College Basketball Odds, Picks, Predictions: The Calabrese & McGrath Pick & Roll for Saturday (December 18)
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images. Pictured: Ed Cooley
- Another college basketball Saturday means another Pick & Roll from Mike Calabrese & Tanner McGrath.
- Both of them share their two favorite bets for Saturday's games, including UConn vs. Providence & Gonzaga vs. Texas Tech.
- Check out all of their favorite Saturday bets below.
Analysts Mike Calabrese and Tanner McGrath are back for another edition of the Saturday Pick & Roll.
With each passing week, Saturdays become more and more loaded with college basketball games.
In response, our two-man-weave spends Friday nights hunting the most profitable lines, providing four premier plays to build your card around.
It’s been a rollercoaster few weeks for Calabrese and McGrath, but that just means it’s a good time to buy low.
So read on, take their “picks” and “roll” into a huge college basketball Saturday.
Calabrese’s Top 2 Saturday Picks
Tennessee vs. Memphis
Editors Note: Memphis and Tennessee has been canceled due to issues related to COVID-19 within Memphis’ program.
I was thrilled to see Memphis upset Alabama on Tuesday. The short spread indicated that oddsmakers believed Alabama was walking into an ambush, and Memphis’ 25 free-throw attempts confirmed that its home cooking was primed to take advantage of an Alabama letdown.
The Crimson Tide live and die by the 3-point shot, attempting nearly 29 per game. They died on Beale Street, hitting just 10-of-33 attempts, while allowing the Tigers to generate 20 turnovers.
For the 6-4 Tigers, this kind of outburst is what we in the statistical community refer to as an anomaly. Yes, Memphis can speed teams up and force them into sloppy play (17.4 turnovers per game), but it sends teams to the line nearly as much as it gets there itself. The Tigers also have far from an effective 3-point defense.
What that indicates to me is that the Tigers can be a high-variance team moving forward, and their performance against Alabama has baked in a three-to-four point discrepancy between the official line and my power rankings.
Speaking of turnovers, Memphis will find its equal on the court in terms of disruption on Saturday. To quote the Action Network’s D.J. James, “The Vols rank 14th in overall turnover percentage, with a rate of 25.4%. They average over 10 steals per game, led by Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi, who snag about 2.1 steals each per matchup.”
The difference between Memphis and Tennessee is that the Vols’ havoc transitions to some really impressive offensive metrics. The UT offense is top 25 in the following metrics this season:
- Scoring Margin (+20.6, 9th)
- Assists Per Game (19.3, 3rd)
- Assist To Made FG (.635, 11th)
- Offensive Rebounds (11.3, 25th)
The assist figures have given the Vols consistency throughout the season, providing them with a high floor. But it’s Memphis’ lackluster perimeter defense that had me circling this game.
Memphis has been picked apart from 3-point range this season, and the Vols are primed to take advantage of that vulnerability. Tennessee is top 30 in both attempts and made 3-point field goals per game.
Starters Olivier Nkamhoua, Kennedy Chandler and Vescovi all shoot 37% from deep and have the potential as a group to put together some big runs against this Memphis defense.
I like UT -5.5 in this spot and I would play it up to -7.5.
Pick: Tennessee -5.5 (Play to -7.5)
Gonzaga vs. Texas Tech
Gonzaga has spent the better part of the first six weeks of the season alternating between heavyweight battles against college basketball blue bloods and sparring with the bottom of the sport’s barrel.
Dixie State, Alcorn State, Bellarmine, Central Michigan, Tarleton State and Merrimack fared reasonably well against the Zags (against the spread) and have lulled the gambling public into a sense of security around Gonzaga.
Yes, GU can sleepwalk through home games against vastly overmatched non-conference opponents. But when given the chance to hit the road against Power Conference competition Mark Few’s track record speaks for itself.
Straight up, since 2003, Gonzaga has won 89% of its games as a road favorite. Furthermore, since taking the leap from Cinderella to perennial top-five program, Gonzaga has covered 57% of its games against the spread when facing non-conference opponents (dating back to 2016).
If ancient history doesn’t move you, how about the breakdown on this year’s Texas Tech team. The Red Raiders are set to get into a gun fight with Gonzaga and they don’t have the ammo.
Despite playing an uptempo style and scoring in the 80s, the Red Raiders struggle from the line (67.9%, 245th) and are mediocre from long range (35%, 105th).
They compensate for this by crashing the offensive glass with great success, roping in 12.7 offensive boards per game (sixth). They create extra opportunities by combining their work on the glass with the 17+ turnovers they generate per game.
But here’s the problem in this game. Gonzaga is one of the nation’s best defensive rebounding teams, thanks to their Twin Towers (Drew Timme, Chet Holmgren) on the front line.
Additionally, they have a top-30 assist to turnover ratio, which means that the Bulldogs’ overall efficiency outweighs their issues with turnovers.
If Texas Tech sticks with its game plan to speed things up, its going to get boat-raced by a faster, sleeker model. Gonzaga is the nation’s seventh-best offense in terms of efficiency and it is deadly (No. 1) inside the arc.
Without Chris Beard at the helm, I don’t fear Texas Tech even at home and for that reason, my power rankings call for this to be Gonzaga -11.5.
I’ll take advantage of that differential and look to back the Zags in a bounce-back spot after their setback against Alabama
Pick: Gonzaga -8
McGrath’s Top 2 Saturday Picks
Providence vs. UConn
This is a classic Ed Cooley spot, as his defensive-minded Friars are always profitable catching points. In his coaching career, Cooley is a cool 80-55-2 as a road dog, covering 59.2% of the time for a 15.5% ROI.
Cooley’s style of play is conducive to being an underdog, as the Friars love to slow the game down. Providence ranks outside the top 260 in both average length of possession and average length of possession allowed.
Plus, the Friars share the ball well (23rd in assist rate) and force their way to the line (seventh in free-throw rate).
All-in-all, Cooley & Co. find ways to stay within the number.
Meanwhile, Connecticut is still waiting on the health status of Tyrese Martin and Adama Sanogo. Per the Hartford Courant, Dan Hurley has stated that Martin has a great chance to play, but Sanogo will likely be limited to “spot minutes.”
Either way, I give the advantage to Providence with those two battling injuries. The Huskies’ biggest strength is interior size, and they rank eighth in offensive rebounding rate. But Sanogo and Martin are the Huskies’ best two offensive rebounders, limiting that area of production.
If I’m catching seven or more with Providence, I’ll be backing the Friars Saturday.
Pick: Providence +6.5
San Francisco vs. Grand Canyon
Underneath Bryce Drew, the Antelopes are going to slow the game and grind you down. Grand Canyon ranks 320th in tempo (65.2), allows the 30th-fewest shots in transition (19.3%) and ranks seventh in defensive eFG% (42.2%).
Grand Canyon does rank top-40 nationally in two-point defense (44.2%), but the ‘Lopes make their money on the perimeter. Grand Canyon opponents take only 33.3% of shots from deep (63rd) while making them at a 25.4% clip (ninth). The ‘Lopes are also allowing just .774 PPP in spot-up situations, 44th nationally.
On the contrary, the Dons’ offense is perimeter reliant. San Francisco shoots almost half its shots from deep, making them at a 38% clip and scoring 1.034 PPP in spot-up situations.
So, San Francisco is playing right into Grand Canyon’s hands. And while the Antelopes may struggle to score, their style of play is worth backing as dogs. The Antelopes have won outright in two straight as home underdogs.
Meanwhile, the 10-0 Dons are due for some regression. San Francisco is 3-7 ATS this season, including 0-2 as a road favorite, and sport a 7-3 ShotQuality record.
I’ll sell high on San Francisco on Saturday, as seven points is too many in a Phoenix-based grinder.
Pick: Grand Canyon +7.5