With the 2021 ACC/Big Ten Challenge rolling along, tonight delivers a pair of intriguing games — highlighted by Chris Mack’s return to the sidelines against Tom Izzo. Let’s break down my college basketball best bets for Louisville at Michigan State and Michigan at North Carolina.
Click on the odds below to bet now. You can continue the discussion in our betting community, as we break down all of the games throughout the week.
Louisville Cardinals at Michigan State Spartans
After serving a six-game suspension, Mack will coach in his first contest of the 2021-22 campaign. He’s entering the fold at the ideal juncture — with his Cardinals maturing in the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship over Thanksgiving weekend.
As I dissected in my college basketball power rankings, Louisville currently boasts a top-100 rebounding rate at both ends of the floor after struggling in that department to begin the season. Considering Michigan State possesses a size advantage and crashes the offensive glass at a top-50 rate, Louisville’s refined gang rebounding effort will be critical.
Moreover, Mack runs similar principles to a traditional pack-line defense, including no-middle concepts. Hence, the Cardinals aim to limit opponents from attacking the paint. The Spartans’ motion offense is predicated around dribble penetration, which compounds their turnover issues at times. They rely on perimeter shots at a bottom-30 rate too.
Unless MSU dominates in transition, Louisville’s defense is in prime position to generate all sorts of havoc.
The Cardinals are dealing with some continuity issues after replacing much of their roster. But Marshall transfer Jarrod West (22.0% assist rate) provides Mack with the ideal point guard in his uptempo offense. Expect Louisville to find room around the rim off of the bounce. That could lead to a big night for forward Samuel Williamson via his crisp off-ball movement.
Izzo’s team is a bit overvalued in the betting market after its performance in the Battle 4 Atlantis. I’ll take two possessions with the Cardinals as a result.
Eli’s Bet: Louisville +4.5 (placed Wednesday morning at FanDuel Sportsbook)
College Basketball Best Bets: Louisville +4 or better
Best Available Line: Louisville
Michigan Wolverines at North Carolina Tar Heels
Without much wiggle room in the line, there isn’t much value in this matchup from a pregame betting perspective — especially after the market bumped this up from Wolverines -1.5 to -2.5 overnight.
Juwan Howard’s offense is a mess, lacking the floor-spacing it had last season around big man Hunter Dickinson. Michigan owns a bottom-30 three-point scoring rate as a result. Although UNC’s interior defense can be exposed, it’ll be in position to double Dickinson occasionally if the Wolverines’ shooting struggles continue.
Does that mean I trust the Tar Heels at that side of the court? Absolutely not. They rank No. 113 in KenPom’s Adjusted Defensive Efficiency metric, surrendering 0.99 points per possession (PPP).
- Adjusted Efficiency accounts for the ratings of the offense (or defense) on a PPP basis via college basketball prognosticator Ken Pomeroy.
But their prowess for pushing the pace with UNC guard Caleb Love & Co. could disrupt Michigan’s slower tempo. The Wolverines’ defense also sits bottom-50 in two-point scoring rate, which should translate into an efficient showing from the Tar Heels’ offense if they control things stylistically.
I’ll need to monitor this one live before giving out a target number. Over two possessions (+6.5) would be the ideal range, though.
Eli’s College Basketball’s Best Bets: Pass
Best Available Line: UNC