After arguably one of the most thrilling nights of the season, Wednesday’s college basketball slate showcases some intriguing situational spots. These circumstances are driven by bounce-back, letdown or revenge opportunities. Here’s a breakdown of my college basketball best bets, including a top-25 Big East showdown.
Click on the odds below to place a wager. You can also continue the discussion in our Discord betting community, as we dissect all of the games throughout the week.
No. 14 Villanova Wildcats at No. 17 Xavier Musketeers
Although I’m higher on the Wildcats in my college basketball power rankings than the Musketeers, this matchup represents a prime motivational spot for Xavier.
In their first meeting on Dec. 21, the Musketeers blew a 10-point lead with their half-court offense faltering down the stretch while manufacturing just 0.88 points per possession (PPP) overall. Villanova held its own on the glass too, which is an area that Travis Steele’s bunch typically prospers in with its size advantage.
Expect a stronger rebounding effort this time around against the undersized Wildcats, especially when Xavier is on the attack. It’s chalking up a top-70 offensive rebounding rate, as the 6-foot-6 Colby Jones & Co. have a knack for crashing the boards.
If that comes to fruition, the Musketeers should produce open looks from behind the arc with the opposition scrambling defensively. Jay Wright’s unit is stingy in the paint, yet they’re surrendering a top-100 perimeter scoring rate. Meanwhile, Xavier is tallying an above-average three-point percentage (34.7%) after a sluggish start to the campaign.
At the other end, Villanova’s perimeter-oriented group could be in for another rough night. Even though the Musketeers primarily run a pack-line defense that morphs into a zone on occasion, their ball pressure remains intact around the three-point line.
When the Wildcats’ shots aren’t dropping, they’ve found their way to the line via their vintage pump-fake. Nevertheless, Steele’s crew is letting up the eighth-lowest free-throw rate across Division I.
This matchup sets up well for Xavier in front of a raucous crowd, and it should tie up the season series in the process.
Eli’s Bet: Xavier PK (placed on Wednesday morning at DraftKings Sportsbook)
College Basketball Best Bets: Xavier -1 or better (aim to bet live if unavailable)
Best Available Line: Xavier
No. 12 LSU Tigers at Florida Gators
Entering this matchup, Will Wade’s squad is a consensus to win the national title after its 14-1 straight-up start. Not only are the Tigers overvalued in the futures market, but they’re also positioned for a letdown in Gainesville, Fla.
LSU will be without point guard Xavier Pinson, who suffered a knee sprain in Saturday’s win over Tennessee. The Missouri transfer is a key anchor in the Tigers’ triple-switching defense, which stems from switching the screen defender on-ball while another defender commits to the roller.
That scheme is turning opponents over at the fifth-highest rate. As a result, the Tigers are notching the top-ranked Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, accounting for a program’s rating on a PPP basis via college basketball prognosticator Ken Pomeroy.
But keep in mind, LSU recently knocked off Tennessee and Kentucky, in which both teams dealt with personnel issues because of COVID-19 and injuries, respectively.
Minus Pinson, anticipate the Tigers undergoing defensive regression from beyond the arc. For one, LSU is giving up an unsustainable 26.6% 3-point clip. On the flip side, the Gators are due for some positive shooting luck while accruing a top-135 perimeter attempt rate against the average opponent.
Moreover, Florida’s pressure defense is amassing the 18th-highest opponents’ turnover rate. Sophomore guard Eric Gaines, who’s struggling to limit his own miscues, will likely run the show with Pinson out. Tyree Appleby and the rest of the Gators’ ballhawks should be in for a field day, leading to their fair share of transition opportunities.
Coming off a two-game losing streak, the Gators are in position to rack up a much-needed win at home.
Eli’s Bet: Florida +1 (placed on Tuesday night at FanDuel Sportsbook)
College Basketball Best Bets: Florida -2 or better (aim to bet live if unavailable)
Best Available Line: Florida
Memphis Tigers at UCF Knights
The Tigers have seemingly turned a corner offensively, averaging 1.08 PPP during their three-game winning streak. Five-star freshman Emoni Bates appears more comfortable off the bench as well.
Despite that praise, Memphis has still notched the fifth-highest turnover rate in the sport. Both teams are at their best when speeding up the tempo, but UCF will dictate the pace if it’s initiating miscues. The Knights’ floor-spacing in transition is extremely efficient, and the Tigers are allowing the 65th-highest three-point scoring rate.
From a matchup standpoint, UNLV transfer Cheikh Mbacke Diong is a sound pick-and-roll defender, which is how Memphis aims to attack with the 6-foot-11 Jalen Duren and the rest of their bigs. Unless Penny Hardaway’s team is cooking up threes at an unexpected rate, its half-court offense will be an issue.
Similar to Florida, UCF has dropped consecutive matchups. Expect a bounce-back from Johnny Dawkins’ unit.
- Update: Memphis’ DeAndre Williams (back), Earl Timberlake (concussion), Alex Lomax (ankle) and Chandler Lawson (ankle) will all be inactive.
Eli’s Bet: UCF +1.5 (placed on Wednesday afternoon at DraftKings Sportsbook)
College Basketball Best Bets: UCF PK or better
Best Available Line: UCF