Saturday College Basketball Best Bets: Villanova vs. Tennessee, Purdue vs. UNC Picks

Written By Eli Hershkovich on November 19, 2021 - Last Updated on November 20, 2021
College Basketball Best Bets

The March Madness-feel continues in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic on Saturday, as No. 5 Villanova faces No. 17 Tennessee before No. 6 Purdue takes on No. 18 North Carolina. Let’s break down my college basketball best bets for those games.

Click on the odds below to bet across legal U.S. sportsbooks. You can continue the discussion in our betting channel, as we break down all of the games throughout the week.

College Basketball Best Bets: Saturday, Nov. 20

Villanova Wildcats vs. Tennessee Volunteers

Losing our Villanova bet (+4.5) at UCLA was a heart-breaker, but is the Big East program overvalued this time around?

Even without Yves Pons, the Vols’ defense is generating a top-25 turnover rate thus far because of their fierce ball pressure. But that leaves them susceptible to perimeter shots, which is where the Wildcats’ attack thrives.

Jay Wright’s offense is accumulating the 17th-highest 3-point scoring rate in college basketball, led by guards Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore. Their veteran bunch also rarely tallies turnovers, negating Tennessee’s strength.

But Rick Barnes’ unit should have an edge on the glass, as Villanova has struggled in the rebounding department at both ends. That would aid the Vols’ effort to control the tempo, as they’re aiming to push the floor against a methodical opponent. When the Bruins dictated the pace against the Wildcats, Wright’s team appeared rushed and out of sync.

If Tennessee finds success in that regard, it’ll accrue open looks from behind the arc. Five-star freshman Kennedy Chandler runs the show with a top-70 assist rate while creating his own 3-point opportunities as well.

Barnes & Co. could be worth backing — were they to get a possession.

Eli’s College Basketball Best Bets: Consider Tennessee +2.5 or better

Best Available Line: Tennessee

Result: -0.09 units (full-game loss/2H win)

Purdue Boilermakers vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

I’ve downgraded the Tar Heels in my power rankings after their sluggish start defensively, and they’ll likely continue their issues against the Boilermakers.

Matt Painter’s bunch possesses one of the most well-balanced groups in the country, ranking No. 2 in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (via KenPom). As I dissected before the season tipped off, Purdue is a definite title contender within the March Madness odds.

  • Adjusted Efficiency accounts for the ratings of the offense (or defense) on a points per possession basis via college basketball prognosticator Ken Pomeroy.

Although these teams are about even in size, North Carolina is surrendering a top-115 scoring rate inside the arc. Hubert Davis doesn’t have Day’Ron Sharpe, Garrison Brooks nor Walker Kessler upfront to protect the rim. Expect the 7-foot-4 Zach Edey, Trevion Williams and Caleb Furst to initiate the offense inside-out.

The Boilermakers have a top-95 perimeter scoring rate too, guided by 6-foot-5 senior wing Sasha Stefonovic (57.9%). Unless UNC controls the tempo for 40 minutes, there’s a minimal chance Purdue’s scoring surge comes to a halt. Stylistically, Painter’s team should dominate the pace, as it’s an elite rebounding unit at both side of the court.

For North Carolina’s offense to keep up, it’d need to attack the rim and put the Boilermakers’ big men in foul trouble. Not only is the tempo needed unlikely to come to fruition, but lead guard Caleb Love will have a difficult matchup with Jaden Ivey. The 6-foot-4 Ivey is slowly developing into a premier defender, and he’ll be a ballhawk yet again (3.6% steal rate) in this contest.

Purdue is properly priced at over two possessions, and there won’t be pregame value to be had.

  • Update: UNC’s Leaky Black is out with a non-COVID illness.

Conclusion: Pass

Best Available Line: Purdue

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Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a lead sports betting writer with TheLines and Catena Media, formerly with Audacy and The Action Network. His goal is to provide you with data and information to lead you to winning bets. Eli is an avid college basketball gambler — among many other sports — and still hasn't forgiven Virginia for ruining his 2018-2019 Texas Tech futures.

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