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Saturday College Basketball Pick & Roll: Calabrese & McGrath’s 4 Top Betting Picks (Jan. 7)

Saturday College Basketball Pick & Roll: Calabrese & McGrath’s 4 Top Betting Picks (Jan. 7) article feature image
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Photo by Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images. Pictured: Herb Sendek (Santa Clara)

Like Jimmer Fredette, Tanner McGrath was forced to shoulder the entirety of the load last week, firing up a handful of picks without his usual wingman picking his spots.

With Michael Calabrese on the shelf, this column’s hot streak came to an end.

This week, the dynamic duo are reunited and ready to tackle a Saturday slate with well over 100 games to choose from.

The good news for the betting audience is that our picks span the entirety of the day, starting with Tanner’s Big East nooner and ending with Breese’s selection in the WCC nightcap between Gonzaga and Santa Clara.

So, roll out the basketballs, get in those layup lines and get ready to place your bets.



McGrath’s Top 2 Saturday Picks

Creighton vs. UConn

Saturday, Jan. 7
Noon p.m. ET
FOX

So, everybody keeps waiting for the Huskies to bounce back. This team just lost back-to-back games after starting the season 14-0, so surely it’s due for a monster performance.

Eh, Dan Hurley just isn’t that guy.

Hurley has never been a coach to pick his guys right up, as he’s just 34-33 ATS following a loss. While those numbers take a huge boost off back-to-back losses, I think the market has yet to account for Ryan Kalkbrenner’s return to Creighton.

Do you know how important Kalkbrenner is to the Bluejays? Since his return, the Bluejays have won three straight games by an average of 20 points. Kalkbrenner’s on-off splits are so ridiculous that they can’t be repeated in this article.

But once you factor Kalkbrenner into the lineup, you realize this team can go punch-for-punch with the Huskies.

First, the Bluejays can rebound with the Huskies, as they’re top-10 nationally in DR%.

Second, the Bluejays can defend Adama Sanogo in the post, especially when Kalkbrenner is there instead of Frederick King.

Third, the Bluejays can run UConn off the 3-point line, which is important because the Huskies have crept into the top 40 in 3-point rate.

Well, both teams will run the other off the 3-point line. In fact, I expect most of this game to be played on the interior despite both offenses’ propensity to shoot the deep ball.

Creighton has a distinct advantage in that area, given it was Greg McDermott’s calling card last season with his younger Bluejay team. The 2021-22 Bluejays dominated interior scoring, interior defense and nothing else. They over-performed, and I think McDermott has that card up his sleeve.

Creighton can also defend without fouling, which should play a big role on Saturday. Creighton is first in the nation in free-throw rate allowed, while UConn is 341st.

If one of Sanogo or Kalkbrenner is going to get into foul trouble, we know it’ll be the former.

Creighton is still monstrously undervalued now that its star center is in the mix, and I simply don’t trust UConn to bounce back like its the Nick Saban-led Crimson Tide or the Bill Belichick-led Patriots.

I have a good feeling Creighton goes punch-for-punch with the Huskies in Storrs on Saturday afternoon. I expect a single-digit UConn victory, and I will happily grab 6.5 points or better.

Pick: Creighton +8 (Play to +6.5)

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Saint Joe’s vs. Fordham

Saturday, Jan. 7
2 p.m. ET
ESPN+

This is one of my favorite spots of the season so far.

Tucked away deep in A-10 lore is Fordham’s surprisingly strong home court advantage. The Rams are 21-5 at the Rose Hill Gym since the start of last season, and that includes an 11-5 ATS record, according to our Bet Labs database.

The Bronx home court has been one of the more consistent things for Fordham among all the uncertainty over the last few seasons.

Jeff Neubauer’s 2-12 2021 season led to the hiring of Kyle Neptune, who went 16-16 with the Rams before returning to Philly to take the Villanova job. Now former Penn State assistant Keith Urgo is at the helm, and he’s led this team to a 12-3 record.

Even with all the coaching changes, this program has been trending up. Part of that is the stable home court advantage, but the other part is graduate guard Darius Quisenberry leading a team that knows its identity.

Quisenberry is a stud, averaging 18 points per game while shooting over 40% from 3. He also boasts one of the better assist-to-turnover ratios in the league.

He’s an entertaining watch, and he just dropped 33 in the loss to Rhode Island, which was, unfortunately, Fordham’s second straight defeat.

The Rams’ offense consists of Quisenberry dribble drives and him creating spot-up opportunities. The Rams are top-40 nationally in 3-point rate and top-50 in catch-and-shoot 3-point rate.

But defense is Fordham’s calling card.

Fordham finished 2022 as a top-40 defense and is currently 35th in eFG% allowed through 15 games this season. The Rams run everyone off the 3-point line and into the paint, where they have an array of shot-blockers that make them one of the most-efficient rim-protecting teams in college hoops.

All this is to say that Fordham is a matchup nightmare for Saint Joe’s.

The Hawks are sub-350 in 3-point rate allowed and boast a below-average spot-up defense. They also rank 26th in 3-point rate, launching over 26 per game.

The big question surrounding Saint Joseph’s is guard play and guard depth. Erik Reynolds II is a stud, but he and backcourt mate Lynn Greer combine for six turnovers per game to just 6.8 assists.

So, to recap, this Hawks team:

  • Will allow perimeter-oriented Fordham plenty of 3-point opportunities
  • Will struggle to create 3-point opportunities against Fordham’s interior-funneling defense
  • Will struggle to match up with Quisenberry in the backcourt
  • Will be playing on the road against a very strong home court
  • Will be playing against a Fordham team looking to bounce back after back-to-back losses

… and they’re only catching 4.5 points? I don’t get it.

Maybe it’s because Saint Joseph’s has historically dominated this matchup. But the last time the Hawks won in the Bronx, Phil Martelli was the coach.

And projections don’t get this line, either. EvanMiya projects this line at Fordham -6, VSIN’s Greg Peterson has it Fordham -8, Haslametrics has it Fordham -5.3 and KenPom has it Fordham -5.

I’m all over the Rams in this spot, as Quisenberry and Co. should avenge last season’s loss with a monster home victory.


Calabrese’s Top 2 Saturday Picks

Delaware vs. Charleston

Saturday, Jan. 7
5 p.m. ET
CBS Sports Network

Charleston has appeared in the NCAA tournament just once since ditching the Southern Conference for the CAA back in 2013.

The last three years have been particularly trying for the Cougars, as they have battled mediocrity and a coaching change.

But now in Pat Kelsey’s second season, this CofC team resembles the mid-major power he built at Winthrop. Kelsey won 23+ games in four of his final six years at Winthrop and became known for his high-scoring system.

Charleston has remade itself under Kelsey and now possesses a dynamic offense. The Cougars are 22nd in scoring and bomb away with reckless abandon. They take the fourth-most 3s of any team in the country on a per game basis, and hit the 11th-most.

But the key here is “reckless” because their tempo and 3-point preference paper over some glaring weaknesses, at least for a nationally-ranked team. The Cougars are 319th in assist-to-made-basket ratio, 196th in 3-point accuracy and they can get very sloppy with the basketball (13.2 TO, 199th).

When they can push the tempo and increase the overall possessions, their sloppiness can get lost in the box score. Since their early-season loss to North Carolina, Charleston has topped 80 points six times and has won by an average margin of 18.2 points per game.

Tempo clearly is the Cougars’ cure-all.

But their recent overtime win against Towson delivered a blueprint to their future opponents. The Tigers kept the scoring in the 60s in regulation and forced 24 turnovers.

Delaware can follow this recipe because it loves to play slow (272nd) and it almost always wins the turnover battle (10.9 TO per game, 19th). Also, it already succeeded in slowing down and beating a quality mid-major offense like Colgate in a 72-68 seesaw battle that suited its tempo.

Charleston is 11-4 ATS this season, which is why I believe this line has bubbled up close to 12.

The secret is out on the nationally-ranked mid-major, and I’ll take advantage of an inflated number.

Pick: Delaware +11.5


Gonzaga vs. Santa Clara

Saturday, Jan. 7
10 p.m. ET
Root Sports

Gonzaga is still catching its breath after a two-point win over San Francisco on the road on Thursday night.

This Gonzaga team may prove to have a fifth gear in the next two months, but as it stands, this is as “mortal” as the Zags have looked at this point in the season since their 15-3 WCC campaign in 2016.

It’s not often you even get within striking distance of Gonzaga in conference, but a few teams will have their shot, and Santa Clara is one of them.

What seemed like a retirement/out-to-pasture job for Herb Sendek has turned into a pretty good showcase of his coaching prowess.

Last season, the Broncos finished third in the WCC, won 21 games and made it to the NIT. And then they struck gold with Illinois transfer Brandin Podziemski.

The four-star is the highest-rated player to ever wear the maroon and white, and he’s lived up the billing and more. The versatile wing is averaging 18.8/8.6/3.4 a night on nearly 40% shooting from long range.

And now that conference play has begun, he’s ready to blast off into superstardom. In Podziemski’s last game, he dropped 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists on Pepperdine in a 10-point road win.

There’s also the public vs. non-public element at play here. Everyone in the college basketball universe throws money at Gonzaga, making feisty home dogs particularly valuable against the Zags.

Santa Clara is 6-2 ATS as a home dog in the last two years, while Gonzaga is just 3-4 ATS as a road favorite in the past year and a half.

And finally, I like how the Broncos rebound as a team this year, ranking in the top 70 in every major rebounding metric on both the offensive and defensive glass.

With an offense as efficient as Gonzaga’s can be at times, it’s critical to not give up second and third chances. The Zags rank 170th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (27.2%), and Santa Clara should keep them at bay in this one.

In front of a sellout crowd at Leavey Center, I think the Broncos will flirt with an outright upset, making this spread north of two possessions too good to pass up.


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