Sunday College Basketball Best Bets: Will Gonzaga Bounce Back Vs. Kentucky?

Written By Eli Hershkovich on November 20, 2022
College Basketball Best Bets

Feast Week continues on the college basketball odds board, and Sunday’s slate gifts us with some highly-anticipated matchups. Let’s dissect my college basketball best bets for No. 2 Gonzaga against No. 4 Kentucky. Join our Discord betting channel (under the #roles server) and receive an immediate notification from Discord for whenever I make a bet.

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Gonzaga vs. Kentucky: Spread, Moneyline, Total

These two programs are near one another in my college basketball power rankings, so where is there value? Subscribe to the Outside Shots podcast, as Scott Phillips and I will break down all of the upcoming holiday tournaments as well.

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Will ‘Zags Continue Their Struggles?

Mark Few’s team failed to cover (-11.5) against Michigan State on an aircraft carrier, yet the outdoor venue was a warranted variable to consider. However, Gonzaga followed that up by surrendering 1.26 PPP in a beatdown of a loss at Texas.

Granted, I was eyeing that situational spot all offseason. I’m extremely high on the Longhorns and their national title futures, too. But after losing one-and-done phenom Chet Holmgren, the Bulldogs’ defense has taken a considerable step back.

In fact, their post-up defense ranks No. 339 in ShotQuality PPP. It’s a small sample size, though, and their interior setup may catch a break with Oscar Tshiebwe, who finished in the 21st percentile of post-up efficiency last season. The 6-foot-9 Tshiebwe represents the first John R. Wooden Award winner () to return to school since Tyler Hansbrough did so in 2009.

On the flip side, Tshiebwe’s rim protection and rebounding prowess are both extremely valuable. They help Kentucky play at an uptempo pace and produce second-chance shots. If he stays out of foul trouble, the Wildcats’ fast-break offense will reap the benefits.

Mind you, Gonzaga’s 3-point defense has also been suspect, especially in transition, ranking bottom-140 in opponent’s perimeter scoring rate.

Dissecting Kentucky’s Offense

If you watched John Calipari’s half-court sets in the latter part of the 2021-2022 campaign, you should’ve noticed its unreliable efficiency. Those issues have carried over into this season, as the Wildcats place No. 229 in ShotQuality rim-and-3 rate. This metric is a sign of whether or not teams are manufacturing quality looks.

The additions of a healthy CJ Fredrick and Illinois State transfer Antonio Reeves certainly provide more floor spacing. Nevertheless, this group has failed to identify a cure for Calipari’s clogged structure thus far.

Despite the Bulldogs’ collective defensive woes, the potential loss of point guard Nolan Hickman (ankle) could be a net positive, as it allows for Chattanooga transfer Malachi Smith to inherit an expanded role. Hickman’s 30.5% turnover rate would’ve been a disaster against a transition-reliant attack. Smith is a more effective overall with the ball in his hands.

On top of that, I’d expect a dialed-in effort from Drew Timme & Co. at both ends, following the embarrassing loss on Wednesday evening. Even with this game being played off-campus, thanks to Calipari, the ‘Zags may still have a home-court advantage.

College Basketball Best Bets Conclusion

Even though I won’t be betting this game, I give Gonzaga a small edge per my numbers. For reference, Few’s squad opened as a three-point favorite. Good luck with your college basketball best bets.

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