Saturday College Basketball Pick & Roll: Calabrese & McGrath’s 4 Betting Picks (Dec. 10)
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images. Pictured: Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana)
To celebrate what should be the best college hoops betting day of the season thus far, their four plays will feature four top-25 teams, including a highly-anticipated battle from Las Vegas between Arizona and Indiana.
Get ready to “pick” & “roll” into a profitable Saturday in college basketball.
McGrath’s Top 2 Saturday Picks
Penn State vs. Illinois
This is a battle between my two favorite Big Ten teams. These are the only two teams I took Big Ten futures for in the preseason.
However, I think these teams are closer than the line says.
Illinois is uber-talented. On paper, this is one of the 10-best teams in the nation, led by a big three of potential All-Americans in Coleman Hawkins, Matthew Mayer and Terrence Shannon Jr. This team is far too talented to overlook, both during league play and during March.
But I like how Penn State matches up here.
If this were last season, Kofi Cockburn would’ve just backed down Penn State in the post, and the Nittany Lions wouldn’t have an answer. But Illinois is playing more on the perimeter this season and is trying to get out in transition more.
That’s the type of game Penn State’s Micah Shrewsberry wants to play.
Penn State is a good shot-contest team (90th percentile in spot-up PPP allowed) and allows the 17th-lowest percentage of shots in transition.
Moreover, if you want to pit Skyy Clark/Jayden Epps against Jalen Pickett/Camren Wynter, I know who I’m taking in that battle, offensively and defensively.
I also trust Seth “Lockdown” Lundy to shut down Shannon, and Kebba Njie is holding his own as the defensive anchor.
The worry is that Hawkins cooks from the interior or Mayer goes ballistic, but then again, we only need to keep it within single digits.
I trust Shrewsberry to do that, given he’s 12-7 ATS as a conference underdog in his Penn State career.
It’s hard to imagine a conference home opener as a letdown spot, but Illinois could be slightly overvalued after sneaking by Texas in overtime Tuesday. Illinois did not deserve to win that game.
Meanwhile, expect a big effort from Penn State, which has dropped back-to-back games, including its own conference home opener.
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UAB vs. West Virginia
I’m not sure if this is surprising, but this is the first time UAB is catching points this season. The elite mid-major squad is 7-1 with wins over three KenPom top-150 teams.
Expectations are uber-high for the Blazers this season, as the Jordan “Jelly” Walker/Eric Gaines duo represents arguably the best backcourt in, dare I say it, the nation. A letdown game — or two — is expected for a squad in new territory.
The Blazers suffered a tough, neutral-court loss to Toledo and recently have failed to cover against South Alabama and South Florida. Check off the letdown boxes.
But I’m sure Andy Kennedy is breathing a deep sigh of relief.
“Ah, finally, a Rah-Rah spot.”
That’s fair, as Kennedy is a whopping 85-62-1 ATS as an underdog in his coaching career.
I don’t see where West Virginia has a big advantage here. Bob Huggins runs the offense through his guards Joe Toussaint and Erik Stevenson, and his defense is based on causing chaos for opposing ball-handlers, thereby forcing turnovers.
Huggins’ game plan runs right into the Walker/Gaines freight train.
Meanwhile, I see some advantages for UAB’s offense. The Blazers love to run cutting and off-screen action from their two superstar guards, and the Mountaineers have struggled to defend those this season (1.233 PPP allowed, 28th percentile).
Plus, WVU can’t stop fouling, as the team is now sub-330 in free-throw rate allowed.
Don’t think Jelly and Gaines can easily get to the line? The Blazers are top-50 in free-throw rate themselves.
West Virginia likely scores plenty, but the Blazers have the backcourt and the firepower to keep this one close. Given Kennedy’s record in these spots, I feel very confident backing him and the Blazers.
Calabrese’s Top 2 Saturday Picks
Oklahoma vs. Arkansas
I have a feeling we’re going to look back on this season for the Razorbacks and divide it into two buckets.
- The portion where they remained competitive without the services of Nick Smith Jr.
- And the rest of the season, when the future lottery pick elevated their offense to an elite level.
As it stands, Arkansas is just 111th in offensive efficiency, 85th in shooting efficiency and 333rd in made 3s per game. Despite those offensive limitations, they’ve risen to ninth in the AP Poll, and Smith is finally in the starting lineup after nursing a right knee injury.
In Smith’s first start, he went for 16 points on 3-of-5 shooting from long range. He also integrated perfectly into the lineup without turning the ball over once.
In his second start, he showed off his NBA-ready game by consistently driving to the hoop and drawing fouls. He shot 9-for-11 from the charity stripe and scored 22 points while logging 39 minutes.
As I mentioned at the top, this was already a highly-regarded team before Smith’s addition, hanging its hat on a disruptive defense that turns teams over on 22.2% of their possessions (13th).
Now the Razorbacks travel to Oklahoma to take on a Sooners team that is sloppy with the basketball (258th in TO percentage) and has played single-digit games with Arkansas-Pine Bluff and South Alabama at home this season.
I’ll spare you the trouble of Googling either team — both the Golden Lions and Jaguars are terrible.
Since arriving in Fayetteville, Eric Musselman has been the third-most profitable SEC coach ATS when playing on the road.
Porter Moses is a coach I respect, but this team doesn’t make enough 3s (6.8, 221st) or get to the line enough (16 FTA, 257th) to withstand the kind of runs that Arkansas will be able to reel off in this game thanks to its pressure defense.
For that reason I’m on Arkansas, and I would play it up to -4.5.
Arizona vs. Indiana
Two top-15 offenses are set to collide in Sin City on Saturday night, and I for one don’t want to be stuck holding an under ticket.
Not only is Arizona second in offensive efficiency and assists per game, but it’s also the nation’s best shooting team from the field at an absurd 55.2%.
The Wildcats have been happy to speed teams up with the intent of outscoring them when an inevitable second-half drought comes on. Wildcat opponents have attempted nearly 68 shots per game (360th) and scored 77.6 points each time out (315th).
Despite very high totals, five of Arizona’s eight games have gone over the closing number by an average of 10.2 points per game.
Indiana is nearly as lethal of a shooting team (52.2%, 3rd), but it prefers to play at a decidedly slower tempo (72.7 possessions to Arizona’s 79.4).
What I like most about an IU over, however, is that it’s not 3-point dependent. An Alabama or Baylor might fire up 30 or more 3s in a game. If 10+ fall in those scenarios, you’re probably looking at an over.
Indiana has averaged 82.1 points per game this season, but have only attempted 18.9 treys per game (286th). The Hoosiers share the basketball, take high-percentage shots and don’t turn the ball over very often.
For Indiana to win this game, it’ll likely need a big night from Trayce Jackson-Davis. That’s also the formula we need to hit this over. In TJD’s three games this season in which he’s scored 20 or more points, IU has averaged 86.3 points per game.
Despite Arizona’s tremendous size — notably Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo — teams have bullied the Wildcats on the low block. Utah’s three bigs accounted for 40 points and 22 rebounds in a 15-point upset. While Branden Carlson is skilled, TJD is in another class altogether.
My only concern in this matchup is these teams’ suspect foul shooting. Both Arizona and IU shoot in the lower 70s from the charity stripe, and every point counts with a total north of 150.
Outside of that, I think this is a safe over play, and I would play it all the way up to the cusp of 160.