Friday College Basketball Pick & Roll: Calabrese & McGrath’s Top 4 Betting Picks
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images. Pictured: Dain Dainja (Illinois)
- Mike Calabrese and Tanner McGrath are back after an even week.
- McGrath is diving into two under-the-radar games while Breese is going right after the top-25 duels in Vegas.
- Dive in below!
The rust has been shaken off and they’re ready to do what they do best: blend nationally-televised games with creative under-the-radar mid-major affairs.
Tanner will start things off with a nooner in the Virgin Islands before heading up to the Bahamas for a non-conference game featuring a sleeper in the AAC.
As for Breese, you won’t need frequent flyer miles to see his two plays in action. Both games will be taking place on the same floor in Las Vegas for the Continental Tire Main Event. They also happen to be the only top-25 matchups on the board on Friday night.
So, mosey up to the window and figure out how these four plays will factor into your Friday college basketball card.
McGrath’s Top 2 Friday Picks
Buffalo vs. Drake (Paradise Jam)
Drake should be 2-0 ATS with dominating wins over IUPUI and Wofford.
I bet Drake against Wofford on Monday, and the Bulldogs won by eight as 12.5-point favorites. It was a remarkably frustrating game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
Wofford shot 11-for-26 (42.3%) from 3, while Drake shot 5-for-24 (20.8%). However, the Bulldogs dominated every other aspect of the game.
Drake shot 28-for-41 (68.3%) from inside the arc, out-rebounded Wofford 33-to-30 and posted a ridiculous 14:3 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Read that last part again.
Drake posted a ridiculous 14:3 assist-to-turnover ratio.
That’s a credit to the four guards coach Darian DeVries returned. Roman Penn, Garrett Sturtz, D.J. Wilkins and Tucker DeVries are all back in Des Moines, forming the core of a top-five mid-major team.
The four also represent a monster mismatch over Buffalo on Friday.
The Bulls are 345th in minutes continuity (10.8%) and 344th in D-I experience (.82 average years). Buffalo lost its top two players, two-time All-MAC player Jeenathan Williams and 2020-21 MAC DPOY Josh Mballa, alongside four other major contributors.
Coach Jim Whitesell will try to replace the production with six transfers and a freshman. Even worse, Buffalo’s starting backcourt consists of two JUCO transfers, Armoni Foster and Yazid Powell.
Things started well with a wild 88-87 win over Colgate, but the Bulls quickly collapsed in blowout losses to James Madison and UConn.
JMU guard Vado Morse cooked Foster and Powell, dropping 22 points while dishing out four assists and snagging three steals with just one turnover.
I’m not ruling Buffalo out in the future, as Whitesell is a great coach and I believe in JUCO transfers. But asking this backcourt to compete with the Penn-Sturtz-Wilkins-DeVries quartet after three games of Division I experience is too much.
Plus, the one thing that Buffalo is good at this season? Forcing turnovers. The Bulls are 25th in steal rate through three games.
They will have no luck against Drake in that department. And Drake will dominate in every other aspect of the game.
It’s also nice that Buffalo runs at the fastest tempo in the nation, as more bad possessions make it easier for opponents to cover big numbers.
I still wouldn’t play this past 12, however.
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QuickSlip is an Action Network feature that allows users to automatically pre-load their bet slip at FanDuel Sportsbook.
UCF vs. Oklahoma State (Bahamas Championship)
The chemistry looked bad in Orlando on opening night, as UCF dropped a double-overtime home game to UNC Asheville.
However, Johnny Dawkins has swiftly whipped his group of transfers into shape. UCF responded to the loss with an upset win over Florida State and a complete obliteration of Western Illinois.
This team is lengthy and disruptive on the defensive end. Michael Durr anchors the interior defense at 7-foot-0, while the wing trio of Taylor Hendricks, C.J. Walker and Ithiel Horton all stand between 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-9.
As a result, UCF is top-50 in turnover rate and top-30 in non-steal turnover rate. The Knights are going to pressure the ball.
The Knights are also crashing the offensive boards, ranking top-10 nationally in offensive rebounding rate.
There’s enough offensively in Orlando, too. The freshman Hendricks dropped 23 against Western Illinois and senior guard Kelly dropped 20 against UNC Asheville.
They’ll be playing an Oklahoma State team that I am low on. I don’t think the Pokes did enough in the transfer portal or on the recruiting trail to improve on their 15-15 finish last season.
They finished 2021-22 332nd in turnover rate and 265th in eFG%, then brought in a High Point transfer to “help” Avery Anderson III and Bryce Thompson with the ball-handling and shot-creating duties.
I see this game playing out similarly to the Southern Illinois game, as Oklahoma State couldn’t generate solid enough offensive looks (24-for-57 shooting) and finished with 10 assists to 14 turnovers.
However, the difference is UCF is longer. The Knights have twice the length and athleticism of the Salukis, which should be very scary for Mike Boynton. UCF will be just as tough defensively and much peskier on the boards.
Plus, the Pokes can’t just throw Moussa Cisse at UCF because Dawkins has a 7-footer of his own.
Speaking of Dawkins, did you know he’s 10-4-1 ATS as a neutral-court underdog? He’s covered six of the last seven neutral-court underdog opportunities, so I’ll bet him to do it one more time.
Calabrese’s Top 2 Friday Picks
No. 16 Virginia vs. No. 5 Baylor (Main Event)
Maybe all of the Lone Star State love is going to the Houston Cougars, but it feels as though Baylor is under-appreciated by the public and oddsmakers early in this season.
Since 2019, Baylor has been the most profitable team ATS in the Big 12, cashing at a 59.4% rate.
Those numbers get even better when you play Baylor on a neutral floor. In the past three-plus years, Baylor is 14-7 ATS on neutral floors and 17-4 straight up.
From a personnel standpoint, I wanted to see how Baylor’s battle-tested starting lineup would welcome a true “Diaper Dandy.”
Keyonte George is Baylor’s highest-rated recruit in program history, and Scott Drew has historically shied away from turning the keys to the offense over to true freshmen.
Through three games, the freshman has been a stat-sheet-stuffer, averaging 16 points, 6.7 assists and six rebounds. Adam Flagler makes the whole offense go, but George and LJ Cryer are the ones who can elevate this offense to elite status.
So far so good, with Baylor checking in at fourth nationally in offensive efficiency.
Virginia will try to halt this humming Baylor engine. The Cavs do it with their famed pack-line defense and a glacial pace. Virginia is 358th out of 362 teams in terms of possessions per game.
Defensively, they’re allowing just 51.5 points per game, but that’s against NC Central and Monmouth.
I have a lot of respect for Tony Bennett and his staff, as well as their returning production. Kihei Clark, Armaan Franklin and Jayden Gardner, three senior starters for the Wahoos, have started 291 games as a trio during their collegiate careers.
But for all of the Cavs’ continuity, they still found a way to lose 14 games last season.
For that reason, I’m still in wait-and-see mode with UVA, while I’m buying the Bears, particularly when they’re laying less than five points.
No. 19 Illinois vs. No. 8 UCLA (Main Event)
Let’s keep it simple and stay on the same court at the Continental Tire Main Event in Las Vegas.
While I like the high-powered favorite in the first matchup, I’m eyeing the underdog here for a few reasons.
The first is that Illinois perfectly dipped into the transfer portal this offseason, reeling in Terrence Shannon Jr., Matthew Mayer and Dain Dainja. Shannon looks reborn in orange and blue, averaging a 22.7/7.6/3.7 line on 52.9% shooting from the field.
Dainja may be an even bigger surprise thus far. The Baylor transfer played just three minutes per game last year in Waco. In three games under Brad Underwood, Dainja is nearly averaging a double-double (17.3 points, 9.7 rebounds).
And Mayer has provided nice depth off the bench in the first three games of the season.
The Illini have laid waste to three mid-major tin cans thus far, winning by an average of 35 points per game.
They’re off to a 3-0 ATS start, but their issues on neutral floors loom large. Underwood is 8-16 ATS on neutral floors since taking over in Champaign in 2017.
UCLA didn’t play the transfer portal game, but it does have a pair of high-ceiling true freshman injecting life into its starting five. Amari Bailey and Adem Bona have lived up to the hype through three games this season.
Bailey, in particular, looks like a competent starting wing and Bona has the talent to insert himself in the Pac-12 DPOY race.
But a lot of the scoring pressure in this game will rest on Jaime Jaquez Jr.’s shoulders. RJ Melendez and Shannon will have a chance to check Jaquez, which should go a long way in determining who comes out on top in this game.
Melendez is one of the best defenders in the Big Ten, and I think he gets the job done.
I actually think the wrong team is favored in this spot, so I’ll happily take the points and ride with the Illini.