College Basketball Odds & Picks: Calabrese’s 2 Best Bets for Monday, Jan. 31
Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Mate Okros (Drexel)
Each week, to coincide with the release of the Monday edition of the Big Bets On Campus college basketball podcast, I’ll be sharing my top two plays.
This week, I’m backing one mid-major that is running away from their competition and fading another that is due for a loss after an improbable 8-0 start in conference play.
Drexel vs. UNC Wilmington
The CAA is one of those leagues primed for an unpredictable conference tournament in five weeks.
The Seahawks lead the CAA with a perfect 8-0 record, but it hasn’t come easy. UNCW has won its last five games by six points or less, including come-from-behind victories over James Madison, Towson and Northeastern (0-9 in CAA play).
The Seahawks fell behind significantly in all three of those games before relying on their defense to create turnovers and opportunities for themselves to score in transition.
What this amounts to is the fact that UNCW has been playing with fire for a while now.
Drexel, meanwhile, is sitting at 4-4 in the CAA with three near misses on its resume. Four-point losses to Delaware and Hofstra were followed up with a recent three-point defeat to Towson. Those opponents represent the second, third and fourth ranked teams in the conference to date.
Across the board, Drexel is a solid team. The Dragons can shoot well from the floor (45.9%, 67th), they keep teams off of the offensive glass (DReb 76.4%, 71st) and they don’t turn the ball over very often (12 TO, 93rd).
Where they’ve been stung in close games has been opponents’ shooting touch. Teams are connecting on over 46% of their shots from the field (300th) and have been great in late-game situations against the Dragons.
It’s one of the reasons why they have the lowest “luck” rating in the CAA, according to KenPom. In the luck department, they check in at 321st. Where does UNCW rate? Try third, nationally.
What I really like about this Drexel team is that it’s led by three seniors who average double figures.
Camren Wynter, in particular, has been a by-any-means-necessary contributor all season long, averaging a line of 15.7/5.3/4.6. The Dragons will need him to provide a 20+ point shot in the arm to get it done tonight on the road, but he’s done just that in three of his last six games.
I’m banking on a luck regression in both directions, and UNCW to suffer its first loss of the season in conference play.
Pick: Drexel +1.5
South Dakota State vs. North Dakota
With 358 Division 1 schools competing, it’s pretty rare to find a larger differential in the KenPom ratings than we have between the Jackrabbits and Fighting Hawks. SDSU is 270 spots higher than North Dakota, and just crushed them at home by 35 points.
For those of you that don’t watch much Summit League basketball, I have to say, you’re missing out when it comes to the Jacks.
The pride of Brookings, South Dakota is leading the nation in both 3-point shooting percentage and shooting efficiency. They’ve opened league play on a 10-0 run, averaging 88 points per game.
Douglas Wilson and Baylor Scheierman have teamed up to average 34 points per game against league foes, beating teams from inside and outside the arc while helping the Jacks take 21 foul shots per game.
North Dakota, meanwhile, is pitiful offensively. It ranks in the 300s in effective field goal percentage, 3-point shooting and shooting from the field.
Making matters worse is that the Fighting Hawks haven’t put up much of a, well, fight on defense either. They create turnovers at the eighth-worst clip in the entire country.
The Jacks have won going away lately, covering three of their last four with margins of 15, 18 and 35.
Expect more of the same in this rematch, and take heart in the fact that SDSU is the Summit League team at the betting window since 2019. The Jacks have covered 60% of their league games during that time span.
Pick: South Dakota State -16.5 (Play up to 19.5)
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