College basketball's last breath of non conference plays continue this weekend with a fairly limited, yet high level slate. There are a handful of marquee matchups to choose from and I'm going both at the top of the board and the mid-major ranks to add a best bet.
Mississippi State has been one of the best defenses in college basketball this season, and now travel to a semi netural site in New Jersey against Rutgers. Will the team travel well to cover a small number against the Scarlett Knights? Meanwhile, Santa Clara's difficult non conference schedule hasn't yielded a big record in non conference play, but is the team underrated on a neutral site against Duquesne?
Here are my two best bets for Saturday's college basketball slate:
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College basketball season record: 31-24-2 (+4.49U)
Best College Basketball Bets for Saturday, December 23rd
- Mississippi State ML (-140) vs. Rutgers
- Santa Clara (+3.5)vs. Duquesne
Mississippi State vs. Rutgers Prediction and Pick
There may be some interest in the Scarlett Knights given the likely contingent showing out for the team in Newark, New Jersey at the Prudential Center paired with Mississippi State's likely shooting regression.
Both defenses are nails, each inside KenPom's top 15 in adjusted defensive effiency, but Mississppi State has made it happen by shutting off the perimeter for opponents, allowing foes to shoot 27% from deep (11th in the country.) While the defense is rangy and plays heavy ball pressure, ShotQuality deems the team is outperforming its expectation by 7%.
While somebody will make the Bulldogs pay, it's not Rutgers, who is 227th in 3P% this season and are a bottom 15 team in SQ's shot making metric.
This game will likely be a rock fight, so I'm not super interested in laying a small number, but I trust Miss. State's offense to handle Rutgers' elite ball presure (seventh in turnover percentage) and also clean the glass in a mismatch. The Bulldogs are 48th in offensive rebounding percentage and Rutgers is 315th in defensive rebounding percentage.
Rutgers is 1-3 against KenPom top 70 teams (Mississippi State is 32nd) and has lost by double digits in two of them. I'll take the Bulldogs as small favorites to win.
PICK: Mississippi State ML (-140)
Santa Clara vs. Duquesne Prediction and Pick
Duquesne has built up a solid non conference resume, but against soft competition. The team has faced five teams inside KenPom's top 125, and three inside the top 100, going 3-2 overall and 1-2 against the top 100.
Keith Dambrot's squad has used a five-out scheme to shoot three's at a top 60 rate and is stroking it at over 34%, 122nd in the country. Could that negate Santa Clara's massive size advantage? The Broncos are fourth in average height, per KenPom, and while the team has stumbled to an 8-5 record, the team has lost to two teams outside of KenPom's top 65 in true road settings.
I believe the team is far better than its metrics show, and the team's ability to dominate the interior can determine this matchup.
The Broncos are 110th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage while Duqeusne is 242nd in defensive rebounding rate and can pound the Dukes at the rim. ShotQuality deems that the undersized Dukes (324th in average height) are owed a 10% increase in field goal percentage at the rim. Overall, Duquesne is sixth in near proximity field goal percentage allowed, but that's overblown and ripe for a step back against Santa Clara, who is 56th in the country at the rim.
These teams are closer than this number indicates and I'll take the neutral site dog at over a few possessions.
PICK: Santa Clara +3.5
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.
Track Reed's bets here!