College Basketball Odds, Predictions, Best Bets: Our Staff’s Top Picks, Including Oregon vs. Baylor (Saturday, December 18)
Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images. Pictured: James Akinjo
- Along with college football bowl games, Saturday is a day for college basketball.
- Our writers broke down four games for today's slate, including Baylor vs. Oregon and North Carolina vs. Kentucky.
- Check out each breakdown and betting pick for the day below.
With college football transitioning to bowl season, college basketball will receive many more opportunities to capture bettors’ attention.
That will all start with a loaded Saturday slate that will feature games being played from noon until after midnight.
We know the biggest of college hoops fans have been with us throughout the first month (or so) of the season, but if you’re just joining us, our staff has their best bets below to help you pad your wallet on Saturday.
Saturday’s College Basketball Best Bets
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college basketball staff is targeting from today’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.|
USC vs. Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets and Trojans square off in Phoenix in an interesting ACC/Pac-12 matchup. Andy Enfield’s team remains one of seven unbeatens left in the entire country.
USC has picked up wins over Temple, San Diego State, Utah and Washington State to start the year, and the Trojans are shutting teams down on the defensive end.
It has been a bit of a bumpier start to the year for Georgia Tech. The Jackets enter this one in the midst of a three-game losing streak, granted the losses have come to Wisconsin, North Carolina and LSU.
Senior wing Michael Devoe has been phenomenal for Tech to start the year, currently averaging over 22 points a game on 55% shooting.
Despite the Trojans’ perfect start to the year, I think the value lies with Georgia Tech in this spot. The Yellow Jackets have the size on the interior to hang with USC on the glass, and Devoe should be able to have another highly productive outing.
Eight points feels like too many, especially when you consider the slower tempo that Georgia Tech will look to play this game at. USC uses transition to generate a lot of its offense, and I don’t think those fast-break opportunities will be as available in this matchup.
Give me the Yellow Jackets to hang tough and cover the number.
Pick: Georgia Tech +8 (Play to +7)
Providence vs. UConn
Providence puts its 10-1 record to the test as it travels to Connecticut to take on the 9-2 Huskies.
This matchup presents two of the most passionate coaches in the college landscape in Providence’s Ed Cooley and UConn’s Dan Hurley. Each program focuses on defensive intensity and keeping the pressure full throttle.
The Huskies have allowed 62 points per game and own the 28th-best defensive efficiency ranking. The group ranks 10th in defensive field goal percentage (42.6%) and fourth in two-point field goal percentage (40.0%).
Defending the paint is essential against Providence’s Nate Watson, who has dominated this season by averaging 15.3 points while hitting 64% of his field goal attempts. Connecticut’s bigs will make life tough for Watson and force someone else to step up to beat it.
Providence has put the defensive clamps on recently, holding its last three opponents to an average of 54 points. UConn has been mediocre at shooting the basketball but has thrived at snatching offensive rebounds. That won’t be easy to replicate against Watson and the Friar bigs.
Both teams play at a slow tempo, and the defensive intensity should be at an all-time high. Points will be at a premium in this game, and there’s value on the under in a battle between two of the top programs in New England.
Pick: Under 137 (Play to 135)
North Carolina vs. Kentucky
I don’t care how you feel about COVID-19 and the vaccine. Whether you are for it or against it, I believe both sides can agree on one thing: high-profile games getting canceled sucks.
After losing both Ohio State and UCLA to COVID-19, both opponents, Kentucky and North Carolina, decided to face each other instead on short notice.
While the last-second game planning may be a cause for concern for the quality of play and make bettors weary, there’s still value to spot in this Vegas matchup.
Kentucky comes off of a road loss at Notre Dame as a 5-point favorite but will look to bounce back against the Tar Heels in a near pick’em.
It’s never easy going against my Tar Heels, but the spot is right for the Wildcats.
While Kentucky is as cold as an igloo from 3, it will look to pound the ball down low to its advantage. Oscar Tshiebwe should absolutely dominate the block, as North Carolina gives up near-the-rim field goals at the sixth-highest rate in the nation.
If UNC starts to double Tshiebwe, this will open up lanes for guard TyTy Washington Jr., who is a dual-threat whether it’s scoring or dishing.
Tshiebwe will not be able to do it all himself, but that’s OK because UNC’s defense as a whole is weak. Ranking 75th in AdjD, UNC has been getting torched all season.
The Heels have built an identity on crashing the boards, getting second chances and starting off the fast break. All of these identities will be in jeopardy, as Kentucky has a size advantage down low and is superior rebounding the ball.
Forcing UNC into half-court sets will be a gamble, as the Tar Heels are as streaky as any team gets from deep.
I’ll take Kentucky at one possession and look to add on live depending on how successful the Wildcats are at crashing the boards and limiting UNC to its style of play.
Pick: Kentucky -1.5 (Play to -2)
Baylor vs. Oregon
This is the perfect buy-low, sell-high spot. Baylor, the new No. 1 team in the country, comes into Eugene to take on one of the biggest disappointments this season in Oregon.
Baylor enters Saturday night fresh off of a 21-point drubbing of Villanova, holding it to 36 total points. Meanwhile, Oregon snapped a two-game losing streak and now sits a game above .500 after a win over Portland on Wednesday.
From an outsider’s perspective, Baylor should beat Oregon handedly. The Ducks’ defense ranks 232nd in 3-point defense and 285th in defending the 2.
On the flip side, Baylor’s defense is elite and its constant pressure can be suffocating at times. It ranks fourth in the country in turnover rate.
But Oregon actually matches up decently well with Baylor here — enough to keep it close, that is. It has the athleticism and length to disrupt the Bears inside the paint. All eyes will be on N’Faly Dante, who is slowly increasing his workload and should give Flo Thamba and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua fits down low.
This game will ultimately come down to Quincy Guerrier and Will Richardson, who have been inconsistent this season for the Ducks.
Guerrier transferred from Syracuse and struggled to start the season, failing to reach double digits all year until Dec. 12. Meanwhile, Richardson is the star of the offense and shoots 46.7% from 3. But in losses, he’s practically nonexistent.
If you watched the Baylor-Villanova game, you saw the Wildcats’ offense create good looks but fail to convert. Oregon should be able to emulate similar chances and keep this game close.
Back the Ducks with the points in Baylor’s first true road game of the season.
Pick: Oregon +8 (Play to +7)
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