Well, Monday wasn’t the best way to kick off the college basketball betting week, as yours truly went 0-2 last evening thanks to Marquette shooting the ball like the entire team was on fire like a game of NBA Jam.
Fortunately, the college basketball gods have blessed us with another jam-packed schedule! Here are the three games I’m eyeing the most this evening.
#24 Clemson at Virginia Tech
Spread: VA Tech -2
Total: O/U 126.5
Time/TV: 6:30 PM ET, ACC Network
While Clemson faithful may be slightly more attentive to their football team, the basketball side of things has gone tremendously well to open up the 2020 season. The Tigers currently sit at #24 in the AP Top 25 and have opened the season with a 5-0 record, covering in all five games of the early season. Their most recent victory was a 64-56 defeat of Alabama, and the Tigers already have notched wins over the likes of Mississippi State, Purdue, and Maryland, giving Clemson a strong non-conference schedule before they jump feet first into ACC play.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech soared up to #15 in the AP Top 25 thanks in large part to their 81-73 overtime win over #3 Villanova back on November 28th, but last Tuesday they were devoured 75-55 by a rebuilding Penn State team in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. They’ve since fallen completely out of the rankings and have spent the last week stewing over their poor performance.
Clemson Players to Watch
Unlike their football team, the Clemson basketball team is largely devoid of any star talent. However, the Tigers present one of the deeper units in the ACC and boast the 2nd best defensive efficiency in all of college basketball.
Clemson is led by the team’s leading scorer, senior big man Aamir Simms (11.6 ppg, 20% 3PM). No other Clemson player averages double-digits in scoring, but coach Brad Brownell loves to rotate players as a means to keep the defense coming in waves. The Tigers feature eleven players in total that have logged 10 minutes or more in their first five games, and the team as a whole is holding their opponents to just over 51 points per game on sub 35% shooting.
If the Hokies had issues with Penn State’s slow tempo and defensive approach, they could be in for a frustrating evening against one of the best defensive teams in all of college basketball.
Virginia Tech Players to Watch
Unlike their opponents tonight, the Hokies have a trio of players they lean on for most of their offensive production, and while Mike Young’s team will go to their bench, they’re nowhere near as deep as Clemson as a whole.
However, thanks to the likes of Keve Aluma (15.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 42.9% 3PM) and the backcourt tandem of Tyrece Radford (11.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Nahiem Alleyne (11.0 ppg), the Hokies still have plenty of firepower to give any defense trouble, including one as proficient as Clemson’s.
Clemson-VA Tech Prediction
Following a disappointing showing a week ago, the Hokies hope to bounce back on their home floor against a Clemson team they are 7-1 against in their last eight matchups in Blacksburg. There’s been another constant in this series and that’s the under. In the last five games played between Clemson and VA Tech in Blacksburg, the total has gone under in all five matchups.
The Hokies enter tonight’s game with the 343rd overall tempo in the nation. They play a slow, methodical brand of basketball and when they are not creating easy buckets from their defensive play, they can struggle mightily to put points on the scoreboard. We got another reminder of this a week ago when the Hokies labored to a 55-point evening.
Conversely, Clemson also plays at a slow pace (312th overall) and defends like nobody else in the ACC outside of Virginia. This has all the makings of another grind it out, defensive game and I could see either team coming out of this game with the win. If I were to bet on a side to win, I would slightly favor Clemson, but I believe the under is a much better play tonight so I will go with that.
Prediction: Clemson 60, VA Tech 58
Best Bet: UNDER 126.5
Minnesota at #13 Illinois
Spread: Illinois -8
Total: O/U 146.5
Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET, ESPN2
Undefeated Minnesota faces its biggest test of the young season when they visit 13th ranked Illinois to kick off the Big Ten Conference schedule for both schools.
The Illini enter tonight’s game with a 4-2 record, with losses coming in the past two weeks to #2 Baylor and a surprising 81-78 upset at the hands of Missouri on Saturday. Despite their recent setback, however, they remain as one of the bigger contenders in the supremely loaded Big Ten Conference.
Illinois’ opponent for their conference opener is none other than the 6-0 Minnesota Golden Gophers, but before you gravitate over to their sterling record know that Richard Pitino’s team has played such a cupcake schedule it should be sponsored by Betty Crocker.
The Gophers have played the 258th strongest schedule to date this season and two of their six victories came at the expense of Loyola Marymount. Minnesota’s best win to date was an 85-80 victory over ACC basement dweller Boston College, and their other victories came against Green Bay, North Dakota, and UMKC. They’re not exactly entering tonight’s game with the most decorated resume.
Tonight will answer a lot of questions as to what team Pitino has at his disposal in what could be his make or break season with the Gophers.
Minnesota Players to Watch
The unquestioned leader of the Golden Gophers is that of junior guard Marcus Carr, and through the first six games of the season, Carr has looked terrific. Carr is averaging just under 24 points per game while shooting nearly 40 percent from three-point range. If the Gophers are to pull the upset tonight, Carr will be a big reason why.
Joining Carr in the backcourt is fellow junior sharpshooter Both Gach (15.3 ppg, 40% 3PM), and 7-footer Liam Robbins gives the Gophers an imposing rim protector down low. Jamal Mashburn Jr. is the most notable freshman on the roster, but mainly because of his namesake and not for his play thus far.
While the Gophers aren’t the most talented team in the conference, they certainly have enough to give the elite teams in the conference a run for their money.
Illinois Players to Watch
The Illini feature one of the best inside-outside duos in the entire country thanks in large part to future NBA’er and Wooden Award candidate Ayo Dosunmu (24.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 41% 3PM) and big man Kofi Cockburn (14.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg). They will be the focal point for Brad Underwood’s attack every night the Illini take the floor, and tonight’s matchup between Dosunmu and Marcus Carr is worth the price of admission on its own (though, thanks to COVID-19 the price of admission is a moot point).
Freshman guard Andre Curbelo is the Illini’s best option off the bench, while freshman Adam Miller is Brad Underwood’s second-best threat from outside as he’s connected on 38% of his three-point shots to start the new season.
While the Gophers are indeed a perfect 6-0 on the season and have covered in all six games, they have feasted on the minnows of the college basketball pond. Illinois is infinitely better than any of the teams Minnesota has faced to date, and they’re coming off of a frustrating loss to an inferior Missouri opponent just three days ago.
In recent history, Minnesota has struggled against NCAA Tournament caliber competition. In their last nine games against teams with a winning percentage of .600 or higher, Minnesota is a paltry 1-6-2 ATS.
Marcus Carr will put some points on the scoreboard, but not enough to overcome one of the best duos in all of college basketball. I like Illinois to bounce back with a double-digit victory and notch their first Big Ten win of the season.
Prediction: Illinois 80, Minnesota 67
Best Bet: Illinois -8
Kansas State at Iowa State
Spread: Iowa State -7.5
Total: O/U 136.5
Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET, ESPNU
It wasn’t that long ago that Kansas State and Iowa State were among the consistent contenders for the Big 12 throne.
Those days are very clearly in the past this season, however, as Kansas State looks to be one of the worst Power 5 basketball teams in the country, and Iowa State is not incredibly far behind them either.
Kansas State enters tonight’s Big 12 opener with a 2-4 record after they narrowly defeated UW-Milwaukee 76-75 on Friday, but they are 0-5 against the spread and managed to lose by 13 points at home to NAIA member Fort Hays State.
Meanwhile, Iowa State has only played three games to date this season, their most recent showing was a 105-77 thumping at the hands of #3 Iowa on Friday. Their lone victory of the early season was an 80-63 defeat of Arkansas Pine Bluff (Ranked 350th overall by Ken Pomeroy), with their other loss coming at the hands of South Dakota State on their home floor.
Kansas State Players to Watch
Honestly, Kansas State is so bad we suggest probably just … not watching them. But if you want a guy to look out for, Wildcats’ leading scorer Mike McGuirl (14.5 ppg, 42.9 3PM) is probably your best bet.
Iowa State Players to Watch
Steve Prohm is very much on the hot season this season after posting sub 15-win campaigns in two of the last three Iowa State seasons. The Cyclones were faced with the daunting task of replacing NBA lottery pick Tyrese Haliburton in the lineup and Prohm elected to hit the transfer portal particularly heavily to retool the roster.
With just three games under their belt, one of which coming against a legitimate National Championship contender, the talent has yet to truly gel. Prohm has also already shown he will not be dipping too deep into his bench, as only two reserves average more than 10 minutes a game (George Conditt IV and Darlinstone Dunbar).
The Cyclones are paced by former Illinois and DePaul product Jalen Coleman-Lands (15.3 ppg, 41.7% 3PM) and former Troy product Javan Johnson (13.7 ppg), while 2019 Penn State transfer Rasir Bolton logs 35 minutes a game while averaging 14.7 points per contest.
Iowa State simply just needs more game action for their talent to come together. A game against Kansas State could be just the tune-up the Cyclones need to get their season on track for the rest of the conference slate that’s forthcoming.
Kansas State-Iowa State Prediction
Kansas State is one of the worst teams in the country and while Iowa State will likely be at the bottom of the standings with them when the season draws to a close, the talent gaps between even the Cyclones and Wildcats are immense.
Bruce Weber is in for one long season, as Kansas State is only projected to win six games this season by Ken Pomeroy. One of those six wins is not coming tonight. Look for the Cyclones to cruise for most of the game before clinging on to the cover late.
Prediction: Iowa State 81, Kansas State 71
Best Bet: Iowa State -7.5