Saturday College Basketball Picks and Predictions: Our Top 5 Best Bets, Including Michigan vs. Minnesota (Dec. 11)
Nic Antaya/Getty Images. Pictured: Frankie Collins (left) and Eli Brooks (right).
- Saturday's college basketball slate is loaded with top-25 matchups as the conference schedule heats up.
- Our betting staff has highlighted their top 5 picks from the enormous Saturday slate, which includes two bets on Kentucky vs. Notre Dame.
- Check out their comprehensive betting analysis and predictions for all 5 games below, beginning with Nebraska vs. Auburn and closing with Michigan vs. Minnesota.
With only one college football game taking place on Saturday, we are starting to wade into “College Basketball Saturday” territory.
Luckily, our staff came prepared to attack the college hoops slate, along with the college football slate.
The action starts early with a Power Six battle between Auburn and Nebraska at 11:30 a.m. ET. Then, as an appetizer for the evening slate, St. Bonaventure takes on UConn in what should be an intriguing matchup on the East Coast.
As the night starts to come to a close, Notre Dame hosts Kentucky before Michigan takes on Minnesota in a nighttime Big Ten showdown.
So, be sure to check out all five of our betting picks and breakdowns for Saturday’s games 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 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.|
Nebraska vs. Auburn
Auburn’s frontcourt rotation is massive. Between 7-foot-1 Walker Kessler, 6-foot-10 Jabari Smith, and 6-foot-11 Dylan Cardwell, the Tigers are third nationally in block rate (20.4%) and top-30 nationally in 2-point defense (43.3%).
Nebraska’s frontcourt rotation — which consists of 6-foot-9 Derrick Walker, 6-foot-9 Lat Mayen, and 6-foot-5 CJ Wilcher — is about to run into a brick wall. The Cornhuskers try to score on the interior due some horrendous perimeter shooting (25th percentile in spot-up PPP, 349th in 3P%), but they’ll struggle Saturday morning.
Nebraska could try and get out in transition, as they’ve done at the 27th-highest rate nationally (30% of shots come in transition). But Auburn ranks 15th in transition eFG% allowed (41.1%) and 34th in transition PPP allowed (.802). So, no Husker luck there.
Also, Nebraska can’t rebound, ranking outside the top 300 in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate. The Huskers will be dominated on the glass by this monstrous and athletic War Eagle team.
It’s cool that Nebraska has Alonzo Verge and Bryce McGowens, who could maybe beat up on the 5-foot-11 Wendell Green. But with those two combining to shoot 43% from the field with a 100 ORtg, Nebraska couldn’t cover seven against Michigan or 11.5 against Indiana.
Meanwhile, behind Smith’s 17 PPG and 121 ORtg, Auburn’s covered four straight as favorites. I don’t see how Nebraska scores, and I’ll back Smith and Co. to eat on Saturday morning.
Pick: Auburn -13.5 (Play to -14)
St. Bonaventure vs. UConn
This game, from a total perspective, boils down to two key elements: pace and rebounding.
UConn is pumping in over 82 points per game this season while playing at an aggressive pace (74.6 possessions per game, 74th). It attacks the rim, and when they miss, the Huskies are absolutely elite on the offensive glass, ranking third in both offensive rips per game and offensive rebounding percentage.
The Bonnies not only have the game plan (hint: snail’s pace), but they have the veteran personnel to slow things way, way down. St. Bonaventure averages just 69 possessions per game (271st) and it’s at its best when playing in the 60s.
Fewer possessions will make limiting those second-chance scoring opportunities an absolute necessity against a UConn front line that rotates in bouncy power forwards like a hockey line change.
The Bonnies aren’t elite on the glass but they’re good enough to put up a fight with Osun Osunniyi anchoring things in the middle and both Jaren Holmes and Jalen Adaway averaging over seven rebounds per game from their wing positions.
The Bonnies have played up twice this year (Clemson, Marquette), and both games came in under this 136.5 total, so I’m familiar with the game script they’ll be gunning for here.
It’s also worth noting that UConn has throttled its weak competition this season, but against projected tournament teams, the under has paid out in three of its four with sub-125 performances against both Michigan State and West Virginia.
Pick: Under 136.5 (Play to 134.5)
Kentucky vs. Notre Dame
By Doug Ziefel
John Calipari’s squad is constructed drastically different than how the Wildcats were last season. The different squad has also produced drastically different results. Kentucky is off to a 7-1 start and is eager to prove it’s a contender after an opening loss to Duke.
In this matchup against the middling Fighting Irish, th Wildcats will have a flurry of advantages on both ends of the court.
Kentucky has become the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the country, and that is because of one man: Oscar Tshiebwe. The junior transfer from West Virginia has been dominant on the inside, averaging 15 points and 15 rebounds per game while shooting almost 66% from the field.
The Wildcats have played through the strengths of Tshiebwe and are generally a team that gets the ball down low and convert well above national average. Though, in this matchup, they will be facing a Notre Dame team that is 356th in defending opponents’ 3-point attempts.
Lastly, the influx of veterans has made Kentucky a very solid defensive team. It’s 56th in adjusted defensive efficiency and has held opponents to just a 43.5% effective field goal percentage, which ranks 22nd nationally.
Mike Brey’s squad may be potent offensively, but it lacks the size to bang with Kentucky down low and ranks 284th in effective field goal percentage allowed.
The Wildcats have the potential to run away with this one and cover in the process.
Pick: Kentucky -3.5 (Play to -5)
Kentucky vs. Notre Dame
I really believe this is a bit of a last stand-type of game for Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish. After taking Notre Dame basketball to new heights in recent memory, including back-to-back Elite Eights in 2015 and 2016, Brey has struggled to field a winning team the last three seasons.
He’d be the first to admit that a lot of that is on him, and he basically said heading into this season that the Irish needed to get back to the NCAA Tournament in 2021-22.
Well, the start to this season has not been encouraging. The Irish are 3-4, and while the losses have all been to quality opponents, this group has continued to come up short in late-game situations.
Meanwhile, after opening the season with a loss to Duke, Kentucky has rattled off seven wins in a row, all against inferior competition at Rupp Arena. John Calipari has taken a bit of flak for the weak nonconference schedule, and it’s hard to know a whole lot about this Wildcat team thus far in the year.
Notre Dame will be inducting former star LaPhonso Ellis into its Ring of Honor at halftime, and I expect a rowdy Joyce Center crowd on Saturday afternoon. This will be the first true road game of the season for the young Kentucky roster.
I’m backing the Irish to come out swinging and take control of this game. Cormac Ryan, Prentiss Hubb, and Nate Laszewski are all capable shooters who have struggled early on in the season. I expect to see a bit of positive regression from that trio, which will definitely help the Irish offense.
I’ll take the four points and play the spread, but I expect Notre Dame to win this game outright, so would definitely endorse a play on the moneyline as well.
Pick: Notre Dame +4 (Play to +3)
Michigan vs. Minnesota
Michigan started out as one of the season’s most disappointing teams. After looking like a national title contender last season in Juwan Howard’s second year, it fell hard on its face out the gates this season.
While the defense has remained elite, ranking 11th in AdjD, per KenPom, the offense drastically dipped in production. Little ball movement and suspect shooting led to Michigan dropping games against opponents like Seton Hall, Arizona, and North Carolina.
UNC being the biggest eye-popper, as it has a horrific defense, and even Michigan couldn’t score on it.
My confidence was drastically depleting, until the Wolverines faced the vaunted San Diego State defense and scored at will — a glimmer of light in the resurgence of this offense.
Better yet, the offense has improved two games in a row as Michigan started to show some versatility with other players stepping up other than their leaders in Hunter Dickinson and Eli Brooks. Freshman stud Caleb Houstan took a much-needed step forward amongst others.
This spells doom for Minnesota, as it’s in the midst of a major overhaul. Losing its top six scorers from last season, it’s been scrambling to find any sort of scoring production. This will be easy to scheme for, as Michigan’s elite defense will look to shut down Jamison Battle.
With Minnesota being too stagnant to crack the Michigan defense and the Wolverines finding some much-needed offensive production, I expect this to be a blowout as the number implies.
Give me Michigan to cover.
Pick: Michigan -14.5
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