College Basketball Best Bets: 5 Top Selections for November 20, Including the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images
- Two top-20 matchups take center stage at Mohegan Sun on Saturday as Villanova takes on Tennessee and Purdue faces UNC.
- Meanwhile, Eastern Michigan travels to East Lansing to take on Michigan State.
- Our staff provides five best bets across three games.
While it doesn’t compare to the two top-five matchups from last weekend, the second Saturday of the college basketball season still has a juicy slate, including two top-20 battles from Mohegan Sun and an in-state Michigan battle.
While making some cash and finding value is important, it’s always a plus to be able to watch some solid basketball along the way.
With that in mind, our staff has five selections for three games to help you pad your wallet.
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.|
Villanova vs. Tennessee
As impressive as Tennessee freshman point guard Kennedy Chandler has been in his two games for the Vols, he’s in for a reality check and has some regression coming against his first real opponent on Saturday.
He’ll face a much tougher defense. Plus, Villanova head coach Jay Wright will constantly throw different looks and players his way to make it difficult for him in his first big collegiate game.
The Wildcats are as experienced and as well-coached as any team in the country. While the defense has some holes that could be exposed later on this season, Tennessee’s offense isn’t as good as KenPom suggests, or as good as it has looked thus far through two games.
3-point shooting regression is coming for both offenses here, but Villanova can grind this game to a halt and force Tennessee to execute in the half court. I’m not convinced the Vols will be able to score as consistently as the Wildcats will.
You’re getting a cheaper line on Villanova here because of how it collapsed at UCLA last week, but the Bruins have been late-game miracle workers for more than a year now. Villanova will learn from that collapse — as well-coached teams do.
Depth remains a concern for the Wildcats long term, but given their experience and free-throw shooting edge, it’s a good spot to back Wright and the Wildcats by at least one possession.
Pick: Villanova -2.5 (Play to -3)
Villanova vs. Tennessee
By D.J. James
Villanova vs. Tennessee is perhaps the best college basketball game of the week. Nova lost a close, early-season matchup to UCLA in overtime, while Tennessee is 2-0 after some tune-up games.
Tennessee comes into this game with one of the strongest defenses in the country. The Vols had the fifth-ranked adjusted defensive efficiency in 2020-2021.
They currently rank sixth this season and are third in steals through two games. The addition of Justin Powell revamps the defensive side of the ball after the losses of Yves Pons, Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson. Returning John Fulkerson also helps in the post.
Villanova is a different bird, though. The Wildcats are not nearly as strong as the Volunteers on the defensive side of the ball but they play at the 335th-slowest tempo in basketball, per KenPom. They hold the ball on average for 19.1 seconds on offense and force slow offensive possessions for their opponents at 17.6 seconds.
This is where the edge lies in this matchup. Villanova will slow the game’s tempo down, while Tennessee will play stout defense and force more turnovers than Villanova is used to.
Take the under in this game. It will likely come down to the wire in a low-scoring affair.
Pick: Under 142 (Play to 137)
Purdue vs. North Carolina
By Mike Randle
Purdue has the look of a Final Four team, with high efficiency at both ends of the floor. The Boilermakers rank second in adjusted offensive efficiency and 19th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.
They are dominating on the interior with 7-foot-4 Zach Edey (18.7 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 2.1 BPG) and Trevion Williams (11.7 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 3.0 APG). In addition, they are scorching the nets from deep, shooting 41.7% from beyond the arc.
North Carolina also enters this game 3-0, but looks a notch below the strong Tar Heel teams of the past. The Heels’ offense has scored points (90.3 PPG) but much of that has been produced from transition.
Their defense has been suspect and they are not forcing turnovers. They are also shooting below 70% from the free throw line, while Purdue is at almost 78%.
New head coach Hubert Davis was certainly the best choice to succeed Roy Williams, but there is going to be an inevitable adjustment period. North Carolina is actually 0-3 against the spread despite winning its first three games.
The Tar Heels aren’t ready for a team as strong as the Boilermakers and I think Purdue makes a big statement at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.
Pick: Purdue -6 (Play to -7)
Purdue vs. North Carolina
Going into the season, I only had one future to win the National Championship. No, it wasn’t my beloved Tar Heels. It was the Purdue Boilermakers.
With the return of Trevion Williams, the emergence of Zach Edey and stud Jaden Ivey flying around the court, Purdue will be able to contend with the best of them this season.
The Boilermakers are incredibly stacked at all five starter positions. They also added more depth with two top-100 recruits coming into the season.
This team is loaded.
While the competition has been relatively easy so far this year, it must be noted that Purdue is still taking care of business, winning by an average of 25 points or more.
Purdue is using its height and size advantage with the help of two monsters on the block. They are shooting above 60% from inside the arc.
The attention paid to the post game has been freeing up the shooters on the outside, as Purdue is knocking down from deep at a 40% clip. This extra spacing is giving more room for Ivey to cook, as he has been a maestro with the ball in his hands.
While UNC is nothing compared to the recent competition Purdue has faced, the Tar Heels will still struggle to contain the Purdue bigs. Edey alone is already rounding out to be one of the best big men in the country, shooting over 70% from the floor and blocking everything in sight.
The North Carolina bigs will have their hands full and it might be too much of an ask for the guards to take over the game with Ivey being able to cook all night.
I grabbed Purdue -6 and would play this up to -7.5 if the number continues to climb toward tip off.
Pick: Purdue -6 (Play to -7.5)
Eastern Michigan vs. Michigan State
If you read Stuckey’s article on early-season undervalued college basketball teams, you’d know about Eastern Michigan being “against the spread darlings early on.”
Stuckey made a great call, as the Eagles are 3-0 ATS so far. EMU snagged a six-point loss against Indiana as 24.5-point dogs and a one-point loss to NKU as eight-point dogs.
New EMU coach Stan Heath has already integrated his array of newcomers. Transfers Noah Farrakhan (ECU) and Monty Scott (Portland State) have taken over the show in the backcourt, both scoring at volume with efficiency.
But that’s not to take away from the Eagles’ top scorer from last season. Bryce McBride has dropped double digits in all three games this season, including 23 in the win against Illinois State.
I’m looking for that trio of guards to target an undersized Tyson Walker (6-foot-0) and an inexperienced defender in Max Christie (.976 points per possession allowed in half-court sets, 25th percentile).
Speaking of Walker, he’s struggled. He has yet to score more than nine points and has recorded a 13:9 assist-to-turnover ratio. Walker is supposed to be the pure point guard that Tom Izzo was missing with Rocket Watts last season, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Others have stepped up for Izzo, specifically Joey Hauser and Marcus Bingham Jr. However, EMU has a lengthy front-court rotation in 7-foot-0 Axel Okongo, 6-foot-10 Mo Njie and 6-foot-10 Thomas Binelli. I’m banking on those three containing the Sparty big men.
Bart Torvik has this line closer to 20.5., so there is value from a pure numbers perspective. But I believe EMU has the offense and the personnel to keep this well within the number.
Plus, it probably won’t hurt to continue fading the Big Ten.