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College Basketball Mid-Major Picks, Odds: Keg’s Bottom of the Barrel Bets for Saturday

College Basketball Mid-Major Picks, Odds: Keg’s Bottom of the Barrel Bets for Saturday article feature image
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Bottom of the Barrel Picks for Saturday, December 31

It’s been a wild week of college basketball thanks to some massive upsets. Teams are currently finishing up their non-conference schedules, while others are facing some rude awakenings in conference play.

For low- to mid-major teams, the beginning of conference play could not be more important. Some teams have spent almost the entire first two months of the season traveling around the country getting their teeth kicked in by power-conference programs.

Now they’ll finally have the opportunity to face teams in their conference who — for the most part — are more to their level.

These first few conference games can really separate the contenders from the pretenders.

With that being said, here are the conference matchups I’m targeting on Saturday and how I’m betting them.


Bottom of the Barrel College Basketball Best Bets

The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that Keg is targeting from Saturday’s slate of games. Click the team logos for one the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.

Game
Time
Pick
2 p.m. ET
UMass Lowell -14 or Better
3:30 p.m. ET
Northwestern State -8 or Better
4:30 p.m. ET
Southern Indiana -10 or Better
Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.

UMass Lowell vs. NJIT

Saturday, Dec. 31
2 p.m. ET
ESPN3
UMass Lowell -14 or Better

The Action Network’s own Tanner McGrath said in the preseason that the River Hawks were his best bet to win the American East, and that they were one of his favorite preseason bets he made in general.

So kudos to him, but I don’t care what he says — there’s no way he predicted these River Hawks would head into conference play at 12-2.

UMass Lowell has shown up time and time again, with its only two losses being an eight-point defeat at Rutgers and a two-point overtime defeat at Rhode Island.

Saturday’s game against NJIT is on the road, but I don’t expect an outcome anywhere close to those two mentioned above.

The Highlanders rank 340th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and aren’t much better on the defensive end (291st). NJIT’s 3-10 record hasn’t exactly come against top teams in the nation, as the Highlanders have posted losses to Fairleigh Dickinson, Wagner and Army.

UMass Lowell should have no trouble finding success on offense.

Also, this line came out lower than I expected it to at -10.

I’d feel comfortable backing the River Hawks as high as a 14-point favorite in this one.

Pick: UMass Lowell -14 or Better


Texas A&M-Corpus Christi vs. Northwestern State

Saturday, Dec. 31
3:30 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Northwestern State -8 or Better

On December 1, I set a reminder in my phone so I wouldn’t overlook this game.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi was one of my favorite teams coming into the season, as it ranked ninth in minutes continuity and made it to the NCAA tournament a season ago. But a day prior to setting that reminder, it lost to UTRGV, a team ranked 323rd by KenPom at the time.

And then on December 1, Northwestern State — which was picked to finish sixth in the Southland in the preseason — earned its fifth win in a row, pulling off the outright upset over Stephen F. Austin as a 12.5-point underdog.

That upset over SFA was a nice follow up to the Demons’ upset over a top-40 team in the nation in TCU, and it caught my attention.

Since then Northwestern State has added an upset over SMU as a 5.5-point underdog and kept it close against two top teams — Baylor and Texas A&M — while covering the spread in the process.

Northwestern State has kept up with some of the top teams in the country, and beaten teams not far off from its talent level. I think the Demons make quick work of the Islanders in this one, and I’ll be backing them as high as an 8-point favorite.

Pick: Northwestern State -8 or Better

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Southern Indiana vs. Eastern Illinois

Saturday, Dec. 31
4:30 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Southern Indiana -10 or Better

Last Wednesday, Eastern Illinois was 3-9 on the season and its only wins had come against two non D-I programs and IUPUI.

Then it did the impossible.

HOLY COW. EASTERN ILLINOIS JUST PULLED OFF THE UPSET OF THE SEASON.

31.5 point underdogs go into Iowa and beat the Hawkeyes by nine behind a 60% shooting percentage.

Wild Wild Stuff.pic.twitter.com/RdDLVNWc0D

— Mid-Major Madness (@mid_madness) December 21, 2022

The Panthers followed one of the biggest upsets in college basketball up by winning their opening conference game over Lindenwood by one.

Now they’ll welcome the Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles to town as they look to extend their win streak to four.

Southern Indiana doesn’t have a win over a Big Ten team, but it’s 8-6 on the season with notable wins over Southern Illinois and Indiana State.

Eastern Illinois just barely held off Lindenwood — which ranks 350th, per KenPom — following its win over Iowa. And some people — not me, but some people — might say the Panthers are one of the bottom-10 teams in college basketball and that any team could’ve won that game against Iowa.

Southern Indiana has struggled on defense, but I don’t think the Panthers’ offense can produce enough for that to be a factor. Eastern Illinois ranks 356th nationally in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency.

Southern Indiana should also have a massive advantage over the Panthers when it comes to 3-point shooting. The Screaming Eagles are the 22nd-best team in college basketball in 3-point field goal percentage and are making 9.5 3-pointers per game on average.

Back the Screaming Eagles as high as a 10-point favorite over the Panthers.

Pick: Southern Indiana -10 or Better

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Keg’s Drink of the Weekend

This week’s drink of the weekend may not have anything to do with these games, but it has everything to do with this weekend.

For those of you who don’t know, Kentucky plays Louisville this weekend. I wrote the game up and you can read it if you want, but this is about Bourbon.

  • Maker Mark

Makers Mark is a good, solid Bourbon; it’s been one of my go-to’s for as long as I can remember. But this weekend makes me think of Makers Mark for one reason in particular.

Growing up, before I even really knew the significance of college basketball or Bourbon in my home state, I just assumed it was normal that my grandpa had a storage closet full of Bourbon and that everyone lived and breathed through their college basketball team.

His just so happen to be Kentucky.

The story was that in 2001 for the Louisville-Kentucky game, Makers Mark had special bottles made dipped in red and blue wax.

My grandpa had apparently made a large wager with someone on the game. Kentucky won by 20, and in lieu of payment, the man offered him a large sum of the bottles.

He accepted. I don’t know exactly how many bottles it was. What I do know is I was six years old in 2001, and I saw one of the bottles come out nearly every year Kentucky beat Louisville. I was also given one when I turned 21.

I don’t know if he has any left, but no matter what’s on the outside of the bottle, I know what’s on the inside will never disappoint.

Cheers, and good luck.

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