College Basketball Pick & Roll: How Calabrese & McGrath Are Betting Saturday’s Hoops Slate
Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Khalid Moore.
- Another Saturday college basketball slate means another edition of the Pick & Roll from Mike Calabrese and Tanner McGrath.
- The duo broke down their top four bets of the day, including Georgia Tech vs. LSU and Wyoming vs. Utah Valley.
- Check out all four of their favorite bets below.
Last week I was on the shelf, battling COVID-19, and Tanner did his best Jimmer Fredette impression by carrying the team on his back.
That translated to him hoisting up five bets to keep our hot streak going. His 2-3 showing wasn’t ideal, but like a team with one of their top players on the bench with foul trouble, we’ve weathered the storm and are back to full strength.
Today, we’ve targeted three high-major games and an intriguing mid-major showdown featuring one of the nation’s best-kept secrets.
So, let’s roll out the basketballs, tear off the warm-ups, and get back to our winning ways with this week’s pick n’ roll.
McGrath’s Top 2 Saturday Picks
Arizona vs. Illinois
This first pick is a pure value play.
Illinois shouldn’t be catching two points as a home dog when KenPom makes this Illinois -2, Bart Torvik makes it Arizona -0.1, and EvanMiya makes it Arizona -0.4.
But this is also a good sell-high spot for Arizona. The Wildcats are looking dangerous, and former Mark Few assistant Tommy Lloyd has the Cats playing like Gonzaga. But this is only Arizona’s second true road game, with the other coming in a blowout vs. Oregon State.
The biggest test for Arizona this season has been a neutral-court matchup with Michigan. Arizona dominated that game, but given what we know about the Wolverines now, that victory is less impressive.
Meanwhile, Illinois struggled early but is settling down. The Illini have won five straight and covered in three straight, most recently picking up a road win against Iowa as 3.5-point underdogs.
Arizona has dominated with a trio of trees on the interior (6-foot-11 Azuolas Tubelis, 7-foot-0 Oumar Ballo, 7-foot-1 Christian Koloko), and the Cats are third in 2-point shooting (59.8%) and first in 2-point defense as a result (38.4%).
But those three will have to compete with Kofi Cockburn. Cockburn is a force on the interior, leading an offense that’s scoring 1.06 PPP in post-up situations (92nd percentile) while allowing just .625 (92nd percentile).
Combine him with 6-foot-10 Coleman Hawkins and Brad Underwood’s commitment to mucking up Arizona’s lightning-fast pace, and this is the perfect spot for Illinois to shock the world.
Arizona is due for a tough loss, and I’d play the Illini down to a PK.
Pick: Illinois +2
LSU vs. Georgia Tech
Again, like the above pick, KenPom makes the spread LSU -7 and EvanMiya makes it -8. I also adore taking home dogs, and GT coach Josh Pastner has covered in seven of his last 11 in that scenario.
We can also sell high on LSU. LSU is 8-0, but six of those wins have come in Baton Rouge and two have come on a neutral court. This game isn’t being played at Georgia Tech, but there are plenty of Yellow Jackets in Atlanta.
LSU has been superb, specifically on the defensive end. But Will Wade plays his entire game inside the 2-point line, scoring over 55% of his points from 2-point range (top-60 nationally). Most of those points come from wings Tari Eason and Darius Days.
But Pastner will play zone, and considering his 2-through-4 positions stand between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-7, it’ll be difficult for Wade and his wings to drive and slash. And LSU will certainly not outshoot Georgia Tech (34.9 3PA%, 32.6 3PT%).
All-in-all, this is too much road chalk for a messy, defensive-minded game. I love Pastner and Co. to keep this one within double digits.
Pick: Georgia Tech +9.5
Calabrese’s Top 2 Saturday Picks
Missouri vs. Kansas
The Border War was one of the most intense rivalries in all of sports before conference realignment put an end to Kansas and Missouri’s annual showdowns.
It’s been nearly a decade since these programs have faced off on the hardwood, but the energy and excitement at Allen Fieldhouse should be off the charts on Saturday. And maintaining that spark is what will be the difference between KU coasting to a ho-hum victory and pummeling an outgunned Mizzou program.
The Mizzou Tigers, often cited as one of the best programs to never appear in a Final Four, are absolutely lost in the wilderness at the moment. The Tigers’ effective field goal percentage is 44.3% and if that feels wildly low, there’s a good reason your spidey senses are tingling.
That is the worst eFG% of any power program and 314th nationally. Somehow they’re even markedly worse from 3-point range, connecting on just 24% of their attempts (353rd).
The hit list of ways to describe how bad this team is offensively goes on and on and on.
Not only do they fail to consistently put the ball in the basket, they often don’t even get the chance to fire up a shot, turning the ball over 15.3 times per game (294th). For all of these reasons, Cuonzo Martin could go from an NCAA Tournament berth to the free agent market in one season.
Kansas, meanwhile, is, well, Kansas. The Jayhawks have real national title aspirations, and have pounded teams during the first month of the season.
Ochai Agbaji has elevated his play to an All-American level (22.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 46.8% 3P) and helped KU establish itself as a top-10, borderline top-five, scoring team in the country.
But it’s really the Jayhawk defense that seals the deal for me in this one.
Kansas is 28th in adjusted defensive efficiency, and now that Jalen Wilson is back in the fold, it has the frontcourt heft to keep Mizzou off the glass.
The only way the Tigers keep things relatively close is if they cash in on second-chance opportunities, one of the few stats that they appear in the top 75 in the country.
If KU keeps them off the glass and makes them keep pace in a track meet (KU is averaging 89.5 in its last three), then Mizzou will be left in the dust in the second half of this one.
Pick: Kansas -23
Utah Valley vs. Wyoming
I have respect for home-court advantages that come with one special twist: elevation. Laramie has that in spades. Seated over 7,000 feet above sea level, the Mountain West’s northeast outpost is often a tough place to play.
Since the Cowboys’ last appearance in the Big Dance, they’ve gone a ho-hum 82-88 overall. But despite multiple down years and a coaching change, they’ve cashed over 55% as a home favorite at the Dome of Doom. There’s simply no accounting for how the thin air messes with opponents.
So, why am I calling for the 8-1 Pokes to drop a game outright at home given their improved play and the aforementioned elevation advantage?
The first is that Utah Valley has the formula — stout defense and quality rebounding — to really frustrate Wyoming, just as it did against nationally-ranked BYU last week.
And the second — and in my opinion, most crucial — element is that they’re acclimated to the altitude challenge having just played at “a mile high” against Southern Utah this week. The Wolverines covered as seven-point dogs in Cedar City, Utah, on Wednesday, nearly 6,000 feet above sea level.
If the pseudo-sixth grade science lesson isn’t enough for you to buy on UVU in this spot, consider the play of underrated center Fardaws Aimaq. The 6-foot-11, 245-pound Canadian import is averaging a double-double (20.4, 14.2) and has the range to step outside and hurt teams from deep (33.3% 3P).
He gave BYU 24 and 22, leading UVU to the school’s first upset of a ranked opponent last week, and he should make light work of Wyoming’s slightly undersized front line.
Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis also scored 17 points on 70% shooting from two-point range in Wyoming’s last game, a 29-point loss to the Wildcats.
It’ll take a big night from Aimaq, but he’s already proven that he can elevate his game when the Wolverines need him.
I’ll ride with the best player in this game and hope that the Pokes have few answers for the Big Maple — his actual nickname.
Pick: Utah Valley ML +275