Saturday College Hoops Best Bets: Look at a Texas Two-Step

The 2020/21 college basketball season officially tipped off Wednesday night, and this is our first college hoops Saturday of the season! 

For those of you somewhat new to betting on college basketball, the Saturday slate is usually stacked with well over 100 games throughout the season, today’s slate is not quite at that size just yet (thanks COVID-19), but there are still a lot of juicy options to choose from.

I’ve pared the board down to three for you, including a bonus play if your book has odds on it.   Let’s dive right on in.

North Texas at Arkansas (-8/143)

Eric Musselman’s 2020/21 season debut couldn’t have gone much better, as the Razorbacks squeezed by with a 142-62 win over Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday.  They’ll get a much bigger test today when they face North Texas, who also happens to be coming off of a 116-62 beatdown of that same Mississippi Valley State team.

The Razorbacks could be one of the deeper sleepers in all of college basketball this season, as Eric Musselman has a roster loaded with fresh talent thanks to six impactful transfers joining the program and the 7th best-recruiting class in the country.

Arkansas is still going through the early stages of getting all the new faces to gel on the roster, but they are still deeply talented at every position.  However, their opponent today in the North Texas Mean Green are no slouches in their own right.

Considered to be one of the favorites in Conference USA this season, UNT returns a starting lineup that boasts four seniors including that of reigning conference player of the year Javion Hamlet.  The former JUCO product was a revelation last season for the Mean Green and he led the conference in free-throw shooting while hitting over 43-percent of his baskets from deep. 

If this matchup occurred a month from now when Arkansas would have had time to get more games under their belt with a practically entire new team, we’d be all over the Hogs here, but this is a spot that could favor the more experienced Mean Green who will have the best player on the floor.

I’ll side with the team that’s played together longer and take the points, though I’m torn here because Arkansas is one of my favorite teams this season.

Best Bet: North Texas +8

South Carolina vs. Liberty (+7.5/137.5)

Played on Neutral Court (Kansas City, MO)

One of the victims of college basketball’s 2019/20 season being abruptly canceled thanks to the pandemic was the Liberty Flames.  Liberty was in the middle of the best season in their program’s brief Division I history, going 30-4 on the season and winning the Atlantic Sun Tournament.

The bad news for Ritchie McKay’s Flames is that the bulk of that 30-win team has now moved on from the program.  The good news is he has added enough talent to this season’s roster to still be a very feisty opponent.  Liberty hit 19 threes, including seven from leading scorer Darius McGhee, in an 84-73 victory over Mississippi State on Thanksgiving Day.

That young talent will be put to the test immediately, however, against Frank Martin’s smothering 2-3 matchup zone.

South Carolina plays their first game of the season today, and it will be the first time we see prized transfer Seventh Woods in the lineup for the Gamecocks. He will be joined by the top scorers on the team from a season ago in A.J. Lawson and Jermaine Couisnard and considering Martin’s penchant for having his team play a quick tempo game, I can see this being a higher scoring game than what oddsmakers are calling for today.

Liberty plays at the second slowest pace in the country, trailing only that of the methodical Virginia Cavaliers, but Martin’s Gamecocks pushed the floor to the tune of the 11th quickest pace in the country. 

Look for South Carolina to force turnovers that lead to easy buckets for the Gamecocks, but also to give up a lot of open outside looks to Liberty’s bevy of perimeter jumpers and for the total to sail over the 137.5 mark.  I do also like Liberty to cover the 7.5-point number, and wouldn’t even rule out the idea of sprinkling a little bit on the moneyline, but for now, I’ll stick with the points.

Best Bet: OVER 137.5
If You’re Feeling Dangerous:  Liberty +7.5, Liberty ML (+275)

Louisiana at Baylor (-20.5/149.5)

Played on Neutral Court (Las Vegas, NV)

The Baylor Bears were well on their way to a 1-seed in the 2020 NCAA Tournament when everything came crashing down.  Today marks Baylor’s season debut and first crack at picking up where they left off a season ago.

The bulk of last season’s team is back for the Bears, including their top three scorers in Wooden Award candidate Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, and Davion Mitchell.  Baylor’s calling card a season ago was their imposing defense, and Scott Drew will also return Naismith Defensive Player of Year finalist Mark Vital to lock down the paint.

Today the Bears play a Louisiana side that is expected to finish towards the bottom of the Sun Belt after being a middle of the road team in the conference a season ago.  One thing to keep in mind with the Ragin’ Cajuns is they also like to play at a quick pace (32nd overall tempo per KenPom), but they’re downright awful in transition defense as they ranked 316th in that category a year ago.  They also got punished on the boards by most of their opponents, and no one in the country compares to how Baylor attacks the glass.

This has all the makings of a bad matchup for the young Cajuns.  Look for Baylor to get a comfortable blowout from Las Vegas.

Best Bet: Baylor -20.5

Bonus Play: Mississippi Valley State at Wyoming (-31.5/159.5)

Normally I would never consider laying 31.5-points with a team coming off of a 9-24 season, but as we already touched upon earlier in this article, Mississippi Valley State is a special kind of awful.  To date this season they have lost their first two contests by 80 and 54 respectively.  Mississippi Valley State is an auto-fade at this point until they give some reason not to be.   

Bonus Bet: Wyoming -31.5

Central Arkansas Bears at No. 24 Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Betting Preview

Saturday, November 21, 2020, Cajun Field, Lafayette, Louisiana, 2 p.m. ET

Bears at Ragin’ Cajuns Betting Preview: Bears (+24.5), Ragin’ Cajuns (-24.5)

Central Arkansas Bears Betting Preview

Central Arkansas (5-4) surrendered 144 points during a 1-3 stretch but turned it around to outscore the opposition 89-35 en route to winning its last two games.

Bears quarterback Luke Hales made the most of his first start since 2018. The junior threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns to help the team rebound after squandering a 24-point lead and post a 37-25 victory over Eastern Kentucky last week.

“I think they do have poise. I think they’ve been in situations that are tough and tight many, many times,” Central Arkansas coach Nathan Brown said of his Bears. “And I thought they responded in a really positive manner.”

Tyler Hudson reeled in eight receptions for 154 yards, highlighted by a 69-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Lujuan Winningham, who had five catches for 77 yards, had a 12-yard scoring catch in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Running back Kierre Crossley found the end zone in two of his last three games for the Bears.

Louisiana booked Central Arkansas to its slate on the heels of seeing previously scheduled games against New Mexico State and Missouri canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

No. 24 Ragin’ Cajuns Betting Preview

Louisiana aims to continue its torrid streak Saturday afternoon when it completes a run of three consecutive home games with a nonconference meeting against Central Arkansas in Lafayette.

The 24th-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns (7-1) enter the matinee in a flow, with a four-game winning streak that has powered the team to its third consecutive Sun Belt Conference West Division title.

Louisiana punched its ticket to the conference title game next month with a 38-10 romp over South Alabama last week. 

Levi Lewis led the way with three touchdown passes on a day in which he connected with 12 different receivers. 

A potent ground attack rolled up 254 yards, a total only eclipsed by the 282 accumulated by the Ragin’ Cajuns in their 44-34 victory over Texas State on Oct. 31.

“We played with balance and I thought we were kind of mixing the tempo,” Louisiana coach Billy Napier said. “I thought Levi was sharp early, and certainly in the first possession we were able to rush the ball.”

Chris Smith highlighted his 99-yard rushing performance with a 22-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Trey Ragas, who capped the scoring with a 25-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, had 78 yards on the ground and Elijah Mitchell added 61 rushing yards to boot.

“We’ve been talking about it since Week 1 and (on Saturday) we finally put it together,” Smith said. “The O-line, they were working together, working hard, being confident. We had faith in them. Our running back, receivers, quarterback — we all believed in them.”

There’s plenty to believe in the ground game, considering Mitchell (563 rushing yards), Ragas (522), Smith (290) and Lewis (178) all are averaging at least 5.6 yards per carry.

Bears at Ragin’ Cajuns Betting Pick

The Bears and Ragin’ Cajuns are meeting for the first time. An FCS program, the Bears are coming off a 37-25 win in the second meeting with Eastern Kentucky, which won the first in Richmond, Kentucky 31-28.

Bears at Ragin’ Cajuns Betting Pick:

 Ragin’ Cajuns 42, Bears 14

Bears at Ragin’ Cajuns Best Bet

The Cajuns have been off and on offensively but will be coming into the game on an emotional high after clinching the Sun Belt West Division with their 38-10 win over South Alabama last week. The Bears lost to another Sun Belt team, Arkansas State, 50-27, on October 10.

Bears at Ragin’ Cajuns Best Bet: UNDER 59.5