How to Bet the Emerald Coast Classic: Preview, Odds, Picks & Predictions

How to Bet the Emerald Coast Classic: Preview, Odds, Picks & Predictions article feature image

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images. Pictured: Jamie Dixon (TCU)

Feast Week takes college basketball all over the world. In the last week, we've seen games from London to Hawaii and nearly everywhere in between.

If you're anything like me, you might have guessed that the Emerald Coast Classic is in Ireland. It is not! This event takes place on something called Florida's Emerald Coast, in the panhandle in a town called Niceville.

You learn something new every day.

As strange as the geography of this event might sound, the format this year might be sillier. The Emerald Coast Classic is really two tournaments, one with four power-conference teams and one with four mid-to-low-majors.

Last week, the four big-time programs (relatively speaking) each played a home game against one of the smaller schools.

This format presumes that the power conference school will win and set up this week's bracket. The Southern University Jaguars had other plans, beating California in Berkeley.

Those on-campus games don't actually impact this week's event, leaving Cal limping into the Emerald Coast Classic. The Golden Bears will meet a ranked TCU team, with the winner advancing to face the winner of Iowa and Clemson.

Let's preview each of the four teams before making some picks for the event.

California Golden Bears

The loss to Southern was far from a fluke. Cal is 0-5 this season, with four of those five losses at the hands of teams ranked 171st or lower by KenPom.

That's really no surprise given the Golden Bears themselves are ranked 210th by KenPom's metrics.

The notable name on the roster is former highly-touted recruit Devin Askew. Cal is Askew's third school in as many years, starting with a disappointing freshman season in which he was young for his class after re-classifying to get into college basketball sooner.

He then played for Chris Beard at Texas last season. With Beard's influx of talent in Austin, Askew saw his chances at minutes dwindling and headed to Berkeley.

He's having his most productive season yet, averaging 17.4 points per game and 3.6 assists per night. Askew has already scored more points in five games at Cal than he did all season at Texas last year.

He is, however, still having the turnover problems that sent him to the bench at Kentucky and Texas. Askew is averaging 3.8 turnovers per game, coughing it up on more than 21% of his "used" possessions.

With his usage rate way up from previous seasons, that turnover rate is actually down compared to earlier in his career, but the lead guard of a college basketball team can't average 4.5 assists per 40 minutes and contribute to a healthy offense.

That effect has shown up in a big way for Cal. As a team, the Golden Bears turn the ball over 16 times per game. The Golden Bears are a sloppy mess.

For bettors, it may be too late to hop on the fade train here. Everyone, including sportsbooks, is plainly aware of how bad this team is this season.

TCU Horned Frogs

Cal has been a disappointment because the Bears are worse than any power conference team should be. TCU's been disappointing because there were real expectations for success for the Horned Frogs this season.

Jamie Dixon returned the bulk of last season's roster that earned an NCAA tournament bid and gave top-seeded Arizona one hell of a scare (in what might have been the tournament's craziest game).

Over four games to start this season, however, the Frogs have been lackluster. TCU beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff by just a point in its season opener and struggled late into the second half with KenPom's 359th-ranked team, Lamar.

The Horned Frogs then lost a home game to Northwestern State, blowing a 12-point second half lead. TCU scored just 63 points on 0.94 points per possession on 2-of-21 outside shooting.

The potential good news: two of TCU's first four games came without the services of Mike Miles — one of the premier guards returning to college basketball this season — due to a foot injury. He's a high usage player that initiates much of Dixon's offensive game plan. Missing him is critical.

It's unclear if he'll play in the Emerald Coast Classic. His status would massively change the forecast for both of TCU's games in Florida.

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Iowa Hawkeyes

Most teams struggle to find a replacement when their best player departs as a lottery selection in the NBA draft. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery was blessed with the best case scenario.

Keegan Murray left Iowa after a standout season last year, now impressing early on as a Sacramento King. Iowa hasn't quite felt a hole in the roster, simply sliding his brother Kris into a starring role.

The younger Murray has doubled his scoring and rebounding averages from last year, posting 23.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game in the season's early going. His emergence as a potential star has the chance to elevate Iowa from second-tier Big Ten team to a contender in the conference.

Murray is surrounded by a near perfect complement of role players. Tony Perkins and Ahron Ulis are dribble-drive creators off the bounce. Coach McCaffery's sons Connor and Patrick are deadly shooters, with Patrick adding some slashing ability.

Any team that loads up on Murray is going to be hurt by Iowa's other playmakers and shooters.

The issue, as it always seems to be with McCaffery's Hawkeyes, comes on the defensive end. If Iowa's defense can even hold serve enough to support a top-10 offense nationally, the Hawkeyes can make noise this season in the Big Ten.

In their lone chance to showcase defense against a meaningful opponent this year, the Hawkeyes forced 16 turnovers and held Seton Hall to less than one point per possession.

Clemson Tigers

Somehow we have entered Year 13 of the Brad Brownell era at Clemson. In his time at the helm, the Tigers have just three NCAA tournament appearances.

Clemson would certainly like to get back to the postseason this year and has an older, experienced team that should be able to win some tough games this season.

Everyone in Brownell's starting lineup has played at least two seasons of college basketball prior to this year, with several pursuing graduate degrees in their fifth season.

Guard Brevin Galloway is playing his sixth season of college basketball at his third school. He turns 25 years old next month!

The major question around this Tiger team surrounds guard Chase Hunter. After he scored just 6.7 points per game last year, he's notching 16.2 points so far this season.

If that can persist throughout the season, Clemson found itself a go-to guy to spark the offense. I'm skeptical, though. Hunter was a below-average shooter from outside the arc coming into this year, but has hit 13-of-19 3s to start the season.

Even if he has a great shooting year, he's not going to flirt with 65%. Regression is coming and someone else on the roster will need to pick up the slack.

Emerald Coast Classic Betting Analysis & Picks

So much of the outcome of this event should depend on the availability of Miles for TCU. If he's good to go, the Frogs should rout Cal, and I like its chances in the title game, as well.

Even without Miles, TCU should look at Cal as a perfect chance for a get-right-game. The Bears haven't shown anything to suggest they can stay within 12.5 points (the current line at some books) of a competitive power-conference opponent.

If Miles doesn't suit up, the event is Iowa's to win. The Hawkeyes are 8.5-point favorites against Clemson at most books (a few still have the Tigers getting just 7.5 as of the writing of this post). I like them at that number, but no higher.

A potential TCU-Iowa title game would really depend on whether or not Miles plays. Either way, I'd eye the over if the total is set under 150, with Iowa looking to out-score every opponent.

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