College Basketball Best Bets: 5 Top Selections for Thanksgiving Day, Including Louisville vs. Mississippi State
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
- We're giving thanks with Alabama vs. Iona and Maryland vs. Richmond on Thanksgiving Day.
- Also, Louisville takes on Mississippi State in the late game of the day.
- Our staff offers up their five best bets from these three games.
For many, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to watch football with family and/or friends.
But who needs the NFL when you have an appetizer, main course and dessert of college basketball?
Between the Battle 4 Atlantis, ESPN Events Invitational and the Bahamas Championship, there’s a full slate of top-notch games to tune in for during the holiday.
Here at The Action Network, we narrowed it down to five total best bets and three games for you. Read below as we try to pad that wallet and give thanks for another great hoops season.
Thursday’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.|
Alabama vs. Iona
By Doug Ziefel
These two teams can flat out score and they each have shown it early in the season.
Alabama is undefeated and has averaged 89 points through its first four games. Iona is not far behind it, as it’s also undefeated and is averaging 74 points per game.
Clearly, the Crimson Tide’s defense is a step up in competition, but the Gaels offer an additional avenue to put points up on the board. They are very adept at drawing fouls and converting from the stripe.
This Iona team gets to line at a 51.2% rate — that is nearly 21% higher than the national average.
This Alabama team is exactly what you look for when targeting an over. First, it plays very fast and pushes the ball up the court. The Crimson Tide are currently 19th in tempo.
Iona is actually 117th, so it is not slow by any means either, but back to Bama. This Alabama team has been extremely efficient from the field so far this season. The Tide are 58th in effective field goal percentage and are especially potent from inside the arc, converting at over a 61% rate.
Lastly, they will have plenty of second chances. Bama has an offensive rebound rate of 38%, which is 18th in the country and 10% higher than the national average.
I am expecting the Crimson Tide to break into the 80s here and with the increased tempo, Iona should have no issue getting to the upper 60s. Take the over and enjoy your turkey.
Pick: Over 147.5 (Play to 149)
Alabama vs. Iona
This is a rematch of a first-round game from last year’s NCAA Tournament, as Iona and Alabama square off in the opening round of the ESPN Events Invitational just outside of Orlando.
Both teams enter this holiday tournament unbeaten and come in with some significant momentum.
Rick Pitino’s Gaels have won their first five, highlighted by victories over Harvard and Liberty. Iona returns some key players from last year’s tournament team, including Nelly Junior Joseph, Dylan van Eyck and Ryan Myers.
Pitino also brought in some notable transfers in Tyson Jolly and Quinn Slazinski, the latter of which ironically came over from Louisville. Both Jolly and Slazinski are capable shooters from beyond the arc and provide some much-needed firepower to the Iona offense.
Moving onto Alabama, the Crimson Tide have been largely untested in their first four games of the season. The Tide rolled Louisiana Tech, Oakland and South Dakota State, but did get a bit of a test from South Alabama.
Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly are the most dynamic players for the Alabama offense and both head to the Sunshine State averaging over 15 a game.
Sophomore Keon Ellis is shooting over 50% from the field in his first four games and has seen his minutes almost double from a year ago.
I expect the Gaels to hang tough, just as they did in Indianapolis in last year’s tournament. Iona is currently holding teams to 23.4% from behind the arc, which will be critical against an Alabama offense that loves to shoot the 3.
Iona has the offensive firepower to keep relative pace with the Tide, and I trust Pitino to have his team really fired up for this one.
Ultimately, I just think 13 points is too many in this spot, especially for an Alabama team that will be taking a step up in competition from its first four opponents.
Give me Iona to keep this within single digits and cover the 13-point number.
Pick: Iona +13 (Play to 12)
Maryland vs. Richmond
By D.J. James
Richmond and Maryland will star in the first game of the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship at 7 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving Day.
Richmond is 3-2 ATS on the year, while the Terps are 1-4.
Richmond beat Hofstra in its last duel but dropped games to good Utah State and Drake teams.
Maryland may be on the same wavelength of Utah State and Drake eventually, but for the time being, it ranks 326th in three-point percentage (25.4%) and has an effective field goal percentage of 46.9%, per KenPom.
Richmond has three weapons boasting over 10 points per game in Tyler Burton, Jacob Gilyard and Grant Golden. Nathan Cayo and Nick Sherod also average at least seven.
The Spiders average 18.6 assists per game as a team and have defensive threats like Gilyard and Isaiah Wilson, who can snatch a steal relatively often. These two might give Fatts Russell issues, as he turns the ball over two times on average in each contest.
The largest hindrance to the Spiders covering in this matchup is their inability to crash the glass with their opponents. Maryland will rebound on both sides of the ball. Richmond essentially needs Burton, Golden and Cayo down low the entire game, as its guards do not hoard rebounds as well as Maryland’s.
Richmond has the artillery from downtown, too. It is shooting over 40%, so this is a clear difference from Maryland. The Spiders should have a fair shake at winning this outright.
Pick: Richmond +1.5 (Play to -1)
Maryland vs. Richmond
The Maryland Terrapins (4-1) are tipping off against the Richmond Spiders (3-2) in the first round of the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship in Nassau on Thanksgiving night.
This is the first-ever trip to the Bahamas for the Terrapins since the inception of their program 103 years ago.
Maryland leads the all-time series against Richmond, 26-15, and has won the last nine meetings between the two programs. The most recent win was in 2016 at the Barclays Center Classic when the Terps overcame a 14-point deficit to win in overtime, 88-82.
Coming back after dropping their previous game to George Mason, the Terps beat Hofstra most recently in College Park, 69-67.
Senior guard Eric Ayala led the way for Maryland with 14 points and a critical block in the final seconds of the game that set up the victory. Ayala leads the team in scoring average this season with 15.4 points per game.
Graduate student Fatts Russell, a transfer from Rhode Island, has been off to a quick start this season. After putting on 13 pounds of muscle since his arrival on campus in April, Russell has picked up where he left off last season, leading the team in assists and is second in scoring average.
Russell made waves on Twitter a couple of months ago, as he is seen here hooping Adam Sandler.
This season, the Terrapins have an adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency per 100 possessions of 105.0 (73rd) and 93.4 (54th), respectively. Where the Terrapins have stood out so far this season and their edge in this matchup is on defense.
They rank 54th in the nation in ADJDE and are dominating the boards defensively, pulling in 80.3% of available defensive rebounds. Richmond has not had success getting offensive rebounds this season, ranking 270th in the nation, pulling in only 24.4%.
Maryland has a long history of being successful in preseason holiday tournaments. Since 2013-2014, the Terps have participated in six tournaments and have won five of them outright, going 13-1 along the way.
Look for the Maryland defense to use its size to control the glass defensively. This will allow the Terps to play to their tempo and let the backcourt of Ayala and Russell lead the way.
Lay the point in the Bahamas in favor of the Terrapins.
Pick: Maryland -1 (Play to -2)
Louisville vs. Mississippi State
By Mike Randle
Louisville is still without head coach Chris Mack, who is serving a six-game suspension to start the season after the fallout from the Dino Gaudio conflict.
The Cardinals bring a strong interior game led by 6-foot-7 junior Samuell Williamson (8.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG) and Jae’Lyn Withers (7.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG). Louisville ranks 58th-best in 2P percentage (54.7%) while holding opponents to just 41.8% inside the arc on defense.
However, they are facing a Mississippi State team that is a mirror image, but even better. Head coach Ben Howland’s defense allows a minuscule 37.6 percent from inside the arc, fourth-best in the country. They also score inside at a comparable 54.8% rate, but also shoot 45.7% from beyond the arc as a team.
Louisville has been led on offense by Florida transfer Noah Locke (16 PPG, 37.5% 3P), but he will face his toughest test in sophomore guard Shakeel Moore, who ranks among the nation’s leaders with 3.1 steals per game.
The Bulldogs are just as strong defensively and have a great inside-outside duo in guard Iverson Molinar (15.8 PPG, 5.8 APG) and UNC transfer forward Garrison Brooks (11.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG).
This will be the first game outside of their respective home arenas, and I’m taking Howland’s pressure defense and better offensive metrics over a Mack-less Cardinals team that won’t be able to dominate on the interior as normal.
I love the small spread for the Bulldogs and I would take it up to Mississippi State -2.