Tuesday College Hoops Best Bets: Back the Illini to Rebound

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.

Minnesota-Illinois Prediction

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

Friday Night College Hoops: Back Creighton and Iowa in Rivalry Matchups

As the 2020 college football season draws to a close, the new college basketball season begins to take our attention on Friday nights. Tonight’s slate is once again juiced with several of the best teams from across the country taking the floor.

From rivalry games to the Big East opener, we have you covered with your Best Bets of the evening. We even threw in an extra bonus bet because it’s the holiday season.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the best college hoops bets on this Friday in December.

Nebraska at #8 Creighton

Spread: Creighton -14
Total: O/U 155
Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET, Big Ten Network

8th ranked Creighton looks to put a heartbreaking one-point loss to #5 Kansas behind them when they return home this evening to take on in-state rival Nebraska.

Calling this match-up a “rivalry” in recent seasons may be kind to the Huskers.  Nebraska has struggled mightily in this spot against their fellow Cornhusker State brethren, going 2-8 straight up and ATS in their last ten matchups against the Bluejays.  They face an immense challenge to buck that trend tonight.

Creighton boasts one of the best shooting units in all of college basketball, though to start the season they’re lagging behind their production from a season ago, particularly from three-point range as the Jays presently have the 154th best long-distance shooting team in the country. 

This is a far cry from last season’s efforts that had the Jays finishing 6th overall in three-point efficiency but good news could be on the horizon for Creighton tonight as Nebraska will give them ample opportunity to find their usual stroke from the perimeter. 

The Huskers have been sound defensively at the start of the season, but have yet to play on the road and have had a Charmin soft start to their non-conference schedule.  A season ago, the Huskers were one of the worst defensive teams in all of college basketball (266th overall per KenPom) and would routinely get punished on the glass as they surrendered an offensive rebound on a third of their opponents’ possessions (335th overall in the country in 2019/20).

Neither of those tendencies bode well for tonight.  Creighton features a dynamic quartet of players with their backcourt of Marcus Zegarowski (13.3 ppg) and Denzel Mahoney (13.3 ppg) pairing up with forwards Christian Bishop (14.5 ppg) and Damien Jefferson (10.8 ppg) to give the team a balanced scoring attack with any of the four Bluejays capable of carrying the offense in any given situation. 

While the three-point shooting as a team is collectively down so far through the first five games of the new season, Creighton presently features three starters that shoot the three at better than a 40% clip.  If the three-point shot is on tonight, this game can get out of hand in a hurry.

Nebraska enters season two under Fred Hoiberg and the former Mayor of Ames is still in the middle of what figures to be a long rebuild to return the Huskers to prominence in the Big Ten.  The Huskers are a very young team who have struggled mightily on the road as evidenced by their current 19-game road losing streak.  Good things are coming to Lincoln, they’re just not going to come with much frequency this season and that includes tonight.

Look for Creighton to bounce back after their disappointing loss against Kansas with another comfortable beat down of their in-state rival.

Prediction: Creighton 85, Nebraska 65
Best Bet: Creighton -14

#9 Villanova at Georgetown

Spread: Villanova -11.5
O/U 143
7:00 PM ET, FS1

#9 Villanova and Georgetown rekindle their long Big East rivalry when the two schools tip-off the 2020/21 Big East conference slate tonight from the nation’s capital.

Jay Wright’s Wildcats come into tonight’s contest looking to build off a hard-fought 68-64 victory over then #17 Texas on Sunday, with his stable of shooting guards starting to come to life after a hit and miss performance in ‘Bubbleville’ at the Mohegan Sun Arena. 

Despite the lulls in the offense through the first five games, Nova still boasts the 4th most efficient offense in the country.  While the team still gets its shooting back into form, they’ve been especially good at limiting turnovers as they have committed a turnover on only 13 percent of their possessions, good for the 10th best unit in college basketball to begin the new season.

That comes in direct conflict with how the Hoyas have played basketball to start the season.  While Georgetown is coming off of an 80-48 thumping of Coppin State, they have dropped games to Navy and West Virginia and have been especially careless with the basketball with a turnover rate outside of the top 250. 

Georgetown has turned the ball over one out of every four possessions to start the season and is even worse at forcing their opponents into mistakes, as they force a turnover on 14% of their opposition’s possessions.

When considering how stingy the Villanova offense is at wasting possessions, that may spell out a longer evening for the Hoyas than they’d prefer to endure. 

For Georgetown to be competitive in their conference home opener, they will need a massive night from seniors Jahvon Blair (20.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and Jamorko Pickett (14.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg).  The senior duo may not be enough to overtake the swath of talent Jay Wright has assembled in Philadelphia this season, however, as Wright has four starters averaging double-digits and they’ve yet to play anywhere near to their actual potential.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (16.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg), Collin Gillespie (14.6 ppg, 37% 3PM), and Justin Moore (14.2 ppg, 36.7% 3PM) will be the catalysts for the Nova attack this evening, and with the Hoyas being particularly light in the frontcourt with only two players logging significant minutes being taller than 6-9, Robinson-Earl can be in for another big night.  If Nova’s three-point shot travels with them, that makes this matchup that much harder for Ewing’s Hoyas.

Nova enters tonight’s conference opener featuring a sparkling 10-2-1 ATS record in their last 13 road games, while the Hoyas are just 1-6 ATS following a win and 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games on a Friday night. 

This is a spot where a quality Georgetown team is getting a lot of points on their home floor, but I believe Villanova has yet to put together a complete game.  Jay Wright’s crew gets it done tonight behind a dominant performance from Robinson-Earl and the ‘Cats outside shooting coming back to life.

Prediction: Villanova 84, Georgetown 70
Best Bet: Villanova -11.5  

Iowa State at #3 Iowa

Spread: Iowa -12
O/U 158.5
9:00 PM ET, Big Ten Network

Life is pretty good if you’re a fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes right about now.  The Hawks are flying high to start the new season with the 3rd overall ranking in the country and the runaway favorite to bring home the 2021 Wooden Award in Iowa scoring machine Luka Garza (29.5 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 55.6% 3PM). 

Iowa has scored 90 points or more in all four of their victories to start the new season, including a 93-80 win over #16 North Carolina on Tuesday.  They look like they will not only be a threat to win the Big Ten but to go on a deep run in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

On the other hand, their in-state rival Iowa State has seen better days.  Steve Prohm enters his sixth year in Ames and is coming off of a disastrous 12-20 campaign a season ago, giving the former Murray State coach his second poor season in the last three seasons (13-18 overall in 2017/18).  That has left Prohm’s seat getting noticeably warmer, and tonight’s opponent is likely not going to feel a whole lot of remorse for Prohm’s potential future on the Iowa State sidelines.

The Cyclones to date have only played in two games, splitting an 80-63 win over Arkansas Pine-Bluff with a 71-68 loss to South Dakota State on December 2nd.  It’s difficult to fully gauge the scope of what this season’s Cyclone team will present, but they face a massive uphill climb in replacing star guard Tyrese Haliburton who departed for the NBA Draft after one season in Ames. 

If the first two games are any indicator of tonight, Iowa State is probably in for a long night.  The Cyclones have shot just 29-percent from three-point range in the first two games, their most recent showing being a 4-for-23 night in their loss to SDSU.  If they repeat that shooting performance tonight, Iowa will run them out of the gym. 

There’s something possibly to be made out of a rivalry game featuring a coach that is very much coaching for his job this season, but Iowa State simply does not have the athletes to stay on the floor with this Iowa team. 

Garza alone is a matchup nightmare that few teams in the nation can account for, and Iowa State is not that team.  In their first two games, the Cyclones surrendered a cozy 51.4% shooting percentage from two-point range, and last season teams shot at a 50.6% clip from inside the perimeter (223rd overall defensive ranking per KenPom).  Iowa State was even friendlier in surrendering three-point shots as they fielded a perimeter defense that ranked outside the top 300 a season ago.  That’s where Garza feasts.  That’s where Iowa feasts.

The only fear you would have tonight is if Iowa flat out overlooks their in-state rival tonight, but they seem like a team on a mission and should easily handle their foes from the Big 12 with another lopsided victory in Iowa City.

Prediction: Iowa 90, Iowa State 73
Best Bet: Iowa -12

Bonus Play: UW-Milwaukee at Kansas State

Spread: Kansas State -10.5
O/U 132
8:00 PM ET, ESPN+

Any other season, this game probably wouldn’t register a blip on your radar, but Bruce Weber’s Kansas State Wildcats’ are having quite the difficult start to their season.

The Wildcats were projected to be entering a rebuilding season that would have them finishing at the bottom of the conference, but no one quite expected K-State to struggle like this.  The Wildcats have begun the season with a dismal 1-4 record with their lone win of the season being a 62-58 victory over WAC member Missouri-Kansas City (ranked 290th overall by KenPom).  Their last game was an 81-68 home loss to Division II member Fort Hays State.

Simply put, this team stinks worse than the morning after a late-night Taco Bell binge.

Horizon League member UW-Milwaukee has yet to play a game this season, so we have no idea what’s in store from them tonight. The Panthers finished the 2019/20 season with a 12-19 record giving them their fourth straight season with a losing record, however, they return three starters and add transfer, Vin Baker Jr., from college basketball powerhouse Boston College, so at the least, they have the talent that rivals a D-II school, and that is evidently all you need to beat Kansas State this season.

Until they show a reason not to automatically fade them, I’m going to automatically fade them. Take the Panthers and the points.

Prediction: You will want to watch something else on TV
Best Bet: UW-Milwaukee +10.5

Kansas State Wildcats at No. 17 Iowa State Cyclones Betting Preview

Saturday, November 21, 2020, Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa, 4 p.m. ET

Wildcats at Cyclones Betting Preview: Wildcats (+11), Cyclones (-11)

Kansas State Wildcats Betting Preview

Kansas State is dealing with personnel issues as the Wildcats (4-3, 4-2 Big 12) head to Iowa State. Coach Chris Kleiman said he is hopeful that his players can get through COVID-19 tests without losing more before the game.

“We’re not the only ones in the country dealing with this,” he said. “We’re just down so many guys in certain spots that we can’t even move people. So I’m just knocking on wood that we get good results the rest of this week.”

The Wildcats lost their last two games after reaching No. 16 in the polls. They lost 37-10 at West Virginia, then fell 20-18 against No. 14 Oklahoma State at home prior to last weekend’s bye.

Quarterback Will Howard passed for just 184 yards against the Mountaineers and 143 against the Cowboys, a season low since he became the starter when Skylar Thompson was injured.

A win over Iowa State keeps K-State’s title hopes very much alive. The Wildcats would hold the tiebreaker over the Cyclones and Oklahoma, with whom they are currently tied for third place. They still have to play Texas, which also has two conference losses.

A loss to the Cyclones, however, puts a serious dent in the Wildcats’ chances.

Iowa State Cyclones Betting Preview

With their only league loss to Oklahoma State, the No. 17 Cyclones (5-2, 5-1 Big 12) control their own fate in the conference race. They are a half-game up on Oklahoma State at the top of the standings, and even a setback Saturday would still have them no worse than tied for the second spot.

The Cyclones also don’t have the COVID-19 issues that K-State does.

“Right now we’re 100 percent healthy,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “Is it a concern (that the game won’t be played)? Absolutely. It’s not just now. It’s literally been this way for the whole season.”

The Cyclones have their eyes set on the Big 12 title game, but Campbell won’t allow himself to look past the Wildcats.

“For me, the starting point is that attitude, the effort, the intensity that continues to reside as a fabric of what makes Kansas State such a great football program,” Campbell said. “Then you supply that with some really good football players, on offense and defense and the success they’ve had on special teams. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a K-State team. I’m really impressed with this team.”

Iowa State is third in the Big 12 in scoring offense (32.9 points a game) and fifth in scoring defense (26.7).

Running back Breece Hall leads the nation in rushing with 1,034 yards and has been in triple digits in all seven games this season.

Wildcats at Cyclones Betting Pick

Brock Purdy has his only sub-200-yard game passing last year against Kansas State, completing just half of his 30 attempts for 185 yards in Iowa State’s 27-17 loss to the Wildcats. Iowa State leads the series 50-49-1, but the Wildcats have 25 wins in the last 31 years of the series.

Wildcats at Cyclones Betting Pick:

Cyclones 31, Wildcats 20

Wildcats at Cyclones Best Bet

The Wildcats have scored only 28 points in losses to West Virginia and Oklahoma State their last two games after the 55-14 pasting they gave Kansas back on Oct. 24. Iowa State has scored 90 points its last two outings with a 52-22 thumping of Kansas and a come-from-behind 38-31 win over Baylor

Wildcats at Cyclones Best Bet: OVER 46.5

–Field Level Media