College Basketball Odds & Picks: BJ Cunningham’s Wednesday Best Bets, Including Tennessee vs. Missouri (Dec. 30)

College Basketball Odds & Picks: BJ Cunningham’s Wednesday Best Bets, Including Tennessee vs. Missouri (Dec. 30) article feature image
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  • Wednesday's college basketball slate is absolutely loaded, featuring 45 games tipping off from noon ET to 10 p.m. ET.
  • BJ Cunningham highlights some of his favorite betting spots of the day, including Butler vs. Providence at 5 p.m. ET and Florida vs. Vanderbilt at 9 p.m. ET.
  • Below, find Cunningham's full matchup analysis and picks for the four games he's betting today.

There’s one guaranteed way to make Hump Day better each week: Betting on college basketball.

With plenty of conference games populating Wednesday’s college basketball slate, The Action Network’s BJ Cunningham broke down four high-profile games, including three of the SEC’s top matchups.

Check out Cunningham’s comprehensive matchup analysis and betting picks below, starting with Butler vs. Providence at 5 p.m. ET. Then, he wraps up his card with two SEC matchups tipping off at 9 p.m. ET: Florida vs. Vanderbilt and No. 7 Tennessee vs. No. 12 Missouri.


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How to Bet Wednesday’s College Basketball Slate

Here’s a rundown of four of Cunningham’s favorite betting spots on Wednesday’s slate of games:

Tip Time
Matchup
5 p.m. ET
Butler vs. Providence
7 p.m. ET
Arkansas vs. Auburn
9 p.m. ET
Florida vs. Vanderbilt
9 p.m. ET
Tennessee vs. Missouri

All listed odds come via DraftKings unless otherwise noted and have been updated as of Wednesday at 9 a.m. ET. Specific bet recommendations at the end of each matchup breakdown 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.


CLICK THE DROPDOWN ARROW TO EASILY NAVIGATE TO ANY GAME
Tip Time
Matchup
5 p.m. ET
Butler vs. Providence
7 p.m. ET
Arkansas vs. Auburn
9 p.m. ET
Florida vs. Vanderbilt
9 p.m. ET
Tennessee vs. Missouri

Butler vs. Providence


ncaa-college basketball-best bets
Butler Odds
+4.5
Providence Odds
-4.5
Moneyline
+165 / -205
Over/Under
137 (-113 / -107)
Time | TV
5 p.m. ET
Fox Sports 1
(Photo: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.)

Butler goes for a sweep on Wednesday when it travels to Rhode Island to take on Providence.

Butler defeated Providence, 70-64, a week ago by sharing the wealth with five players finishing with double digits.

The Bulldogs are still missing two starters in Christian David and Aaron Thompson, so the potential of this team has not been reached yet. However, they lost a lot of experience from last year, most notably their No. 1 scoring option, Kamar Baldwin, who took over a third of their shots last year.

LaVall Jordan has had to rely on transfers and freshmen, so we’ll see if he can get all of the pieces to fit together once again on Wednesday.

Once you get past Villanova and Creighton, the middle of the Big East is essentially up for grabs. However, Providence may just have the third-best squad in the conference this season.

The Friars are starting to get the reputation as cardiac kids, as they’ve toppled Davidson by one, Seton Hall in overtime, and DePaul in double overtime.

Ed Cooley has three starters back in 2020 and coaches one of the most fundamentally sound squads in the Big East, so the Friars are poised to battle Creighton and Villanova for the top spot in the league.


The Matchup

When Butler has the ball

So, what was the biggest difference for Butler in losing to Southern Illinois and beating Providence as a two-point underdog? High-percentage shots.

Butler has not shot the ball well from inside the arc, hitting shots at a 47.5% clip, per KenPom. However, against Providence, the drive-and-dish offense was working well, as Butler shot 52.5% on 2-point attempts. Butler, though, has to improve at the charity strike because it’s shooting a dismal 61.8% this year.

With Thompson and David on the sidelines, Butler has had to rely on two freshmen in Chuck Harris and Myles Tate in their backcourt. They’ve both filled in nicely, but South Carolina transfer Jair Bolden has really been its main go-to scorer, leading the team with 14 points per game.

However, where Butler really excels is in the frontcourt with Bryce Nze and Bryce Golden. They are the two most experienced Bulldogs returning this season and have been monsters on the glass, leading Butler to the fifth-best defensive rebounding percentage this season.

The strength of Providence last year was its defense. However, Cooley’s squad has been the definition of average this season. It ranks 88th in defensive efficiency, per KenPom, and is right around the NCAA average in just about every advanced metric.

In the first meeting between these two teams, defense wasn’t really the issue, as Providence held Butler to only 45.6% from the field. But it did allow the Bulldogs to shoot 23 free throws.

However, since Butler shoots such a low percentage from the free-throw line, that’s almost where a team would want to put them. Bottom line, if Providence repeats the same kind of defensive performance, it should be able to beat Butler the second time around.


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When Providence has the ball

For Providence to be successful on offense, it’s pretty simple: get the ball as close to the basket as possible.

The Friars have one of the best centers in the Big East in Nate Watson, who dropped 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting against Butler last week. Providence shoots 53.9% from inside the arc, which ranks 67th in the country, but its troubles offensively begin when it steps outside the arc.

In its three losses to Indiana, Alabama, and Butler, Providence shot a combined 18% from 3-point range. AJ Reeves and David Duke are two of the most experienced guards in the Big East, but they aren’t big-time 3-point shooters. Providence will need force the ball inside more often against Butler this time around rather than settling for 26 3-point attempts.

The biggest issue for Butler defensively has been defending the 3-ball. That’s one of the issues with having to rely on two freshmen in the backcourt, as they’re allowing opponents to shoot over 38% from behind the arc.

However, the unit drastically improved against Providence, allowing the Friars to shoot only 15.7% from behind the arc. Butler has also struggled to defend inside the arc, as it’s given up way too many high-percentage looks, allowing 55% on 2-point attempts.

To beat the Friars again, Butler is going to have repeat the same defensive performance from seven days ago and hold Providence to a very low percentage from the field.


Betting Analysis & Pick

For Providence to avoid the sweep, it’s going to have to either shoot a higher percentage from deep or make sure a higher percentage of its shots come from inside the arc. In the teams’ meeting a week ago, there were 68 possessions, which is right on tempo for both teams.

Given the struggles on the offensive end of the floor for both teams, I think this game is going to go under once again. I have 135.88 points projected for this game. Additionally, if Thompson is out again, that will bring the projected total even lower.

Therefore, I think there’s some value on under 138.5 points, but I wouldn’t play it any lower than that number.

Pick: Under 138.5

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CLICK THE DROPDOWN ARROW TO EASILY NAVIGATE TO ANY GAME
Tip Time
Matchup
5 p.m. ET
Butler vs. Providence
7 p.m. ET
Arkansas vs. Auburn
9 p.m. ET
Florida vs. Vanderbilt
9 p.m. ET
Tennessee vs. Missouri

Arkansas vs. Auburn


ncaa-college basketball-best bets-december 30
Arkansas Odds
-3
Auburn Odds
+3
Moneyline
-157+130
Over/Under
146
Time | TV
7 p.m. ET
ESPN2
(Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.)

Arkansas looks to keep their perfect record intact on Wednesday when it heads to Auburn to open up SEC play.

The Razorbacks played an extremely easy non-conference schedule, as they did not play anybody inside the top 100 in the KenPom rankings. However, they took care of business in those games, winning by double digits in all eight.

Head coach Eric Musselman has almost a completely new squad this season, with Desi Sills as the only returning contributor. Arkansas has had to rely on a handful of transfers, but everything is going according to plan so far. Can the Razorbacks keep it going and win their first major test of the season?

Bruce Pearl lost five starters from last season’s Auburn team, and it showed early on with losses to Gonzaga and UCF. However, the Tigers ripped off five straight wins since then, including a win over Memphis on a neutral court.

Coming into the season, Auburn’s hopes were contingent upon five-star freshman point guard Sharife Cooper. However, Cooper has yet to play because his eligibility is being reviewed by the NCAA. He has been practicing with the team, so his status as of right now is up in the air.

Other than Cooper, it’s pretty bleak for the Tigers, who are going to have to rely on freshmen and bench players from last season.


The Matchup

When Arkansas has the ball

Musselman’s offense is a pace-and-space kind of attack in which the Razorbacks do not crash the offensive glass. His teams like to get out and run with quick ball movement and shoot a lot of 3-pointers. Last season, Arkansas went away from that because it went to a lot of isolation ball through Isaiah Joe, who is now in the NBA.

So far this season, the Razorbacks have gone back to Musselman’s identity, attempting 3-pointers for 41% of their shots, per KenPom. They’ve also improved their assist rate from 47.2% last season to 51.9%. Additionally, even though Musselman team’s don’t typically crash the offensive glass, Arkansas has the 19th-ranked offensive-rebounding rate in the country.

Pearl’s team has had to rely solely on underclassmen this season, but Auburn has been pretty solid defensively, especially in its last two games, giving up only 41 points to Troy and 53 to Appalachian State. Auburn is a pretty big team with every guard standing taller than 6-foot-5. That will come in handy against a smaller Arkansas backcourt.

Auburn also has excelled at defending the 3-ball so far this season, allowing its opponents to shoot just 29.2%. That will come in handy against this Arkansas team that takes a ton of 3s.



When Auburn has the ball

For the Tigers, it’s very simple: They live and die by the 3-ball. Over half of their field goal attempts this season (51% per KenPom) have come from behind the arc, which is the 11th-highest rate in the country. That’s all well and good, except for the fact that Auburn is shooting just 32.5% on 3-point shots this season.

Auburn’s offensive philosophy is very similar to Arkansas, as both look to push the pace. The Tigers rank 51st in tempo, per KenPom, and average only 15.7 seconds per possession. That fast pace hasn’t quite worked for this young team so far, as evidence of Auburn turning it over on 23% of its possessions, which is in the bottom 100 in Division I.

Even with a whole new cast of players, Arkansas has drastically improved on defense. However, a lot of that was due to its easy schedule. The Razorbacks rank 32nd in defensive efficiency, per KenPom, and are top-20 in effective field goal percentage allowed.

They’ve done a fantastic job keeping opponents off the offensive glass and defending the 3-ball, two areas that are very important when facing Auburn since there will be a lot of long-rebounding opportunities given how many 3-pointers the Tigers attempt.

For Arkansas to escape with a victory, it will need to shut down Auburn in those two areas.


Betting Analysis & Pick

Arkansas has looked like the better team to start this season, given how inexperienced Auburn is.

The Razorbacks’ defense should be able to shut down the Tigers’ fast-paced offense if they can hold them to a low shooting percentage. Auburn is also turning the ball over at a very concerning rate, which should play right into Arkansas’ hands.

With Cooper out, I have Arkansas projected as a -3.77 favorite, so I think there’s some value on the Razorbacks at -2. However, I wouldn’t play it any lower than that number.

Pick: Arkansas -2

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CLICK THE DROPDOWN ARROW TO EASILY NAVIGATE TO ANY GAME
Tip Time
Matchup
5 p.m. ET
Butler vs. Providence
7 p.m. ET
Arkansas vs. Auburn
9 p.m. ET
Florida vs. Vanderbilt
9 p.m. ET
Tennessee vs. Missouri

Florida vs. Vanderbilt


ncaa-college basketball-best bets-december 30
Florida Odds
-6.5
Vanderbilt Odds
+6.5
Moneyline
-295 / +230
Over/Under
140.5
Time | TV
9 p.m. ET
ESPN2
(Photo: Mark Brown/Getty Images.)

After 18 days off, Florida basketball is back in action to begin SEC play when it heads to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt.

Florida has already been through a lot this season with the health issues of its best player, Keyontae Johnson. The good news is Johnson is going to be OK, although he’s likely out for the rest of the season.

Without him, Florida struggled against in-state rival Florida State, losing by 12 on the road. However, playing Vanderbilt is a great chance for head coach Mike White’s squad to get its season back on track.

Jerry Stackhouse has a lot of work ahead of him at Vanderbilt. The Commodores are basically penciled into the 14th spot in the SEC this season, especially after failing their two biggest tests of the season so far against Richmond and Davidson.

Vanderbilt has won only three conference games over the past two seasons, and it doesn’t look like it will win too many this season, either.


The Matchup

When Florida has the ball

Florida is going to greatly miss Johnson, who averaged 14 points per game last season and was at 16 per game after his four games. As if he wasn’t enough, the Gators also had to replace their best two players from last season.

Florida was the sixth-youngest team in the country in 2019-20, so White is hoping the growing pains of last season can provide experience going into 2020-21.

White has made one big change so far this season, turning up the tempo on the offense. Last season, Florida opted for a lot of pick and roll, drive and dish, and isolation ball in its half-court offense. Through their first four games, the Gators have gone with more pace and space, going from 326th in tempo to 104th, per KenPom.

The change hasn’t made much of a change from an efficiency standpoint, as Florida is ranked 29th in offensive efficiency to begin the season. However, that is likely to take a dip without Johnson.

Vanderbilt, for lack of a better word, was horrible on the defensive end of the floor last year. It ranked 221st in defensive efficiency and 305th in effective field goal percentage allowed, per KenPom. This season, the Commodores have made drastic improvements, moving all the way up to 125th in defensive efficiency and 91st in effective field goal percentage allowed.

A lot of that improvement, though, is due to playing easy competition. In its two losses to Richmond and Davidson, Vandy allowed 1.19 points per possession, so it’s likely going to struggle against a top-30 offense on Wednesday night.



When Vanderbilt has the ball

Last year, Vanderbilt had the worst offense in the SEC, ranking 139th in offensive efficiency, per KenPom. The Commodores also relied on way too many of their points coming from the free-throw line, as they had the ninth-highest free throw rate in the country. They also lost their best player in Aaron Nesmith, so it’s going to be tough sledding for Stackhouse’s men this season.

Vanderbilt shoots a ton of 3-pointers. In fact, its shoots them at the 17th-highest rate in the country. However, the Commodores don’t make them at a very high percentage, which was the main issue of why their offense was dead last in the SEC last year. They are hitting 3-point shots at a 32.6% clip to begin the season.

Florida’s defense is what held the Gators back last season, as it ranked 61st in defensive efficiency, per KenPom. However, they’ve made a massive jump in the rankings up to 21st to start 2020.

Florida is long and lethal, as it’s in the top 100 in height as a team and has the No. 1 block rate in the country through its first four games.

One area the Gators struggled in last season, which has carried over into this season, is defending the opponent’s 3-point shot. So far this season, the Gators are allowing 34.5% shooting from beyond the arc and allowed Florida State to shoot 50% in their last game. Vanderbilt is going to take a ton of shots from beyond the arc, so the Gators better be ready defensively.


Betting Analysis & Pick

Even without Johnson, the Gators are far and away the better squad in this matchup. Vanderbilt is in the basement of the SEC for a reason — it does not have the talent on either end of the floor to compete with the top half of the league.

To make matters worse for Vanderbilt, starting center Clevon Brown missed Sunday’s game against Alcorn State and is questionable to play on Wednesday.

Accounting for both the absences of Johnson and Brown, I have the Gators projected as 7.77 favorites. That means I think there’s some value on Florida at -6.

Pick: Florida -6

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CLICK THE DROPDOWN ARROW TO EASILY NAVIGATE TO ANY GAME
Tip Time
Matchup
5 p.m. ET
Butler vs. Providence
7 p.m. ET
Arkansas vs. Auburn
9 p.m. ET
Florida vs. Vanderbilt
9 p.m. ET
Tennessee vs. Missouri

No. 7 Tennessee vs. No. 12 Missouri


ncaa-college basketball-best bets-december 30
Tennessee Odds
-3.5
Missouri Odds
+3.5
Moneyline
-175 / +143
Over/Under
133
Time | TV
9 p.m. ET
SEC Network
(Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.)

The No. 7 Tennessee Volunteers open up SEC play on the road on Wednesday against the No. 12 Missouri Tigers.

Tennessee was projected as one of the favorites to win the SEC this season along with Kentucky. However, with the Wildcats’ 1-6 start, the conference looks to be there for the Vols to win.

Tennessee has started the season 6-0, passing its two biggest tests against Colorado and Cincinnati with two defensive clinics. Head coach Rick Barnes not only has the best defensive team in the SEC but one of the best defensive teams in the country.

However, this is the Vols’ first true road test of the season, so will the Volunteers be up to the task?

Missouri was projected to finish in the bottom half of the SEC by almost every media publication. However, the Tigers have completely flipped the script, starting out the season undefeated with impressive wins over Oregon and Illinois.

Still, Missouri’s toughest win came last weekend when it escaped with a one-point home win over Bradley in one of the craziest endings of the college basketball season. The Tigers have passed every test up to this point, but the Volunteers will be their toughest.


The Matchup

When Tennessee has the ball

For Tennessee, it’s pretty simple on offense: get the ball inside. Yves Pons and John Fulkerson are the Volunteers’ two best players and are two of the best frontcourt players in the SEC. Fulkerson is one of the most versatile big men in the country, and the offense runs through him given how good he is off the dribble and passing from the post.

In the backcourt, Tennessee brings back two experienced players from last season, but the real game-changer is Jordan Springer. Springer was a McDonald’s All-American and a top-20 recruit out of high school, and he has essentially taken the reins at the point guard position.

The biggest problem for Tennessee on offense is they lack consistent 3-point shooting. The Volunteers aren’t shooting a very high percentage from inside the arc (52.1%), so the lack of a consistent game on the perimeter could be what holds them back come March.

Missouri’s success this season has come from its defense, which ranks 27th in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. The Tigers have excelled in one area, and that is defending their opponent’s 3-points shot, allowing just 24.1% to start the season.

However, Tennessee’s offense has one of the lowest 3-point rates in the country. Missouri is going to have to excel in areas that it has been average in to start the season — like defensive rebounding and turnovers — if it wants to pull off another upset.


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When Missouri has the ball

One of the main reasons Missouri is undefeated right now is because it’s one of the most experienced teams in the country. Head coach Cuonzo Martin returned his entire starting five from last season and has the Tigers making massive improvements from last season on offense.

Missouri has jumped almost 100 spots in the offensive efficiency rating from last season and is doing it from inside the arc and at the free-throw line. Missouri ranks inside the top 50 in the country in 2-point field goal percentage and free-throw percentage, but it struggles mightily from beyond the arc.

The Tigers are shooting a dismal 28.4% from 3-point range to begin the season, and that’s the reason their offense struggled last year. Either Missouri needs to improve or completely go away from shooting the 3-ball if it wants to be successful on offense.

Tennessee is one of the best defenses in the country because it is fundamentally sound and has no weaknesses. The Vols are the No. 3 team in the country in terms of defensive efficiency and are in the top 25 in pretty much every advanced metric out there.

Pons is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year and is a maniac on the defense. At 6-foot-6, he can guard every position on the floor and take away the opponent’s go-to scoring threat.

Tennessee should be able to dominate Missouri’s offense because the Tigers haven’t seen a defense like what they are about to on Wednesday.


Betting Analysis & Pick

Both teams play a slower pace than the national average (Tennessee is 307th and Missouri 218th in tempo), so I think points are going to be hard to come by in this game.

Both teams are also terrible from beyond the arc, so with a majority of shots coming from inside the arc, that should trend toward a low-scoring affair.

I have the total projected at 129.77, so I think there’s some value on the under at 133.5 points.

Pick: Under 133.5 (down to 133).

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