College basketball is a grind of a season and it's sometimes hard to keep up with all 360+ teams in the country.
If you haven't been as locked in, one of the most talented teams in the country, Arizona, has a perceived fatal flaw. The Wildcats struggle on the road, apparent in the team's buzzer beating loss to Oregon State as more than two touchdown favorites on Thursday night. The team stays in the Beaver State to take on upstart Oregon, who is finally healthy and appears poised to contend for the PAC-12 regular season crown.
While the Ducks look like a tasty home underdog bet, is the market overreacting to the Wildcats' road woes and the obvious "spot" to back Oregon? I dissect that one and two other bets on Saturday's loaded card.
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Best College Basketball Bets Today
- Utah State (+3) vs. Boise State
- Arizona (-4) vs. Oregon
- Minnesota vs. Penn State (-3)
Utah State vs. Boise State Prediction and Pick
It's never fun going against a home favorite in Mountain West play, but I think there's an edge for Utah State's offense to keep this one competitive in Boise on Saturday afternoon.
This bet hinges on Aggies' big man Great Osobor giving an underwhelming Boise State interior defense fits all afternoon.
The 6'8" Montana State transfer has scored 20 or more in all but one Mountain West game this year, and I expect him to have a leg up on the Broncos defense that lacks the foot speed and size to keep up with the majestic post presence of Osobor. He is shooting 60% on two's this season, the anchor behind one of the best two-point offenses in the nation (12th in two-point percentage this season).
Osobor may have a day inside and I don't trust Boise State's offense to win by a couple of buckets given the team is dead last in Mountain West effective field goal percentage. Further, Utah State is equipped to slow down the hosts best path to offense -- second chances. Utah State is second in MWC defensive rebounding rate, which could keep the best offensive rebounding team in the conference off the glass a bit.
I think this one goes down to the wire, I'll take the three points.
PICK: Utah State +3
Arizona vs. Oregon Prediction and Pick
In what would be a slam spot in most years, the college basketball betting market is sharpening up, not giving many an opportunity to get an inflated number on a rising home underdog like Oregon. Maybe the tax you are paying to bet on Oregon doesn't matter, but I'll look at it from the other end and say we are getting a discount on Arizona.
The Ducks recently got back N'Faly Dante and look to be a true contender in the PAC-12 this season and beyond. The team hosts Arizona, who has oodles of talent but isn't without warts, going 0-3 in true PAC-12 road games so far this season.
The Wildcats are a bonafie top five team on paper, but the team goes through dry spells consistently, especially from the perimeter, and are getting shaky play from guard Kylan Boswell of late (three points in 50 minutes over his last two games).
However, digging under the hood, this number is baking in the "spot" for the home underdog.
KenPom makes this game Arizona -5, Bart Torvik a smidge shorter. Haslam is closer to -6, is there a chance that the cart is before the horse on this Oregon team that has already ran really good in PAC-12 play, holding opponents to a conference low 34% from beyond the arc?
Arizona can match Dante inside, the team is the best interior offense in the conference and the best at generating second chances. This should be a war between him and Arizona big man Oumar Ballo, but I'm going to bank on the wings of the Wildcats to find its level after the Thursday night loss.
The Ducks are not only the best PAC-12 perimeter defense, but also the second best three-point shooting team in league play, shooting nearly 42% from beyond the arc. While Arizona has been prone to lapses in defensive coverage, ShotQuality deems the team is 305th in open three rate allowed, SQ also believes that the Ducks are due a 3% drop in three-point percentage.
Further, we saw a devastating transition offense give Oregon fits last week in Colorado, and Arizona may be able to run off of misses against the Ducks to generate easy buckets. That's even more apparent with Arizona's PAC-12 best defensive rebounding rate.
I'll take the slight discount in Arizona off of a loss as the market continues to shift too far on some of the best "spots" on the board.
PICK: Arizona -4
Minnesota vs. Penn State Prediction and Pick
Minnesota has come down to Earth after a torrid start to the season that saw Ben Johnson's group start 12-3 and 3-1 in Big Ten play. The team has now dropped four in a row and heads to Penn State for a matchup against the most turnover-centric defense in the conference . This is bad news for the Gophers, who are 13th in Big Ten play in terms of protecting the rock.
First year head coach Mike Rhoades has implemented his defense that made him successful at VCU quickly, including bringing his former point guard Ace Baldwin who will make life miserable for Minnesota point guard Elijah Hawkins. While it's a small sample size, Minnesota has a turnover rate north of 20% in true road games this season (1-3 record), that would put the Gophers at 284th in the country when filtered for away games, per Bart Torvik.
Minnesota's road struggles are going to continue on Saturday and the clash of styles should set up for a Penn State win, who I expect to start getting a few three-point shots to fall to outpace the visitors.
PICK: Penn State -3
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.