There are 21 ranked teams in action on the Saturday college hoops schedule. So let’s break down my college basketball best bets, including Florida at No. 5 Kentucky in a critical SEC showdown. Some of these plays are driven by situational spots like bounce-back, letdown, look-ahead or revenge opportunities.
Click on the odds below to place a bet when they’re available.
No. 23 Murray State Racers at Morehead State Eagles
Although this contest may appear to be an unappealing OVC affair, it represents a critical game for the double-bye in the league tournament — for a potential two-bid conference come March Madness.
Expect a motivated Eagles bunch at Johnson Arena after their one-point loss at Belmont on Thursday, along with the fact that they lost to Racers on Jan. 29.
Johni Broome, #4, is accruing the 11th-highest block rate in the country.
Morehead State presents the OVC’s top-ranked interior defense, led by Broome’s elite rim protection. Considering Murray State’s offense relies on attacking the paint, Preston Spradlin’s team should be up to the task. Despite struggling against isolation sets, that’s not an area that KJ Williams & Co. aim to generate offense from.
Moreover, the Eagles, which are manufacturing the third-highest 3-point scoring rate in conference play, will expose the Racers’ perimeter defense that’s due to regress. If Broome is efficient early on against a unit that has scuffled against post-ups, their offense from behind the arc will certainly open up.
In a revenge spot — on top of what’s at stake down the road — I’m selling-high on Murray State’s 13-game winning streak.
Eli’s College Basketball Best Bets: Morehead State +3 (-110)
Best Available Line: Morehead State
Florida Gators at No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats
While I’m a big believer in the Wildcats’ national title chances, this game is a look-ahead spot with the No. 19 Vols on deck.
More importantly, the Gators have 6-foot-10 Colin Castleton back in their starting five after he missed six games with a shoulder injury. Mike White has reverted to his five-out, motion offense that was successful in non-conference play, which should pay off at Rupp Arena.
Not only does Kentucky have issues sticking to opponents’ off-ball movement, but it also allows its fair share of off-the-dribble 3s (via ShotQuality). Florida should take advantage of both aspects, as it’s tallying the SEC’s third-highest perimeter scoring rate. Possessing the opportunity to work the offense through Castleton greatly improves the potential for an efficient shooting day.
Castleton, #12, owns a top-80 possession percentage across college basketball.
Plus, the Gators are much more proficient on the defensive glass with Castleton on the floor. If they limit the Wildcats’ second-chance shots, they’ll be equipped to play at a methodical tempo and force Sahvir Wheeler & Co. into more half-court sets.
Combine that with a slightly inflated line, and there’s value in White’s crew that’s fighting for a ticket to the big dance.
Eli’s College Basketball Best Bets: Florida +11 (-110)
Best Available Line: Florida
No. 18 Marquette Golden Eagles at Butler Bulldogs
Both programs are reeling, as the Golden Eagles have dropped two of their last three matchups while the Bulldogs have lost three straight. Sure, Butler has been dealt a myriad of losses throughout the campaign, but these three have come by a combined seven points. Hence, its competitive spirit is still intact.
Even though Marquette fought its way back into the Big East title race with an eight-game winning streak, it relies too much on shooting variance. Beyond the top-ranked 3-point clip in conference play (39.1%), Shaka Smart’s group rarely finds its way to the free-throw line. It struggles mightily on the glass too, depending solely on ball pressure to spark its transition attack.
Bo Hodges, #1, has provided LaVall Jordan a lift at both ends since returning from a knee injury.
Enter the Bulldogs, limiting their turnovers of late while controlling the pace via the Big East’s third-ranked defensive rebounding rate. Plus, their pressure around the arc is a constant — and not a product of opponents’ shooting luck.
If they can run the Golden Eagles off the 3-point line and continue their gang rebounding effort, look for Jordan’s team to hang within a possession. If you have the courage, plug your nose, prepare for vomiting, and bet on the home underdog.
Eli’s College Basketball Best Bets: Butler +3.5 (-110)
Best Available Line: Butler
No. 12 UCLA Bruins at No. 21 USC Trojans
I mentioned this one in our Discord chat earlier on Saturday, but the Bruins should struggle with the Trojans size — especially with Isaiah Mobley (broken nose) playing. Andy Enfield’s bunch will expose them in the pick-and-roll, as UCLA is giving up the Pac-12’s fourth-highest efficiency against that set in particular.
Eli’s College Basketball Best Bets: USC +2 (-106)
Best Available Line: USC
More College Basketball Nuggets
- Chattanooga forward Silvio De Sousa (undisclosed) is questionable for the Mocs’ game at Furman.
- DePaul point guard Javon Freeman-Liberty (groin) isn’t expected to suit up at Providence.
- Clemson guard David Collins (suspension) will miss the Tigers’ contest against Notre Dame.