College Basketball Odds & Best Bets: Our Top 3 Picks for Friday’s NCAAB Games, Including Georgia vs. Wake Forest
Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images. Pictured: Steve Forbes (Wake Forest)
- Friday's college basketball slate brings with it a number of solid games.
- Our college hoops staff came through with three best bets for this stellar schedule, including picks for Michigan State vs. Gonzaga and Georgia vs. Wake Forest.
- Check out all three of our best bets for Friday night's college basketball games below.
Welcome to the biggest day of the college hoops season so far.
Dive in below and get your popcorn ready.
Friday’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.|
Michigan State vs. Gonzaga
For my Big Ten conference preview, I ended my Michigan State analysis with:
“I also see value in the Spartans in a Nov. 11 matchup with Gonzaga, which is taking place on the USS Midway in San Diego. Michigan State should be catching close to 10 points, and I expect the experienced guards to handle a Bulldogs roster in flux — especially in a primetime game like this one.”
I stand by that take.
I’m cautiously optimistic about Michigan State’s upcoming season. The returns of Tyson Walker and A.J. Hoggard cannot be overstated, given how efficient the two were as passers (both finished top-15 nationally in assist rate) and how they stepped up as scorers later in the season.
I fully expect Walker to step into a much-bigger scoring role. He was a monster at Northeastern and showed flashes of offensive brilliance down the stretch last season.
This is a good situation for him, given there’s no clear No. 1 option and it’s his second season in Tom Izzo’s system.
I’m sure this star backcourt can handle a Gonzaga backcourt in flux. Andrew Nembhard is gone, leaving Chattanooga transfer Malachi Smith, freshman Nolan Hickman and Rasir Bolton to manage the offense.
That is a backcourt with huge upside. However, it’s not one that should blow out Izzo in an early-season, primetime, nationally-televised matchup from a warship.
The biggest weakness for the Spartans is in the frontcourt, where Michigan State lacks a monster center presence.
But Chet Holmgren got drafted, meaning Joey Hauser only has to handle Drew Timme (a tall-but-doable task). The Bulldogs’ interior defense is ripe for the taking.
I expect a hard-fought, close basketball game between two high-major powerhouses. Both KenPom and Bart Torvik project this spread closer to 8 than 11, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a one-possession game.
But all-in-all, I’ll play Sparty at +10 or better.
Akron vs. Mississippi State
By D.J. James
The Akron Zips took care of business by beating the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in overtime on Monday. SDSU has already played two games and defeated Boise State in another close one.
The Zips will play the Mississippi State Bulldogs on a neutral court in the Barstool Sports Invitational in Philadelphia.
Akron may have a small edge by being closer to the venue, but either way, home-court advantage will not play too much of a role in this one.
Akron comes into this one as 6.5-point underdogs at the opener. The Zips shouldn’t be.
Mississippi State does return the most effective members of its team. The Bulldogs played a heavy rotation of five players and used them in close games last year under Ben Howland.
Yes, they have a new coach, but it looks like that rotation may only be expanded to six or seven players.
This team ranked 123rd in defensive free throw attempts. Akron flourished in this regard last year. The Zips ranked seventh on offensive free throw attempts, and Xavier Castaneda is one player to watch, as he averaged nearly four free throws per game in 2021-2022.
John Groce and company should exploit the Bulldogs’ issues with fouling.
In addition, Akron brings in Trendon Hankerson from Northern Illinois, who averaged double digits and shot over 37% from deep over the course of his career (fifth-year senior). Castaneda also can shoot from the outside.
Mississippi State could not guard the arc well last season (30%), and this will roll over into this game.
Take the Zips at +6.5. Their offense has too much firepower for the Bulldogs.
Pick: Akron +6.5 (Play to +5)
Georgia vs. Wake Forest
Both Georgia and Wake Forest suffered a mass exodus of last season’s rosters. The Demon Deacons return just 44.5% of minutes from a season ago, while Georgia is second-to-last in the country, bringing back just 7.2% of its minutes.
And while Steve Forbes may have some things to figure out, he, at least, has the advantage of a somewhat established program, and has experience with his returning players.
Mike White, meanwhile, is in his second game ever as the head coach at Georgia. He returns the Bulldogs’ six best players from a season ago, but I think it’s important to remember that they went 6-26 overall last year.
Georgia struggled to hold off Western Carolina in its opening game — it did win by 13 in the end, but with eight minutes left in the game, Georgia led by just six.
Another result of the Western Carolina game is that the Bulldogs may be without one of their best players tomorrow night, as Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe suffered an ankle injury in the game.
Moncrieffe did not practice on Wednesday, and on Thursday morning, Coach White said his ankle was still swollen and he would likely not practice on Thursday.
The loss of Moncrieffe would be a significant blow to Georgia’s presence off the glass, which is already a bit questionable given the slight height advantage Wake has over the Bulldogs.
With or without him, I think Deacons can get the cover at home. Georgia is a young inexperienced team with a first-year head coach heading into the seventh-best home-court advantage in college basketball, per KenPom.
I would back the Demon Deacons as high as a 10-point favorite.