College Basketball Odds, Picks, Predictions for Western Kentucky vs. Minnesota: Betting Guide to This Non-Conference Showdown

College Basketball Odds, Picks, Predictions for Western Kentucky vs. Minnesota: Betting Guide to This Non-Conference Showdown article feature image

Brian Peterson, Star Tribune via Getty Images. Pictured: Ben Johnson

  • The new-look Minnesota Golden Gophers take on Rick Stansbury and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
  • The Golden Gophers almost fell to UMKC in their opener, while the Hilltoppers rallied down 14 points vs. Alabama State.
  • Keg breaks down this matchup and offers his top selection.

Western Kentucky vs. Minnesota Odds

Friday, Nov. 12
06:30 p.m. ET
Western Kentucky Odds
-110o / -110u
Minnesota Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

Minnesota will meet Western Kentucky on Friday in the inaugural Asheville Championship in North Carolina. Both teams are still trying to find their footing after they got a little more than they bargained for in their first game. 

Western Kentucky rallied from a 14-point, first-half deficit to defeat visiting Alabama State 79-74 to begin the season. The double-figure scoring efforts were huge for the Hilltoppers. Jairus Hamilton led the way with 21 points, while Dayvion McKnight (19), Josh Anderson (12) and Jaylen Butz (12) followed. 

Meanwhile, Minnesota jumped out to a huge lead over UMKC, But allowed it to fade away in the second half, allowing a 17-8 run that brought the Kangaroos within 54-52 with 7:42 to play.

Over the last seven minutes of the game, the Gophers allowed just four points and pulled away for a 71-56 victory. Jamison Battle had 18 points for Minnesota, while Eylijah Stephens and Payton Willis chipped in 13 each. 

Now against tougher competition on a neutral court, which one of these teams can take the next step and move to 2-0 on the season?

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Editor's Note: Zion Harmon (personal) is out tonight, according to Rick Stansbury

The Hilltoppers entered this year still working to adjust to life without Charles Bassey, who finished fourth in the nation in blocked shots, fifth in rebounding and 12th in field-goal percentage last year.

But Rick Stansbury has two returning starters and brings in some elite talent via the transfer portal. Western may play a different game without Bassey, but I wouldn't be surprised if it improves from last season. 

Along with returning starters like Luke Frampton (7.4 PPG) and the transfer Hamilton (6.5 PPG) — who started his career at Boston College but played last season for Maryland — Stansbury brings in one of the best true freshman in the country. 

Zion Harmon is rated in the 247Sports Composite as the No. 10 point guard in the country and the No. 1 player in Kentucky. Harmon played at Marshall County High School and was also rated the No. 58 player in the class of 2021. I expect him to surprise some people not just in the C-USA, but nationally. 

The Hilltoppers didn't look great in their first game, but it was encouraging to see players I wasn't sure of step up and make an impact — namely McKnight and Anderson.

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Minnesota Golden Gophers

Richard Pitino’s eight-year run as Minnesota came to an end in the offseason, Stepping into his place is Xavier assistant Ben Johnson, a Minneapolis native and former Minnesota captain who Pitino hired in 2013 to be one of his original assistants.

It didn't take long for Johnson to realize just how big of a rebuild he was in for in his first year. Just two players from last year's roster returned: Isaiah Ihnen and sixth-year forward Eric Curry.

The Gophers’ other 10 scholarship players scattered to Texas, Vanderbilt, DePaul, New Mexico, Utah, Iowa State, Oregon State, Pacific, Northern Illinois and St. Thomas.

So not only did Johnson have to bring in an entire coaching staff, he had to bring in an entirely new roster in fewer than eight months. I'll give credit to Johnson, who had to do most of the recruiting on his own while also building his staff. He left no stone unturned.

This year, Minnesota has 14 new players from 13 different schools from 10 different states who played at six different levels last year (Division I, Division II, Division III, NJCAA, prep school and high school).

Things didn't get easier for Johnson either once his team was assembled, Parker Fox, a high-flying Division II All-American who was one of Johnson’s first targets, along with one of only two returning players in Ihnen, had ACL tears before the season could even get underway.

Minnesota entered the season with just 10 healthy scholarship players and two walk-ons. 

Two of the most impactful players for the Gophers were expected to be Stephens (16.4 PPG) and Willis, who averaged 8.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per game as a starter for the 2019-20 Gophers. Willis made the move to College of Charleston last year but now returns with three years of high-major experience.

In their first game both showed their importance to the team as both finished with 13 points.

Western Kentucky vs. Minnesota Betting Pick

With as many changes as the Gophers have gone through in the offseason, I think it will take some time before they are able to establish themselves and gel as a team.

I'm betting the Hilltoppers at -2.5 and would bet them up to -3.5

Pick: Western Kentucky -2.5 (Play to -3.5)

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