Saturday NCAAB Odds, Picks: Our 6 Best Bets for Virginia Tech vs. Duke & More
Photo by Ryan Hunt/Getty Images. Pictured: Justyn Mutts (Virginia Tech)
This Saturday stands as arguably the best college basketball slate of the season thus far.
This is the final Saturday of the regular season without postseason action happening simultaneously, so it's no surprise the matchups are awesome.
With that in mind, our staff has six best bets for the Saturday slate, including five power-conference matchups and a late-night West Coast duel.
Saturday's 6 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.
|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.
Michigan State vs. Iowa
By John Feltman
Although their offensive performances have been disappointing of late, I think this is an outstanding spot to back the Hawkeyes at home.
Iowa has gone 12-3 against the spread at home this season, and its recent poor shooting suggests some positive regression is looming. Despite their offensive woes, the Hawkeyes still find themselves ranked ninth in offensive efficiency.
This handicap also hinges largely on incoming negative regression for the Spartans. They’re coming off a 15-point home win over Indiana despite possessing a rank of 360th in Rim & 3 Rate.
Michigan State also struggles mightily on the glass (250th in rebound rate), so I think the Hawkeyes will be able to capitalize on some second-chance opportunities.
This is a great spot to back Iowa at home, and I think its recent struggles have made this line a bargain.
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Arkansas vs. Alabama
By Brett Pund
I don’t think bookmakers are pricing in the return of Nick Smith Jr. to the Arkansas lineup enough in Saturday’s SEC headliner, which makes the Razorbacks my best bet for the day.
The star guard is coming off his best game of the year in which he scored a season-high 26 points and shot 64% from the field in a win over Georgia. Obviously, this is a much tougher task, but I still feel like this is too many points for the Crimson Tide.
This a Hogs squad that has already shown it can play well away from home, covering on the road at No. 9 Baylor in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge and winning at Oklahoma and Kentucky.
One key strength for coach Eric Musselman’s team is forcing turnovers, as the Razorbacks rank inside the top 60 in the country in that category, according to Bart Torvik.
Meanwhile, Alabama sits outside the top 225 in giving the ball away offensively, and the Tide also don’t turn opponents over on defense (322nd TO%).
Arkansas should have extra shots and find ways to get into its offensive sets, which is dangerous for a top scorer like Smith.
If you add in all of the off-court distractions for the home team, I think this is a great spot to call the Hogs.
Kansas State vs. Oklahoma State
The injury to Avery Anderson III has started to catch up with the Cowboys in recent games.
That said, this is still a great situational spot for a Pokes team that needs one or two more wins to feel safely inside the NCAA tournament field.
Oklahoma State has lost its last three and now returns home to face a Kansas State team that has won two in a row against top-25 opponents.
Oklahoma State is a bit limited offensively without Anderson, but this is still a top-15 defensive outfit in the nation. Kalib Boone and Moussa Cisse will challenge every Wildcat shot at the rim, and the two have been great at securing defensive rebounds off of misses all season.
As impressive of a year as it’s been for KSU, the Wildcats have not been nearly as good when they’ve stepped away from the Octagon of Doom.
I expect a lively crowd in Stillwater for this one, with the Cowboy faithful trying to will its team back into March Madness.
Give me the Pokes to generate just enough on the offensive end to secure a victory over Kansas State.
Texas A&M vs. Mississippi State
The Bulldogs return home in a must-win game as they try to salvage a season that began 1-7 in conference play.
This is going to be a low-scoring slugfest between two defensive teams. But I expect the size and strength of Mississippi State’s frontcourt to be the difference here.
The Bulldogs are great in transition and despite their offensive woes — 315th in eFG% — they feast on the offensive glass.
That’s where Texas A&M is extremely vulnerable. Despite their under-screening defense and ability to force opponents into the mid-range and to attack from the perimeter, the Aggies rank 234th in defensive rebounding.
Texas A&M ranks 246th in average height, while Mississippi State checks in at No. 60.
Bulldogs star center Tolu Smith is top-five in the SEC at creating second-chance opportunities and inside the top 10 in the country in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. Smith is the key here against a Texas A&M team that really lacks size.
Mississippi State won’t beat Texas A&M through its shooting. Rather, it’ll be the physicality inside. The Bulldogs rank fourth in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and inside the top 25 in turnover rate, 3-point defense and 2-point defense.
They also rarely foul, which is where A&M often catches opponents lacking. Over a quarter of the Aggies’ points come at the charity stripe, often created through second-chance opportunities and endless attacks at the rim.
Fortunately for Chris Jans, his Bulldogs squad is well-equipped to handle Texas A&M.
Since its slow start to conference play, Mississippi State is 6-2 in its last eight. It’s taken down the likes of TCU and even Arkansas on the road. Its physicality is draining for opponents, and the same should ring true on Saturday.
In a must-win game at home, I expect to see a feisty Bulldogs team that prefers a slow-paced defensive battle. That’s the scenario that best suits Mississippi State, which can often lull on the offensive end.
Back the Bulldogs to -2.
Virginia Tech vs. Duke
It’s a pretty obvious buy-low, sell-high spot for Virginia Tech vs. Duke.
The Hokies are off a loss to red-hot Miami, while Duke has won three straight against the dregs of the ACC. Sorry, but wins over Notre Dame, Syracuse and Louisville aren’t going to move the needle for me.
Virginia Tech has won three of its past four matchups with Duke, mostly because Mike Young’s squad can get anything it wants on offense. The Hokies went for 1.2 PPP in the last meeting, scoring over 1.4 PPP in spot-up situations and over 1.6 PPP in post-up situations.
To be fair, I’m not sure how Virginia Tech gets stops. Kyle Filipowski should get whatever he wants in this game as well.
However, I think a two-possession spread is a tad high for a Duke team that will struggle to defend the Hokies.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is still looking for big-time wins as it tries to sneak an at-large bid into the tournament.
Pick: Virginia Tech +6.5 (Play to +5.5)
San Diego State vs. New Mexico
By D.J. James
The Aztecs are a far better defensive team. They rank 16th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and hold opponents to 28.6% from 3-point range. They also rank 10th in Open 3 Rate, per ShotQuality.
The Lobos don’t usually shoot many 3s (27.4%), but they do shoot nearly 36% from outside, so the Aztecs should limit them.
In addition, New Mexico is the best team at attacking the rim (1st in PPP), but San Diego State can match that with a rank of 18th in this metric, per ShotQuality. So, this is not as wide of a gap as the Lobos usually may have.
The largest edge the Aztecs will have is on the glass. They rank 68th in rebounding rate in the country, according to ShotQuality, while the Lobos rank 200th.
The kicker is that San Diego State hauls in 31.2% of available rebounds on the offensive end, so it’ll have plenty of put-back opportunities.
Finally, New Mexico is one of the best teams in the country at getting to the free-throw line, owning a 39.5% clip. SDSU boasts a 35.7% free-throw attempt rate, so this will again cut into a typical edge the Lobos may have.
Yes, the New Mexico will be at home, but San Diego State should be able to match it.
Look for SDSU to win as a short road favorite.