rebounding to carry its offense, and doesn’t shoot the ball particularly well. LIU generates much of its offense from beyond the arc and has heated up in its last few games, averaging more than 107 points per 100 possessions in three of the last four.
Don’t expect a raucous environment at DeGol Arena (304th in home-court advantage, per KenPom) and take LIU with the points.
Stuckey: Temple -1 vs. UCF
4 p.m ET on ESPN2
This is a tough spot for a UCF team that just won two emotional games over ranked opponents to essentially lock up their NCAA Tournament bid. (Joe Lunardi currently has them projected as a No. 8 seed, safely in the field.)
Meanwhile, Temple finds itself in the exact same spot UCF was in before its upset win at Houston. The Owls really need this win to boost their tournament resume, as they sit squarely on the bubble. (Lunardi currently has Temple as one of the last four teams in.)
Not only does Temple have revenge from a close road loss earlier this year, this will be Philadelphia legend Fran Dunphy’s last home game. The beloved coach has spent 30 years at the helm for Penn and Temple. That should add a little more motivation for the players, who will want to send the coach out with a win in his regular season finale in front of what should be a rocking Liacouras Center.
Free throws could end up being the difference. UCF shoots under 65% from the line (bottom 20 nationally), while Temple sits in the top 100. Also, after dealing with a knee injury for a stretch of seven games, 6-foot-10 senior center Ernest Aflakpui finally returned at 100% in Temple’s last game. That’s important today against 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall.
Temple should come out of the gates with extreme desperation against a UCF team at risk of a major letdown performance.
Mike Randle: Utah -4.5 vs. UCLA
7 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
This is a pick for Utah and against UCLA. The high-scoring Utes have won two of their last three home games while averaging 84.3 ppg. Meanwhile, UCLA has lost three of their last four Pac-12 road games, including an overtime win at California.
Utah ranks first in adjusted offensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage within conference games. The Utes also shoot great from 3P, led by Sedrick Barefield (16.8 ppg, 39.7% 3P) and Parker Van Dyke (8.5 ppg, 43.4% 3P).
UCLA’s disappointing season is coming to an end. The Bruins don’t excel in any specific area on offense or defense, and they are also one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the nation, ranking 342nd at 62.9%.
Take the home team with the prolific offense over the underachieving UCLA team limping to the finish line.