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College Basketball Best Bets: Three Man Weave’s 3 Top Picks for Friday

College Basketball Best Bets: Three Man Weave’s 3 Top Picks for Friday article feature image

Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images. Pictured: Carmen Maciariello (Siena)

Before we dive into a massive Saturday slate in college basketball, Friday evening offers a few betting opportunities.

The slate only features 11 games, but Matt Cox of Three Man Weave is eyeing matchups in the MAC, MAAC and a potentially critical battle for regular season conference crown rights in the Atlantic 10.

Below you can dive into Matt's three best bets for Friday in order to help build your college hoops betting card.

Friday'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.

6 p.m. ET
Ball State +7
7 p.m. ET
Siena +5
9 p.m. ET
Richmond -1
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.

Buffalo vs. Ball State

Friday, Jan. 14
6 p.m. ET
CBS Sports Network
Ball State +7

The current pulse around the Ball State basketball program is ominous, to put it lightly. Fan forums — while always prone to irrational overreactions — exude an unprecedented frustration around the downward trajectory of the program.

Here’s the reality: Ball State is 7-8 overall and boasts a 2-2 record in MAC play so far. No, this is not the dumpster fire that many in those chat rooms would lead you to believe. James Whitford may be losing the faith of the fanbase, but he still has a solid grip on this team.

The Cardinals have already dispatched preseason MAC contender Bowling Green and notched an impressive road victory at Eastern Michigan. In fact, the Cardinals would be a perfect 4-0 against the spread in conference play had they not blown a sizable lead Tuesday at Akron.

That perplexing meltdown looks bad on the surface, but see it from a bettor’s perspective. The market sees that result as a confirmation of Ball State’s lower placement on the MAC totem pole. In reality, Ball State and Akron looked like two evenly matched teams for 35 minutes.

Tonight, the Cardinals face the MAC’s cream of the crop, Buffalo, a team loaded with pro-caliber length and athleticism, akin to the Akron team Ball State just look wire-to-wire.

Granted, Buffalo’s stable of athletes is a different beast. Josh Mballa is a demolition ball on the glass, while power wing Jeenathan Williams is a matchup nightmare for most MAC opponents.

However, Mballa is playing his second game coming out of COVID-19 protocols and was slow to ramp up in his return to the lineup last game. He clocked only 22 minutes and will likely stay below the 30-minute mark again tonight.

Another risk is foul trouble, as the Cardinals should look to go right at Mballa on the defensive end via star freshman forward Payton Spark — he lit up Akron for 22 and 10 last game in only 23 minutes of action.

Getting Mballa in foul trouble could be the skeleton key to a potential home upset of the Runnin’ Bulls.

But, even if Mballa is able to do his usual damage, the Cardinals can counter with a diverse array of scoring options themselves. Tyler Cochran is a bowling ball for a wing, and his power scoring arsenal mirrors that of Williams.

Between Cochran and Sparks, the Cardinals have enough muscle to keep the Bulls from playing bully ball inside. If they can batten down the hatch and keep the Bulls’ rebounders at bay, this should be barn burner from start to finish.

Pick: Ball State +7

Siena vs. Marist

Friday, Jan. 14
7 p.m. ET
Siena +5

Tonight, the Saints go marching into Poughkeepsie to take on a feisty and formidable Marist squad, led by the Don of defense, head coach John Dunne.

The Foxes are not to be taken lightly, folks. They nearly took down Iona in New Rochelle last Friday and are sporting an impressive 9-5 record against the number so far this season.

However, water finds its level eventually, and Marist could be approaching its own plateau.

The Foxes lost to a Rider team in disarray last Sunday, a brutal loss in what figures to be a hyper-competitive MAAC. Granted, they were without freshman phenom Jao Ituka, but that didn’t stop them from eviscerating Fairfield two days before.

The anticipation surrounding Ituka’s impending return tonight is sure to entice some bettors to back Marist. While the early money is siding with the Saints so far, one could argue Ituka’s return is keeping the line above 5 — if he was out, this line could be crashing.

The prevailing edge here is less about Siena’s opponent and more about the Saints themselves. In short, you’re catching Siena — whose analytic rankings at all the reputable sites (KenPom, BartTorvik, Haslametrics, etc.) pegs them outside the top-200 nationally — at a garage sale bargain.

The Saints remain disrespected for a variety of reasons.

For starters, a dismal start to the season led many to write them off as a bottom of the barrel MAAC squad, and a few fluky results scattered throughout the year have enabled that narrative.

However, all of the Saints’ turbulence ties back to disjointed roster continuity. Injuries and COVID-19, collectively, have upended head coach Carmen Maciariello’s attempt to retool a well-balanced roster, one without the star power cache of the now-departed Jalen Pickett.

However, look no further than Siena’s last five games. The Saints have gone 4-1 against the number during that span, with the lone non-cover coinciding with an overtime loss to Manhattan — that night, the Saints squandered a 13-point lead in the second half.

Maciariello is still sorting out his rotation pecking order, but the blueprint for success is starting to take hold. Andrew Platek is no longer in the picture, paving the way for unsung heroes such as Nick Hopkins, Aidan Carpenter, Anthony Gaines and Colby Rogers to get their moment in the sun.

Tonight, Rogers is expected to return to the lineup after a one-game hiatus, which arms the Saints with a bonafide bucket-getter on the wing.

The key, however, is Jackson Stormo. His burly frame up front should be the neutralizing force that prevents an onslaught at the rim, where Marist has feasted on weaker opponents all season.

For my money, these two teams are near equals and should be priced accordingly. Take the Saints with the points in what should be a back-and-forth mid-60s affair.

Pick: Siena +5 (Play to +4)

Davidson vs. Richmond

Friday, Jan. 14
9 p.m. ET
Richmond -1

Chris Mooney has been the bullseye of a relentless barrage of criticism from Richmond fans the last few years. The “close but no cigar” nature of the Spiders’ last three seasons is boiling into a hot seat situation for Mooney, who remains one of the sharpest coaching minds around.

Tonight, he squares off against another chess grandmaster in Bob McKillop, the longtime program director at Davidson. In the last three meetings between the two tacticians, Mooney has gotten the better of McKillop. The Spiders swept Davidson in 2020 and a notched six-point victory at Davidson last year.

Historical precedents can be a flimsy basis for current matchup angles, but this calls for an exception. Richmond’s core nucleus has been intact since 2019, headlined by Grant Golden, Jacob Gilyard, Nick Sherod and Nathan Cayo.

When it comes to scouting Davidson’s offense, this foursome of multi-year starters already has the answers to the test.

The X-factor tonight is burgeoning sophomore star Tyler Burton, a pro-level talent with untapped potential. Burton’s efficient production warrants serious first-team All A-10 discussion, and his matchup tonight against the Wildcats is favorable.

If there’s a chink in Davidson’s defensive armor, it’s on the wing, where Burton has done the bulk of his damage this year. He’s a true three-level scorer, capable of shooting, slashing and posting up inside. His skill set forces defenders to pick their poison, enticing Mooney to find creative ways to isolate him accordingly.

The other key matchup will be at the point, where Gilyard will go toe-to-toe with former Michigan State man Foster Loyer. Loyer is experiencing a renaissance under McKillop after an underwhelming and short-lived career in East Lansing.

Along with the sharpshooting Hyunjung Lee, Loyer’s been the engine of an electric Davidson scoring attack.

Loyer, however, has looked mortal against fierce competition. Tonight, he will be pestered by one of the nation’s stingiest ballhawks in Gilyard. Cutting the head of the snake off is paramount to slowing down Davidson’s offense, and fortunately, Mooney has the ultimate defensive assassin in Gilyard to execute that task.

Pick: Richmond -1 (Play to -2)

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