Saturday College Basketball Pick & Roll: Calabrese & McGrath’s 6 Best Bets & Player Props (Jan. 30)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: Jaylin WIlliams.
- The duo of Mike Calabrese and Tanner McGrath went 6-for-6 on their picks last week, and now, they're back for more.
- They once again broke down their six favorite bets and player props for Saturday's loaded college basketball slate.
- Check out each breakdown complete with a pick below.
What do Tanner McGrath and Mike Calabrese’s best bets and Ohio State freshman center Zed Key have in common?
They both were 100% from the field last Saturday.
The duo that the Action Network formed to help craft your college basketball card didn’t disappoint in its debut.
Perhaps even more impressive, is that Zed Key shot just 1-for-1 from the field last weekend while McGrath and Calabrese went 4-for-4 on their picks. That’s a lethal combination of volume and efficiency.
The second edition of the Saturday “Pick & Roll” is here, and the two see six more value-laden plays on today’s board.
All listed odds have been updated as of Friday evening. Specific bet recommendations before each breakdown come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing on Friday night.
Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.
McGrath’s Top 2 Plays for Saturday
Wisconsin -3 @ Penn State (138.5), 3 p.m. ET | Wisconsin -3
Backing the Badgers as a short favorite against one of the worst teams in the conference?
Penn State is just 2-6 in Big Ten play this season, with two unimpressive home wins over Rutgers and Northwestern.
Overall, the Nittany Lions aren’t very good. Jim Ferry’s squad is a mess defensively, ranking 12th in the conference in defensive efficiency, per KenPom. Penn State’s conference opponents are shooting a staggering 58.3% from 2-point range.
On the offensive end, Penn State is shooting just 45.2% from 2-point range. To have an interior shooting percentage differential that large is both mind-boggling and a sign of a poor team.
Meanwhile, Greg Gard’s team continues to roll. At 7-3, Wisconsin is still one of the favorites to win the Big Ten.
The Badgers’ primary weapon is their stifling defense. Wisconsin is second in the conference in defensive efficiency behind Michigan and is the best defensive rebounding team in the conference.
Wisconsin has its fair share of offensive issues, primarily due to the lack of a No. 1 option. However, the Badgers’ experienced roster features a balanced attack that kills teams through ball movement and ball security.
I’m predicting this offense having no issue with Penn State’s defense today.
Wisconsin has won 10 straight games over Penn State by an average margin of 9.9 points. Plus, the Badgers have covered in six of the last seven games against the Nittany Lions.
Finally, if you’re the type of person to bet home underdogs — like myself — it’s worth noting that home underdogs in the Big Ten are just 2-7 ATS in their last nine.
Bank on the road favorite Badgers to beat a significantly worse team today.
Notre Dame @ Pittsburgh -3.5 (143.5), 8 p.m. ET | Pittsburgh -3.5
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are just not very good at basketball.
It has a -6.5 adjusted efficiency margin in conference play this season, per KenPom.
In the ACC, the Irish rank 10th in defensive efficiency and 12th in offensive efficiency. Notre Dame is just 5-9 overall and 2-6 in conference play.
Yet, Vegas had the Irish at a pick’em against Virginia Tech — the same Virginia Tech team that was 11-3 overall and 5-2 in conference play entering into the matchup. Knowing what I do about Notre Dame (it sucks), I bet the Hokies, and they went on to win by 11.
I just felt like Notre Dame was overvalued in that matchup. In this matchup, I feel like Notre dame is overvalued again.
Outside of avoiding foul trouble, the Irish don’t do anything particularly well and are just 4-9 ATS this season.
Meanwhile, this game is a great spot for the Pittsburgh Panthers.
The Panthers have just lost back-to-back games for the first time this season with their most recent loss coming against a North Carolina team that is quietly playing great basketball. The Tar Heels have won six of their last seven games and now sit in fourth place in the conference.
Therefore, Pittsburgh gets a bounce-back game against a much inferior opponent.
Pittsburgh wins games by playing great defense and rebounding well. It’s fourth in the conference in defensive efficiency and is holding opponents to under 30% from 3-point range.
Additionally, Pittsburgh pulls down 41.2 rebounds per game, while Notre Dame averages just 32.9.
I’m going to bank on the Panthers bullying the Irish both defensively and on the boards in today’s matchup.
Pittsburgh is 6-3-1 ATS in its last 10 games against Notre Dame and 2-0-1 in its last three against the Irish at home. I see those trends continuing.
Calabrese’s Top 2 Plays for Saturday
Alabama @ Oklahoma -2 (154.5), 12 p.m. ET | Alabama +2
I was rooting for Oklahoma to knock off Texas, just so this game would be priced in my favor — and voila!
A one-point road victory in Austin has convinced the oddsmakers the Sooners should be favored over perhaps the hottest team in America.
Just take a look at Alabama’s road resume this year.
It beat Tennessee in Knoxville by 8 when the Vols were ranked seventh in the country, it held off Auburn on the Plains in Sharife Cooper’s debut, waxed Kentucky in Lexington by 20, and made a national statement by obliterating LSU by 30 in Baton Rouge.
The Crimson Tide are perfect SU and ATS in true road games, besting the closing number by an average of 17.8 points per game. That is far and away the best ATS performance of any road team that qualifies this season (min. 3 games).
So, to recap: I get OU in a letdown spot, the nation’s best road team ATS and a pure strength vs. weakness matchup in my favor (Alabama’s 3-point offense vs. Oklahoma’s 3-point defense).
The Sooners allow opponents to shoot 35.8% from long range (260th), while the Crimson Tide have been attempting and making 3s at the fourth-highest clip in all of college basketball.
I think the wrong team is favored here, so I’ll be taking the points and the Crimson Tide moneyline on Saturday.
Auburn @ Baylor -14.5 (153.5), 4 p.m. ET | Auburn ML +885
The only team that gave Alabama a scare in the past month has been Auburn. Well. less Auburn, and really more like Sharife Cooper.
You can take every Auburn stat and metric pre-Cooper and toss it right in the metaphorical shredder. This team went from CBI/CIT quality to a team no one wants to catch in March.
Cooper’s breakout debut against Bama (26 points, nine assists) was enough to give Auburn a lead with 1:52 remaining in the game. Since then, he’s led the Tigers to a pair of conference road wins and a home win over then-No. 12 Mizzou, all while increasing his overall efficiency numbers.
If Cooper can get his turnovers under four per game, he’s going to play his way into the NBA Draft lottery.
With Cooper, Auburn has a chance against anyone, including top-10 opponents. Now, Baylor is a different animal, sure, but this is a value proposition.
My updated power rankings, accounting for Cooper’s massive impact, has this game at Baylor -10.5 and Auburn as a +400 underdog. So, to see this moneyline hit the board at double that… well, that stopped me in my tracks.
Here’s the argument against Baylor, and be warned it’s circumstantial because its advanced metrics are unassailable. I’m talking about the fact it’s top-five in points, assists, 3-point shooting, shooting efficiency — the list goes on and on.
But if you were going to take a flyer and try to pinpoint a spot in this season to fade the Bears, this is as good as any.
Baylor is coming off an absolute snoozer against the woefully outgunned Kansas State Wildcats (107-59), and it can essentially wrap up the Big 12 regular-season title by beating Texas in Austin on Tuesday.
This is also its sixth game in its last eight that they’ve been favored by 11.5 or more. If Baylor was guilty of looking ahead and not taking this unranked opponent seriously, that wouldn’t surprise me.
In the end, this comes down to my faith in a monster performance from Cooper and the fact that Baylor hasn’t played against a dynamic point guard — like Ayo Dosunmu — in nearly two months.
At +885, I’ll roll the dice on a flat Baylor performance for a change.
McGrath’s Top Player Prop
Texas Tech’s Mac McClung Over 15.5 Points or Better vs. LSU | 2 p.m. ET
As Mike will mention below, a big thanks to DraftKings for providing these player props to us in advance.
Specifically, this Mac McClung points prop, because it is highway robbery.
McClung is an absolute stud. Plus, he’s playing against an LSU defense that’s oscillated between shaky and downright awful.
McClung, a Georgetown transfer, is producing as the Red Raiders’ No. 1 option this season. McClung is averaging 17.2 points per game on 44.2/34.9/81.4 shooting splits.
Moreover, McClung has been especially dominant as of late. In the last five games, McClung has scored 16, 18, 22, 24 and 30 points, respectively, while shooting 52.7% from the field and 41.9% from 3.
Now, after scoring all those points against the likes of Texas, Baylor and West Virginia, McClung gets to feast on the LSU defense.
LSU ranks 11thin the SEC in defensive efficiency and allows 73.9 points per game — a stat that ranks 245th in the country.
Before its win over Texas A&M, LSU gave up a combined 187 points over its two-game stretch against Alabama and Kentucky.
McClung has scored over 15.5 points in 12-of-16 games this season. Today, I think he’ll carve up Will Wade’s below-average defense. I’m so confident that I would bet this line all the way up to 18.5.
Calabrese’s Top Player Prop
Baylor’s Jared Butler Over 17.5 Points vs. Auburn | 4 p.m. ET
As a minor hedge against my Auburn roulette chip, I’ll be taking over 17.5 points for dynamic Baylor wing Jared Butler.
Last game, I actually faded Butler and took under 17.5, banking on a Baylor blowout and limited minutes. He nearly burned me anyway, connecting on his first five shots of the game, but he dialed it back considerably in the second half before retreating to the bench.
Tossing that game out, as I did, he’s gone over the 17.5 threshold four out of six tries this month.
One final note on these player props — a special thanks to DraftKings and its London trading desk for facilitating these odds to me and Tanner 24 hours ahead of time for our column.
And yes, we can confirm that the cheeky American gambling public is very interested in the scoring potential of a few young blokes playing basketball at uni.