After a jam-packed weekend of college hoops, the 2021 Gavitt Tipoff Games begin tonight. Let’s dive into my college basketball best bets for the matchups between Big Ten and Big East programs, including No. 11 Illinois at Marquette and Providence at Wisconsin.
Click on the odds below to bet now, and join the discussion in our betting channel, as we break down the biggest games throughout each week.
College Basketball Best Bets: Monday, Nov. 15
Illinois Fighting Illini @ Marquette Golden Eagles
Brad Underwood’s squad isn’t at full strength — with Illini center Kofi Cockburn serving a three-game suspension and wing Austin Hutcherson (tailbone) banged up. Cockburn is a Wooden Award contender (+1200), representing Illinois’ go-to, low-post scorer while generating a top-170 block rate last season.
But can the Golden Eagles take advantage inside? Marquette returns just 19.8% of its minutes, and the program is employing a brand-new system under Shaka Smart. His team isn’t reliant on attacking the paint either, tallying a below-average two-point scoring rate across Division I.
Moreover, George Mason transfer Tyler Kolek, who’s handling the point guard duties for the Golden Eagles, has yet to face this level of tenacious defense. Underwood has dialed back his ball pressure from years past, but Illini guards Andre Curbelo, Trent Frazier and Da’Monte Williams are still pests at that end of the floor.
Marquette wing Darryl Morsell, who can distribute in his own right, is familiar with Illinois’ scheme from his days at Maryland. Trusting that Smart’s entire offense will exploit it is a different story, though.
The Golden Eagles have struggled on the glass as well while the Illini are an upper echelon rebounding team with Coleman Hawkins and Omar Payne upfront. If Illinois controls that department, they’ll look to push the tempo and attack the rim at the other end. Marquette has struggled with its transition defense, allowing a top-60 free-throw rate in the process.
Similar to Illinois, Kolek & Co. aim to push the tempo, which would normally lead to a look towards the over. But that’s properly set at .
With the spread hovering over three possessions after opening at Illinois -8.5, there isn’t much value in that market.
Providence Friars @ Wisconsin Badgers
When this spread opened at Wisconsin -7.5, I immediately jumped on Providence. It was bet down to as low as -4.5 before creeping back up to -5.5 across the board.
Bookmakers are undervaluing the Friars from the get-go. Although Ed Cooley’s bunch lost a dynamic playmaker in David Duke, who notched a top-125 assist rate last season, Jared Bynum is suitable ball handler with a low turnover rate. The Friars brought back 66.2% of their roster too.
Big man Nate Watson leads the returning core, and he’s one of the most efficient interior scorers in the country. The Badgers struggled to defend the low-post last season, and they’ll showcase a more inexperienced frontcourt minus Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter. Providence should be able to play inside-out through Watson, but it’ll need A.J. Reeves and Indiana transfer Alijah Durham to knock down shots at a more consistent rate.
Defensively, the Friars’ length should stymie Wisconsin’s shooting from beyond the arc, which Greg Guard’s teams have been reliant on. Reeves and Durham also present physical frames that should bother Badgers’ top scorer Johnny Davis.
- Update: Davis (foot) was reportedly seen in street clothes and is inactive for tonight’s game.
Wait to see if a Providence +6 pops up before backing Cooley’s unit. If it doesn’t happen pregame, try to grab that line with a live bet.
Eli’s College Basketball Best Bets: Providence +7.5 (bet down to +6)
Best Available Line: Providence