Finals week is over, and college basketball teams will take the floor in full with a massive slate of games that includes heavyweight matchups like Arizona vs. Purdue and Kentucky vs. North Carolina.
However, this best bets column is going to look for other under the radar college hoops games on Saturday, including surprisingly No. 13 Clemson traveling to Memphis as road underdogs, is that justified? I break down three games on the Saturday card below.
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College basketball season record: 26-21-2 (+2.79U)
Best College Basketball Bets for Saturday, December 16th
- Santa Clara (+6) vs. Washington State
- Clemson vs. Memphis (-2.5)
- Cal (+3.5) vs. Ole Miss
Santa Clara vs. Washington State Prediction and Pick
The two teams play in Phoenix on Saturday afternoon and it's time to sell Wazzu after one of the easiest starts to the season, playing one team inside the KenPom top 140, Mississippi State (the teams only loss).
The team checks in 19th in effective field goal percentage and fourth in effective field goal percentage defense, but will struggle against a battle tested Santa Clara group that has played a far more challenging schedule and has the firepower to keep pace, 68th in the country in effective field goal percentage.
The Broncos have dropped three straight, on the road to Cal, a neutral site against New Mexico and at home to Utah State by two, but the team can take advantage of a regression prone Wazzu defense.
The Cougars are holding foes to a lockdown 27% three-point percentage, but ShotQuality believes that opponents should be shooting 32% from beyond the arc, a staggering five percent difference. The same can be said for its interior defense, which is 46% at the rim this season, but SQ has this marked at an expected 53%.
With so much regression in store for Wazzu, a rare trip out of Pullman can come with some consequences. Santa Clara gets to the rim at a top 100 rate in the country and is 58th in the country in field goal percentage at the cup. I believe the team can keep this one close after a few tough matchups against strong competition.
PICK: Santa Clara +6
Clemson vs. Memphis Prediction and Pick
Clemson is out to a 9-0 start this season behind elite shooting and sound ball handling. The team is 23rd in the country at 39% from beyond the arc and protecting the ball at a top 50 rate. Clemson has wins at Alabama and on a neutral site against TCU, and now take the trip to face Memphis.
The Tigers have loses on a neutral to Villanova and at Ole Miss, but the team's ball pressure defense should play a role against a Clemson team that has rarely faced this type of full court pressure this season. The home team is 102nd in generating turnovers and try to play at a frenetic tempo, which can push Clemson into dangerous waters, a team that prefers to play a methodical pace, clean up on the defensive glass and hunt for a sound shot.
Clemson does a sound job of limiting transition opportunities, top 50 in the country, but I trust Memphis' ability to breakdown the unathletic Clemson backcourt and get to the rim to take advantage of the visitors. Clemson is owed an eye-popping 12% increase in finishing at the rim according to ShotQuality, which is a massive number against the rim reliant hosts, who are 87th in SQ's points per possessions at the cup at a top 100 rate.
In a battle of contrasting styles, I'm going to trust the home team to win out and grab a signature win.
PICK: Memphis -2.5
Cal vs. Ole Miss Prediction and Pick
Ole Miss may be undefeated in the first year of the Chris Beard era, but advanced metric sites like KenPom aren't impressed. The Rebels remain 94th in overall efficiency rating as the team has gotten by holding foes to the 22nd lowest effective field goal percentage.
However, the team will face a Cal team that has far outperformed its record this season. The Golden Bears are top 40 in the country in offensive rebounding percentage (Ole Miss is outside the top 300), which can be the difference in a game between two teams that are each outside the top 250 in terms of pace.
Cal's ability to generate extra opportunities will play a big role as Ole Miss' offense isn't overwhelming whatsoever. The team is 168th in effective field goal percentage and 239th in two-point field goal percentage. Cal's defense under first year head coach Mark Madsen is due a 0.03 points per possession improvement on defense and I believe Ole Miss' is skating far too by.
Meanwhile, the Golden Bears can offense is due some positive shot variance as well, a .04 point boost, including a 3% rise at the rim and nearly 2% jump from three. In a game with limited possessions, I'll take Cal at over a possession on a neutral site.
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.
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