There are 138 games within Saturday’s college hoops slate. No, this is not a drill. Let’s break down my college basketball best bets for the card, including an ACC tilt between No. 9 Duke and Louisville. These situational spots are set up by bounce-back, letdown, look-ahead or revenge opportunities.
Click on the odds below to place a bet when they’re available.
In this COVID era, some of these wagers are contingent on player availability, so check back and follow me on Twitter. Continue the discussion in our Discord betting community, as we dissect all of the games.
No. 9 Duke Blue Devils at Louisville Cardinals
Yes, the Cardinals fired Chris Mack while their program aims to avoid a collapse — already having dropped five of its last six games. But that creates value, especially with the Blue Devils (No. 7 in my power ratings) in town.
Keep in mind, Louisville played its best basketball of the season during the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship, and it’s no coincidence that Mike Pegues (the now-interim head coach) was subbing in for Mack. Although there are evident holes within his roster, the Cards are still generating the third-highest defensive rebounding percentage in ACC play. Expect a max-effort display on the glass, which will help them speed up the pace.
On top of that, 42.0% of Duke’s 3-pointers allowed are wide-open (via ShotQuality) despite surrendering the lowest perimeter clip in-conference (26.5%). Noah Locke, Jarrod West and Matt Cross are all having up-and-down seasons from behind the arc, yet the Blue Devils present a fluky defense that Louisville’s shooters can surely take advantage of.
Duke forward Trevor Keels (calf) also hasn’t practiced all week. If he misses a third-straight game, the Blue Devils’ transition defense would continue to take a hit. Look for the Cards to hang around throughout.
Eli’s Bet: Louisville +9 (-115)
College Basketball Best Bets: Louisville +7 or better
Best Available Line: Louisville
VCU Rams at Richmond Spiders
This contest is more matchup-driven, as VCU just ended Davidson’s 15-game winning streak while Richmond is coming off a second-half comeback victory at Rhode Island.
For one, Chris Mooney’s motion offense is predicated to expose ball pressure, manufacturing plenty of off-ball movement and a low turnover rate. On the flip side, the Rams are reliant upon piling up opponents’ miscues, forcing the second-highest turnover rate in Division I. Jacob Gilyard & Co. won’t be rattled by their scheme, and the Spiders should have an efficient performance if their action leads to quality perimeter looks and free-throw attempts.
Gilyard, #0, is averaging a career-high 29.3% assist rate.
Plus, Mike Rhoades’ attack should struggle if it fails to accrue transition opportunities. VCU owns a bottom-50 efficiency in half-court sets, and its red-hot 3-point shooting (40.9%) in A-10 play will regress in the process.
After losing three of their last four games to their in-state rivals, look for Richmond’s upperclassmen to earn its revenge.
College Basketball Best Bets: Consider Richmond ATS
Best Available Line: Richmond
No. 12 Kentucky Wildcats at No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks
Unfortunately, the status of TyTy Washington and Jacob Toppin – both dealing with ankle injuries – is unclear. It forges a difficult handicap, especially with the Wildcats lacking an elite shot creator outside of Washington. Toppin would represent a key in the effort to slow down Jayhawks forward Jalen Wilson, too.
Ochai Agbaji, #30, and TyTy Washington, #3, are two of the most explosive scorers across college basketball.
Nevertheless, Kentucky’s close-out defense on catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts should slow down Agbaji, a Wooden Award candidate (), and Kansas as a whole from behind the arc. At the other end, the Jayhawks are allergic to delivering any sort of on-ball defense, playing into the hands of Washington (if he’s available) and fellow guard Sahvir Wheeler.
But unlike many of the Wildcats’ games this season, they’ll be tested on the glass. Kansas center David McCormack has dealt with a myriad of offensive inconsistencies, yet he’s amassing the highest offensive rebounding rate in the country — even ahead of his counterpart Oscar Tshiebwe. John Calipari’s squad will be in trouble if McCormack delivers his fair share of second-chance shots while potentially putting Tshiebwe in foul trouble.
Kentucky is my lone in-season futures bet, and Kansas has benefited from every ounce of positive variance in its last three wins. But unless the Cats are fully healthy or in-game opportunity arises, I’ll be on the sidelines.
- Update: Washington and Toppin are both expected to play.
Eli’s Bet: Kentucky +5 (-110)
College Basketball Best Bets: Kentucky +5 or better
Best Available Line: Kentucky
Virginia Cavaliers at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
We’ve reached a sell-high point on the Irish with Mike Brey’s unit winning nine of its last 10 matchups. This affair is a bit of a look-ahead spot as well, considering aforementioned Duke is on deck.
Tony Bennett’s blocker-mover motion attack ranks No. 10 among ACC programs in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (AdjO). That metric accounts for a team’s offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) via prognosticator Ken Pomeroy. However, Notre Dame’s off-screen coverage has been a concern throughout the campaign, positioning Virginia guards Kihei Clark and Reece Beekman to pick it apart in half-court sets.
Can Clark, #0, help lead the ‘Hoos back into the ACC regular season title picture?
Defensively, the Cavaliers run a pack-line scheme, which should limit a dribble drive-oriented offense. They’ve been effective at minimizing opponents’ open 3s via catch-and-shoot situations as well — a strong-suit of Brey’s bunch.
Overall, Virginia boasts enough advantages to pull off the upset victory. Let’s grab a possession to be safe, though, in what should result in a tightly-contested final score.
Eli’s Bet: Virginia +4.5 (-115)
College Basketball Best Bets: Virginia +3 or better
Best Available Line: Virginia
Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Syracuse Orange
Steve Forbes’ crew has won six of its last eight games while the Orange have strung together the exact opposite record during that stretch. Therefore, this contest represents a prime buy-low, sell-high spot.
Although Jim Boeheim’s strong-willed love for zone defense has cost Syracuse over the years, Wake Forest is a juicy matchup for it. The Demon Deacons rely on their dribble drive offense, but Boeheim’s system limits just that. Couple that with Alondes Williams & Co. accumulating the conference’s third-lowest 3-point clip (31.5%), and the road squad will likely be in for an offensive struggle.
Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim, #35, is shooting 5-of-25 from behind the arc in his last two games.
On the other side, Wake Forest hasn’t been burned from the perimeter despite letting up a variety of open 3s. Expect the Boeheim brothers, especially Buddy, to bounce back if they’re dictating the tempo. The Orange aren’t proficient on the boards, yet luckily for them – neither are the Demon Deacons. That should help translate into fast-break situations for the home team.
Syracuse squandered a second-half lead against its ACC foe on Jan. 8. Don’t anticipate a similar situation to arise.
Eli’s Bet: Syracuse +2
College Basketball Best Bets: Syracuse PK or better
Best Available Line: Syracuse