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NCAAB Best Bets, Odds | Top Picks for Texas, Saint Mary’s & More

NCAAB Best Bets, Odds | Top Picks for Texas, Saint Mary’s & More article feature image
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Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images. Pictured: Noah Waterman (BYU)

We’re bringing back a little non-conference action for Saturday’s loaded college basketball slate.

The Big 12/SEC Challenge is returning, and guess what? We have two games from it as part of our Saturday best bets.

In total, our staff is diving into six different games across the nation, so get your college basketball betting card ready with Saturday’s top odds and best bets below.


Saturday College Basketball Best Bets

The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college basketball staff 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 (ET)
Pick
Noon
Under 125
Noon
Vermont -7
2 p.m.
Oklahoma +6.5
3 p.m.
Morehead State +1
6 p.m.
Texas +7.5
10 p.m.
Saint Mary’s -6
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.

Boston College vs. Virginia

Saturday, Jan. 28
Noon ET
ACC Network Extra
Under 125

By D.J. James

The Virginia Cavaliers are notoriously one of the slowest-paced teams in the country, and 2023 is no different.

Currently, the Cavaliers rank 360th in Adjusted Tempo, per KenPom. They average 19.4 seconds per possession on offense and 18.4 seconds per possession on defense, so they truly control the pace on both sides of the ball.

They also rank 18th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and 25th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, so this is a balanced team.

On Saturday, they take on the Boston College Eagles, who are also a slow-paced team. The Eagles rank 232nd in Adjusted Tempo and average 17.6 seconds per possession on offense and 18.2 seconds per possession on defense.

In addition, the Eagles have a paltry 47.8% eFG% because they shoot less than 50% on 2-pointers and less than 30% from downtown.

They have manufactured nearly 60% of their total points this season from inside the arc.

UVA is different. It ranks 39th in free-throw attempt percentage on offense and have gotten 34.4% of its points from 3s because it shoots nearly 29% from deep and just around 50% inside the perimeter.

Now, one concern for an under here is that Boston College is one of the worst 3-point defenses in the country. Opponents are shooting around 38% from deep on the Eagles this season.

However, they rank 28th in points per possession (PPP) at the rim, per ShotQuality. They also hold opponents to fewer than one PPP in the half-court, where much of this game will be played.

Lastly, they rank 66th in defensive Open Three Rate, which should cut into UVA’s advantage from deep.

Either way, UVA should exploit Boston College’s issues with defending the 3, but there should be a wide enough margin for this game to go under the total.

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UMBC vs. Vermont

Saturday, Jan. 28
Noon ET
ESPN+
Vermont -7

By Tanner McGrath

If you’re familiar with me (especially on Twitter), or my work at The Action Network, you know that I am the world’s No. 1 Vermont Catamounts fan. I grew up in Southern Vermont, following the Cats basketball team as they largely dominated the America East.

Through my Cats’ fandom, I became our company’s No. 1 America East betting advocate, and I have figured out this league inside and out. I’m 21-8 betting on or against AmEast teams this season.

So, very few things give me more joy than yelling in our best bets column to bet the Cats on a Saturday at Noon ET.

John Becker’s teams have dominated this conference through the post, as the Cats have always had a dominant interior presence (way back to the Taylor Coppenrath days).

But this is the first season Becker hasn’t had that, so the Cats have been very vulnerable to post-ups from opposing big men.

UMass Lowell took advantage by putting up 1.167 PPP in post-up situations, and New Hampshire managed .929 PPP in those sets. Vermont has no interior answer to the bigger, better frontcourts in the league.

Luckily, the Retrievers are the antithesis of that. UMBC is severely undersized and runs all of its offense on the perimeter, where Colton Lawrence, Craig Beaudion, Matteo Picarelli and Jacob Boonyasith utilize motion cuts to find open shooters.

This offense works, as UMBC boasts the best offensive efficiency mark in the conference.

However, UMBC is running into a Vermont team that has won three straight with the best defensive efficiency mark in the conference (all by double digits).

Instead of a dominant interior big man, Becker’s squad consists of five interchangeable guards who are all plus-perimeter defenders.

Vermont can’t solve every set Jim Ferry wants to run, and the Cats are excellent at running shooters off the 3-point line. And if UMBC wants to run in transition, the Cats boast one of the country’s best transition defenses.

It’s a matchup nightmare for UMBC.

Conversely, Vermont can run whatever it wants against the league’s seventh-ranked defense.

Specifically, I expect a big day out of Dylan Penn, whose dribble-drive penetration and paint-scoring ability are ideal for carving up a defense without rim protection.

Penn’s also finding his groove, having scored 23 combined points on 15-for-23 shooting over his last two games.

These two met up in Baltimore a few weeks ago and Penn scored 15 second-half points on the way to a double-digit Cats victory.

Expect more of the same Saturday in Burlington.

Pick: Vermont -7 (Play to -9.5)

What is QuickSlip?

QuickSlip is an Action Network feature that allows users to automatically pre-load their bet slip at FanDuel Sportsbook.


Alabama vs. Oklahoma

Saturday, Jan. 28
2 p.m. ET
ESPN
Oklahoma +6.5

By Mike McNamara

I’ll go ahead and fade the No. 2 team in the nation here, as I think this is a good spot for the Sooners as a sizable home underdog.

Alabama is extremely explosive in transition, but Porter Moser and OU will slow the pace down in this one and force Bama to beat it in the half-court.

Situationally, the Sooners enter this one on a three-game losing streak and now on the wrong side of the NCAA tournament picture.

This is a max-effort, must-get type of spot for Oklahoma behind what should be a lively home crowd in Norman.

There’s no debating that Alabama is one of the elite teams in the country, and the Tide have been really good on the road thus far in SEC play.

All of that said, Oklahoma is a good defensive team that rebounds the ball well and should hold Bama to one shot a trip on most possessions.

Ultimately, this number is just too big for me not to take a bite and back the Sooners.

Alabama is due to be involved in a tight one on the road, and I believe OU has the personnel to answer the bell and make this a slugfest for 40 minutes. Boomer +6.5.

Pick: Oklahoma +6.5 (Play to +5.5)

What is QuickSlip?

QuickSlip is an Action Network feature that allows users to automatically pre-load their bet slip at FanDuel Sportsbook.



SIUE vs. Morehead State

Saturday, Jan. 28
3 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Morehead State +1

By BJ Cunningham

Morehead State really struggled in non-conference play, but now it’s starting to find its stride during OVC play.

These two just met on Jan. 19 in Edwardsville, with Morehead State coming away with a 67-58 victory.

The return of Mark Freeman for the last four games has been huge for the Eagles, as he’s by far their best player and best 3-point shooter, hitting a whopping 46.4% from behind the arc.

Morehead State shot the ball incredibly well in that previous meeting, especially from deep (9-of-19). Meanwhile, SIU Edwardsville went 7-for-23 from behind the arc.

One huge advantage that Morehead State will have in this game is its ability to get to the free-throw line. The Eagles are 33rd nationally in free-throw rate, and they hit 74.1% of them when they get to the charity strike, per KenPom.

They got to the free-throw line 17 times against Edwardsville in the first meeting, so I have no doubt they’ll be able to get the Cougars into foul trouble once again.

The flip side is for whatever reason, teams are shooting an absurd 78.1% from the free-throw line when they play Morehead State. SIU Edwardsville went 11-of-11 in the previous meeting, which just screams regression.

Morehead State is a fantastic half-court defense, allowing just 0.99 PPP in conference play, which is third in the OVC. It’s also second in PPP allowed in transition.

So, for Edwardsville — which is eighth in the OVC in the half-court and ranks seventh in PPP in transition — it’s hard to see how it’s going to improve off of the 0.95 PPP mark it had in that Jan. 19 meeting.

So, the only reason Morehead State is an underdog is because it’s season-long metrics are really bad based on its incredibly poor play during the non-conference.

With their improved play in the OVC, I love the Eagles +1 to sweep the season series against SIU Edwardsville.

Pick: Morehead State +1 (Play to -2)

What is QuickSlip?

QuickSlip is an Action Network feature that allows users to automatically pre-load their bet slip at FanDuel Sportsbook.


Texas vs. Tennessee

Saturday, Jan. 28
6 p.m. ET
ESPN
Texas +7.5

By Brett Pund

When I was scanning through the betting board for Saturday’s college basketball games, No. 10 Texas getting 7.5 points at No. 4 Tennessee jumped off the page to me.

Yes, the Volunteers have arguably the best defensive numbers in the country, but I’m starting to wonder if that’s because of their weak opposition. In SEC play, the Vols have played Mississippi State twice, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, LSU and Georgia.

The Wildcats are the only foe on that list that would scare you on paper, and Tennessee lost to them as a double-digit favorite at home.

As for the visitors, the midseason switch at head coach and what dictated that change was always going to be a tough transition. However, the Longhorns have weathered the storm and picked up quality wins.

In the 12 games since former head coach Chris Beard was fired, Texas has wins on the road at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia to go along with victories at home against No. 11 TCU and a second against the Cowboys.

This is a spot where Rick Barnes can get one over his former school, but I just feel like this is too many points for how talented the Longhorns are.

Pick: Texas +7.5 (Play to +6)

What is QuickSlip?

QuickSlip is an Action Network feature that allows users to automatically pre-load their bet slip at FanDuel Sportsbook.


Saint Mary’s vs. BYU

Saturday, Jan. 28
10 p.m. ET
ESPN2
Saint Mary’s -6

By Patrick Strollo

The No. 22 Saint Mary’s Gaels (18-4, 7-0) hit the road to face the BYU Cougars (14-9, 4-4) for a WCC matchup.

Both programs will be eager to earn a victory, as this will be the final conference matchup between the two in Provo before BYU departs for the Big 12.

The Gaels suffered their last loss on Dec. 18 at home in a tight contest to Colorado State. Since then, Saint Mary’s has been on a tear, going undefeated and covering seven of eight games.

In fact, Saint Mary’s has been one of the most profitable teams to bet on this year. The Gaels are 15-6 against the spread and have one of the best average cover margins in the nation, covering by 5.0 points per game.

Saint Mary’s has done everything well this season, but defense has been its forte. The Gaels rank third nationally in defensive efficiency, per Bart Torvik, allowing only 87.4 points per 100 possessions.

BYU will present a favorable matchup in this contest, as it features a pedestrian offense that ranks just 192 in offensive efficiency.

Technical trends favor Saint Mary’s, as well. BYU is .500 (5-5) against the spread at home.

My model is projecting Saint Mary’s as 10.03-point favorites, offering slightly more than four points of value to available markets but still one point below the average margin of cover on the season.

Statically, the Gaels are the superior team, but I like backing their defense on the road.

Where I see Saint Mary’s differentiating itself in this game is in the turnover department, where BYU is very error prone, ranking 340th in the nation in turnover percentage.

Look for Saint Mary’s to make a big statement in its final conference visit to BYU. While this game will be about WCC bragging rights, it will also serve as a spot for the Gaels to let the nation know they are for real and a legitimate national title contender.

Lay the chalk at 8.5 or better.

Pick: Saint Mary’s -6 (Play to -8.5)

What is QuickSlip?

QuickSlip is an Action Network feature that allows users to automatically pre-load their bet slip at FanDuel Sportsbook.



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