College Basketball Odds & Picks: CBI Preview, Including Favorite First-Round Upsets & Underdogs
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Jason Carter (Ohio)
Mike Calabrese: The NCAA Tournament seems to suck up all the basketball oxygen this time of year, leaving what’s left for the NIT. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t value to be minded from the College Basketball Invitation (CBI).
The CBI kicks off action at noon on Saturday, and the 14th-installment actually presents some interesting intersectional matchups right off the bat.
In lieu of a full rundown, Keg and I figured we’d provide an upset we foresee in the first round, the favorite we’re putting out money behind and one trendy underdog worth a flyer.
Top Round-One Upsets
Boston University +120 over UNC Greensboro
Mike Calabrese: The Terriers have stellar star power for a mid-major.
Sukhmail Mathon dominated the Patriot League down the stretch, finishing the season averaging a double-double (15.1 PPG, 10.2 RPG). He provides BU with offensive stability and stout play on the glass.
Javante McCoy gives the Terriers that boom-or-bust energy that could push BU right past UNCG. McCoy went off in the Patriot League Tournament, dropping 56 points in two games.
Check in on the status of Walter Whyte, who missed the Terriers’ last game with an ankle injury. If White is healthy, this offense can cook and should outgun the Spartans.
Northern Colorado +180 over Florida Atlantic
Keg: The Northern Colorado defense is one of the worst in the country; I just want to get that out of the way right now. I know how bad its defense is; it’s absolutely a liability.
But with two teams who both love to push the pace matching up, I expect this game to be an absolute shootout.
And in a shootout, I think the Bears have a great chance to pull off the upset here. They are one of the most effective shooting teams in the country, ranking ninth in effective field goal percentage and top-25 in both 3- and 2-point shooting.
Back the Bears to shoot the lights out in the first round. I would take Northern Colorado at +150 or better.
Favorites We Like
Mike Calabrese: One thing I love to target in tournament play is a team that protects the basketball. Ohio turns the ball over just about 10 times per game (34th) and turns opponents over 14 times per game (59th).
When you fold in the Bobcats’ explosiveness from 3-point range (9.3 3PM, 26th), I foresee them blowing past their first two opponents with ease.
Mark Sears, in particular, is the kind of player to hitch your wagon to in a tournament setting. The sophomore combo guard averages nearly 20 points, six rebounds and four assists per game, while shooting over 40% from 3 and 90% from the charity stripe.
I’ll back this star at this price.
Keg: The Blue Raiders have been impressive all season, as they finished 23-10 while also winning the Conference-USA East division. Unfortunately, they ran into the likely-Cinderella squad of UAB and Jordan “Jelly” Walker.
Middle Tennessee has been efficient on both ends of the court all year, but it won games due in large part to its defense. The Blue Raiders have a scoring margin of +7.2 on the year and are forcing an average of 15.1 turnovers per game.
They are also ranked in the top 60 nationally in blocked shot and steal percentage. I think that lockdown defense can provide them success in this tourney, just as it has all year.
On the offensive end ,the Blue Raiders have had issues at times, but with three different players averaging in double digits, their offensive output isn’t a concern for me.
Throughout the year, MTSU was one of the best teams in a challenging conference, and its defense led it to some big wins against some impressive offensive units.
Regardless of Middle Tennessee’s matchups throughout this tournament, I believe this team can hold its own against any squad.
Back These Underdogs
Mike Calabrese: The Seahawks spent the majority of the season in the catbird seat in the CAA.
But their game script was familiar.
UNCW would fall behind, use its press to get back into it, and pull out games in the closing minutes. It finally got burned by this recipe and failed to capture the CAA’s automatic bid.
Offensively, the Seahawks have three high-scoring guards who combine to average 40 points per game. Jaylen Sims, in particular, can take games over, and did so on numerous occasions this season.
If they can sneak past VMI in a shootout in the first round, I foresee a Cinderella run to the finals for UNCW.
Keg: I agree with Calabrese on the Seahawks, and once I saw the line at double the price on William Hill Nevada — vs. what was posted elsewhere — I knew there was no way I could pass it up.
As he said, a trio of high-scoring guards make up a majority of the offense for the Seahawks. But the team as a whole is the 72nd-most experienced unit in all of college basketball.
And with a head coach who has already won CAA Coach of the Year in just his second season, I expect the Seahawks to be one of the most motivated teams in the CBI.
The Seahawks also rarely make mistakes, averaging just 10.4 turnovers per game. On the defensive end, they have given opposing teams fits, forcing an average of 17.9 fouls and 13.6 turnovers per game.