College Basketball Pick & Roll: Calabrese & McGrath’s 4 Best Bets for Saturday, Including Binghamton vs. UConn
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- The Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament takes place on Saturday at Mohegan Sun with two top-20 matchups.
- Meanwhile, UConn takes on Binghamton and VCU looks to hold off a feisty mid-major.
- Mike Calabrese and Tanner McGrath provide two best bets each for Saturday's slate.
Our two-man show picked up right where they left off last season, getting things started with a 3-1 week.
This week, our Action Network analysts Mike Calabrese and Tanner McGrath are back with four plays spanning from action involving the top 25 all the way down the board to the most obscure mid-majors.
So, check out their favorite “Picks” and “Roll” into a profitable Saturday.
McGrath’s Top 2 Saturday Picks
Villanova vs. Tennessee
This is a rather contrarian play, but I think Villanova is being undervalued in this neutral-court spot.
This is a Villanova team that was the consensus No. 4 team in the country before losing to UCLA. In that game, the Wildcats were up four with 90 seconds left before UCLA pulled its Bruin magic.
Nova is still really, really good. The Wildcats are top-100 in the country in experience and returned almost 70% of their minutes from last season. So far, the team is 26th in scoring despite playing at the 336th-fastest tempo. The ‘Cats are absurdly efficient on offense.
Meanwhile, do we really trust Tennessee? This team was highly valued because of its defense last season, but the Vols faltered down the stretch. Tennessee went just 10-7 in SEC play, lost to Alabama in the SEC Tournament and then, got upset by Oregon State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
In all of those losses, the Vols’ defense floundered.
Barnes was also tasked with replacing three starters and over 50% of his minutes played. Tennessee brought in some talented newcomers, particularly shooters, but I’m not convinced the team has meshed yet. The Vols blew out two pathetic in-state schools, but this will be their first big test.
Both are going to chuck from deep, as over 44% of both Villanova’s and Tennessee’s points this season have come from beyond the arc. The Wildcats are longer at both the 1 and the 2 positions and they also shoot better from out there.
I’ll take Nova to win outright in this matchup.
Pick: Villanova ML (-150 or better)
Purdue vs. North Carolina
Purdue doesn’t play at a very fast pace, as its just 239th in tempo this season. However, the Boilermakers’ offensive train has been humming.
Purdue is second in offensive efficiency, 13th in eFG% and has scored 90+ points in all three games this season. Granted, it was against lower-echelon competition, but Purdue is rolling right now and it has the offensive personnel to out-score anyone in the country.
On the other side, North Carolina isn’t quite the offensive powerhouse Purdue is, but we know the Tar Heels will run. North Carolina has ranked inside the top 60 in tempo every season since Roy Williams became coach, and it took the 23rd-highest percentage of shots in transition last year.
I’m aware of the coaching change in Chapel Hill, but considering Hubert Davis has been on the UNC staff for almost a decade, I’m not worried about their style. UNC ranks 47th in tempo through three games this season.
Plus, it’s not like UNC is excellent defensively. It currently ranks outside the top 100 in defensive efficiency.
These two teams are a combined 4-2 to the over this season. So, between Purdue’s offensive prowess and North Carolina’s fast pace of play, I’m looking for a shootout at Mohegan Sun on Saturday afternoon.
Pick: Over 153
Calabrese’s Top 2 Saturday Picks
Binghamton vs. UConn
At the risk of stating the obvious, not every mid-major is constructed in the same way. The days of pesky mid-majors relying on the 3-point shot as a magic equalizer are long gone.
You can win with pace, a system offense and even in some cases, size. In the case of Binghamton, the thing that jumps out to me is its size, or to put a finer point on it, its lack thereof.
The Bears don’t start a single player over 6-foot-6, which is a problem when you’re facing a nasty UConn frontcourt. The Huskies sport the sixth-highest offensive rebounding percentage in the country, a stat that is not a flash in the pan. Last season, UConn finished fourth nationally in the same statistic.
The Huskies’ offensive glass prowess is predicated on two things, an aggressive mindset and bouncy power forwards that check in and out of the game like line shifts in hockey.
UConn has four players at 6-foot-9 and they all attack the glass relentlessly. This work on the offensive glass has led to 18.7 second-chance opportunities per game (3rd) for the Huskies in 2021.
They’ve accomplished these gaudy rebound statistics against three undersized teams (CCSU, Coppin State and Long Island), which is why I’m confident in this game staying on script against the undersized Bears.
UConn is 2-1 ATS thus far, with a pair of 50+ point victories. Its lone ATS loss came against Coppin State and that was the result of the Eagles taking twice as many foul shots as UConn did. Even so, UConn still won by 35 points, so it’s not as if it laid an egg.
Even if Binghamton replicates the Coppin State performance and gets to the line early and often, the Bears are one of the worst foul-shooting teams at 63.4% (282nd).
I would play this all the way up to UConn-34.5.
Pick: UConn -31.5 (Play to -34.5)
Chattanooga vs. VCU
VCU is up to its old tricks. The Rams are bringing the havoc and turning teams over on 23.3% of their possessions (23rd).
Even when teams avoid turnovers, they’re being sped up outside of their comfort zone. This is born out in the shooting stats that are simply ghastly against VCU:
- Opp Effective FG%: 33.9% (3rd)
- Opp Shooting %: 30.4% (3rd)
- Opp 3P%: 19.0% (6th)
When I’m looking to fade VCU, what I need more than anything is a backcourt I can rely upon to break the press and withstand the pressure.
The Chattanooga Mocs fit the bill perfectly. David Jean-Baptiste is now starting his fifth season and is posting the lowest turnover numbers of his career despite his high usage rate.
Malachi Smith joins DJB in the backcourt and has been equally careful with the basketball. This is why the Mocs are 10th-nationally in turnover percentage (10.9%).
Dating back to last year, with essentially the same roster, UTC is 10-4 in its last 14 road games straight up. The Mocs’ ATS record is identical at 10-4 in those spots, as well.
As I mentioned the Mocs brought back most of their minutes from last season, but they did land a major transfer to help with size on both ends of the floor: Silvio De Sousa.
The former Kansas Jayhawk and four-star recruit is already chipping in meaningful minutes with splits of 7.3/4.7/1.3 on 62.5% shooting from the field.
I like the veteran team that likes playing on the road to hang around for 40 minutes and flirt with the upset in Richmond.
Pick: Chattanooga +4
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