Welcome to the first edition of our college basketball best bets column, featuring Pat McMahon and Alex Sadwick. While the season is progressing and we’re starting to figure teams out, finding an edge on Vegas is still incredibly hard. But fear not, as we are here to give you some free winners.
Pat: Gonzaga (+2.5) at North Carolina
Going with the road underdog in a marquee game here for the simple reason that Gonzaga is just clearly the better team right now. The Tar Heels haven’t lived up to the preseason hype thus far and have especially struggled on the defensive end. Gonzaga, on the other hand, is battle tested, already own a quality road win at Creighton, and pose several match-up problems to the Heels. Josh Perkins and Mark Few really want some revenge for the 2017 National Championship loss to Carolina, and they have all the parts necessary to get it on Saturday.
Alex: VCU (-5.5) vs College of Charleston
The Rams are looking to get their home crowd involved and should have an easy time cooling off a hot College of Charleston team that has won its past 5 games. VCU has played well at home this season and boast a 5-1 record. The Rams have also been solid this year against talented major conference teams with road wins against Texas and Temple. VCU is also looking to bounce back from a tough road matchup with Virginia, one of the best defensive teams in the country. The Ram’s defense held its own against an efficient Virginia half court offense, allowing 57 points. If the Rams can slow down the Cougars high scoring offense, led by the guard and wing combo of Grant Riller (21.9 ppg) and Jarrell Brantley (19.6 ppg) they should have no problem covering the spread.
Pat: Oregon/Boise State under 138.5
Oregon has really struggled offensively in recent weeks, and that will likely continue against a Boise State squad that plays really hard on both ends of the floor. The Ducks finally got Louis King on the court against San Diego on Wednesday, but the five star freshman looked rusty and contributed just two points in 14 minutes of action. Boise State has not been great offensively this season either, and despite the 84 they scored in a very fast paced game against Creighton, the Broncos haven’t put up more than 74 points against a division one team this season.
Alex: Seton Hall (-6) vs Rutgers
After coming off of a huge 84-83 overtime victory against an athletic Kentucky Wildcat team, Seton Hall looks to continue its momentum against in-state rivals Rutgers. The Pirates are looking to avenge last year’s loss in the Garden State Hardwood Classic. In the Garden State Hardwood Classic’s history, Seton Hall holds the advantage over Rutgers with a 39-30 record. The Scarlet Knights will be in a tough environment at the Prudential Center and are coming off of back to back road losses to Wisconsin and Fordham. Rutgers will have a hard time slowing down a Seton Hall offense, led by sharpshooting Junior Myles Powell (23 ppg), that moves the ball well and averages just under 74.4 points per game on the season. The game will be a very tough and physical affair but the Pirates should be able to reclaim the treasure of winning the Garden State Hardwood Classic.
Pat: Purdue/Notre Dame over 142
Carsen Edwards has been an absolute force this season, and Notre Dame does not have any answers for him defensively. The Irish haven’t shot the ball as well as they have hoped thus far, but Rex Pflueger went 4/4 from three versus UCLA last week and freshman Prentiss Hubb is playing with a lot more confidence, giving Mike Brey a couple of promising options alongside T.J. Gibbs in the back-court. Both teams had a week off to prepare for this one, which is an eternity for two great offensive minds like Brey and Matt Painter to get their guys firing on all cylinders.
Alex: Buffalo/Southern Illinois over 148
The Buffalo Bulls have a high powered offense that averages 85.6 points per game. This offense is so potent because they spread the ball around and can light it up from beyond the arc. The Bulls have four players averaging double digit points per game and are led in scoring by Senior three-point marksman C.J. Massinburg (17.5 ppg). The two teams met earlier in the season, which resulted in a Buffalo win. However Southern Illinois held the Bulls to their lowest point total on the season, 62 points. This will not be the case in this match-up as Buffalo is at home and has averaged 89.3 ppg since their last meeting. Southern Illinois will look to be aggressive and get back to their winning ways (won 5 of last 6 games) after a brutal loss to Murray State. Look for this to be a high scoring game.
Pat: Cincinnati/Mississippi State under 130.5
This game has all the makings to be an absolute rock fight. This is a vintage Mick Cronin Cincinnati team that has their struggles offensively but take great pride in their defensive game and are extremely tough on that end of the floor. The Bulldogs can also play some defense but have some more weapons offensively. However, with a full week to game plan and a ton of talented defenders, Cronin will have his boys ready to make this a nice and ugly game.