CBS Sports Classic Odds, Picks | 4 Best Bets for Saturday at MSG

CBS Sports Classic Odds, Picks | 4 Best Bets for Saturday at MSG article feature image

Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images. Pictured: Tyger Campbell & UCLA teammates

If you thought these early-season college basketball non-conference events were over, well you were wrong.

We get a holiday treat on Saturday as North Carolina takes on No. 23 Ohio State (3 p.m. ET) and No. 16 UCLA faces No. 13 Kentucky (5:15 p.m. ET) in the CBS Sports Classic from Madison Square Garden.

With four blue bloods in action at the World's Most Famous Arena, we thought it was best for us at The Action Network to dive deeper into both matchups by offering up our best bets in a stellar double preview.

Our Staff's CBS Sports Classic Best Bets

The picks in the table below represent the CBS Sports Classic bets that our staff members are targeting on Saturday. Click on any of the following picks to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.

North Carolina vs. Ohio State

Saturday, Dec. 17
3 p.m. ET
North Carolina 1H PK

By Cooper Van Tatenhove

North Carolina and Ohio State will face off in the CBS Sports Classic for the third time on Saturday afternoon.

The Tar Heels have won both meetings, with the most recent being a 86-72 victory in 2017.

North Carolina will be looking to bounce back from a poor performance last year, getting blown out by Kentucky 98-69.

On the other side, the CBS Sports Classic has been kind to the Buckeyes of late. Ohio State has won three straight dating back to 2018.

This matchup presents a huge opportunity for North Carolina, which hasn’t had a victory over a team inside the top 100 since its November 20th home win against James Madison.

For North Carolina to take advantage of this opportunity, it will need to utilize its size advantage early in this one.

This size advantage is due to the presence of First Team All-American Armando Bacot. The Tar Heels' center will be going up against an Ohio State small-ball lineup that at times has no player over 6-foot-8 on the floor.

North Carolina is at its best when it can get to the free-throw line (13th nationally in FTA/FGA), and there are few players better in the country at this than Bacot.

Bacot ranks 14th among all D-I players in fouls-drawn per 40 minutes at 7.1.

Additionally, Bacot and North Carolina will be able to limit Ohio State on the glass, an area that the Buckeyes have used to heighten their offensive efficiency this season.

The Buckeyes rank sixth in the country in offensive rebound percentage (38.9%). However, Bacot is one of the best rebounders in the country, with a defensive rebound rate of 20.6% and an offensive rebound rate of 17.5% (11th among D-I players).

Look for Bacot to lead a highly-motivated Tar Heels team to a hot start.

Pick: North Carolina 1H PK (Play to -1)

North Carolina ML

By Charlie DiSturco

It's been a tough start to the season for North Carolina, but this is a huge game for Hubert Davis and the Tar Heels.

Expectations were too high to begin the season because of the NCAA tournament run, but since their four straight losses in the middle of non-conference play, UNC has fallen back down to Earth and enter as a near-PK against Ohio State.

These are two of the top-10 offenses — adjusted efficiency wise, per Kenpom — but I think the edge lies with the Tar Heels here. Similar to my cap when Ohio State faced off with Duke, the interior poses too heavy of a threat for Zed Key and Co.

Bacot and Pete Nance both start at 6-foot-11 and even Leaky Black is a stout 6-foot-9. The trio are taller than the Buckeyes' tallest big, Key, and should dominate the glass on both ends of the floor Saturday afternoon.

North Carolina's offense thrives from attacking the rim and either finishing or drawing contact. That's how you take down an Ohio State squad that's length poses more of a threat on the perimeter than it does inside.

Neither team forces turnovers — both sit outside the top 300 — which should play favorably into Caleb Love and R.J. Davis' hands. Both are erratic but talented scorers.

I trust the Tar Heels to get the job done inside Madison Square Garden, bouncing back with their first Quadrant I win of the season.

Pick: North Carolina ML (-120 or Better)

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UCLA vs. Kentucky

Saturday, Dec. 17
5:15 p.m. ET

By D.J. James

UCLA and Kentucky come together for the CBS Sports Classic. The Bruins opened at -2 for this game at Madison Square Garden.

The matchup will come down to the wire, but the Bruins are favorites for a reason. Yes, Jaime Jaquez Jr. is likely not going to be able to stop Oscar Tshiebwe, but Kentucky does not have the reliable scoring options that the Bruins have.

Jaylen Clark and Jaquez are both shooting over 60% from 2-point range.

Expect one side of the floor to open up where Tshiebwe is not.

David Singleton, Tyger Campbell and Clark are also all deep threats. Campbell may not be as efficient as the other two (at only 33%), but he will knock down shots when open.

Kentucky is allowing opponents to shoot 32%. The Cats also yield a 3-point attempt percentage of 36%, so UCLA will have chances out there, even if the Bruins predominantly manufacture points inside.

Now, Jaquez’s game may be limited, but Adem Bona is 6-foot-10, so this is a size option to throw at Tshiebwe on defense. He is a tremendous shot-blocker, so it would not be surprising to see him be a big factor in this game.

Offensively for the Wildcats, Cason Wallace and Sahvir Wheeler have turnover troubles, at times. The Bruins rank 15th in defensive turnover percentage, so the edge with the guards in this game definitely goes to UCLA.

The Bruins should get off to a hot start from deep and contain the Kentucky backcourt, giving them a first-half boost.

Pick: UCLA 1H PK (Play to -3)


By Tanner McGrath

This entire game will be played on the interior. Both teams rank above the 87th percentile in FGAs in the paint, although UCLA is shooting much better from that area.

Moreover, both teams have been high-volume and highly-efficient in the mid-range.

Surprisingly, neither team has been good at defending the paint or the mid-range. Both are solid at defending the rim, but loosen up past that.

This leads me toward a play on the over. But the problem is, both teams boast solid transition defenses, and neutral-court overs are a death sentence.

From a performance perspective, it’s hard not to back UCLA. Kentucky hasn’t impressed me this season, while the Bruins already look Final Four bound. And if anyone is up for a huge game, it’s Jaquez, who could dominate in an up-tempo, mid-range barnburner.

But the motivation angle pushes me toward Kentucky, as John Calipari’s squad badly needs an elite non-conference victory. And if you’re looking for which player will win in the painted area, I’d have to take Tshiebwe over Bona.

Historically, UCLA has owned this matchup, winning three of the past four, with all four games being wildly high-scoring.

I'd take UCLA -2, but it would be a small play that I'm not rushing to the sportsbook for.

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