Austin Montgomery Saturday College Hoops Gambling Preview: Thoughts on Duke-UNC, UConn-Nova and more
With over 150 D-1 college basketball games on Saturday, it's time to bring the Saturday column back. After a slow start to the college basketball season, we are on an 11-5 run- let's keep that run going, shall we! In all seriousness, we have a glorious slate. The day kicks off with battles between UConn and Villanova and Illinois-Indiana, with Kansas hosting Baylor, and then we get to see Coach K's final trip to Chapel Hill. For those back in the East stuck in snowstorms, the great sport of college basketball has given you a silver lining. If you are living in a warm-weather state, clear those outdoor obligations. I'm stoked that college basketball is taking over the sports calendar. This is the week we start to take over. Let's start breaking down and get some picks for the biggest games of the slate.
All lines are presented by DraftKings and the DraftKings Sportsbook:
Column Record: 41-38
UConn at Villanova
Spread: Villanova -4.5
Simply one of the best matchups on the entire slate. It's a game that is worth getting in front of the TV a little bit early for. UConn and Villanova are coming off disappointing losses. UConn lost at home to Creighton as a 10-point favorite while Villanova got its doors blown off by Marquette. Each team should come into this game extra focused. Sharp bettors hammered the opening line of UConn +6.5. There really isn't much value on the Huskies any longer. I can see them both having success on the offensive end.
Going back to the Creighton game, Adama Sanogo failed to score in double digits for the first time in 2022. He won't have a problem here. Villanova does not have a post defender to defend Sanogo, with their only big being Eric Dixon. UConn ranks third nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and will feast on second-chance points. While UConn has been awesome defensively this season, the Wildcats are a nightmare matchup for them. UConn ranks 246nd in three-point defense (34.5), which is a problem against this Villanova team that's the best shooting team in the conference. Villanova has shot lights out at home recently, hitting over 40 percent from deep in their last three home games. Both teams will want to make a statement, and we will see more points than usual. I see this game playing in the '70s, which gets us an over.
The pick: Over 132
Illinois at Indiana
Spread: Indiana -2
This is what professional bettors call a sandwich spot. Illinois is coming off of a huge win at home vs Wisconsin and then has a revenge game at Purdue on Tuesday. On the other side, Indiana has not played a game in over a week. They have been very good at home, going 9-3 ATS. Indiana matches up very well with Illinois. The Hoosiers rank fifth nationally in two-point shooting percentage, and they rank in the 93rd percentile in post defense per Synergy. Indiana forward Trayce Jackson Davis has something to do with that. Indiana has a good shot of limiting Cockburn with Jackson Davis and Race Thompson. Indiana has been one of the better transition defenses as well. If Indiana can get some better shooting luck, I think that might have a chance to run away with this one. Trust Mike ******** Woodson to get us to the window.
The pick: Indiana -2
Michigan at Purdue
Spread: Purdue -9
Let's go back to the Big Ten for another big matchup. Michigan is right outside the tournament field and is in desperate need of a win. Unfortunately, I don't think they get it here. The Boilermakers are a nightmare matchup for the Wolverines. Purdue has been scoring at will on everyone, ranking first nationally in offensive efficiency. They will play a Michigan defense that struggles to defend the paint, the Michigan, rank 13th in the Big Ten in two-point field goal percentage allowed per KenPom. Hunter Dickinson has not been a strong rim protector, and teams have killed Michigan in the pick and roll- Purdue can kill them in both of those categories. It's either Dickinson gets eaten alive inside by 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey and Trevion Willaims, or they double and give up open threes to the second-best three-point shooting team in the country. Pick your poison, Coach Howard.
While Purdue has struggled on the defensive end recently, I don't think it will have problems with this Michigan offense. In particular. Offensively, Michigan operates most of their offense through Hunter Dickinson in the post. This is not an ideal strategy against Zach Edey. To beat Purdue, you have to put Edey in pick and roll situation, and you have to knock down jumpers. Michigan is very bad at doing the ladder.
So we will take Purdue here.
The pick: Purdue (-9)
Michigan State at Rutgers
Spread: Michigan State (-2.5)
This is the last BIG game I am breaking down this week, I promise. You know the term "hungry dogs run faster?" That phrase perfectly describes Rutgers here. The Scarlet Knights are playing for their NCAA Tournament lives a month away from Selection Sunday. If you are going to back Rutgers, you want to do it in when they are playing in Piscataway, New Jersey. Rutgers has lost three out of four, but they're a different team at Rutgers Athletic Center, aka "The RAC." Home wins against Michigan, Purdue, Clemson, and Iowa prove that.
On the other side, Michigan State is somewhat fraudulent. Michigan State ranks in the top 10 in three-point percentage, but in terms of graphs on Shot Quality predicts immediate shooting regression is coming. They escaped College Park with a two-point win earlier this week, and have been one of the most fortunate teams in terms of luck and win expectancy. Shot quality has them as above average power conference team compared to their number 14th AP ranking. The RAC will be loud, Rutgers will slow the game down to limit the Spartans transition opportunities. Rutgers pulls off an ugly win here. Take the Scarlet Knights as a hungry home dog.
The pick: Rutgers +2.5
Duke at North Carolina
Spread: Duke (-3)
What else is there to say. It's Coach K's final trip to Chapel Hill. There will be no love lost. UNC does not want to make this final trip down Tobacco Road memorable. However, Coach K is not going to let that happen. Duke's talented team will be extra motivated. They are just flat out way more talented than Carolina. Mark Williams will be a fantastic matchup for UNC star Armando Bacot. Duke not having to send a double every time Bacot gets the ball in the interior will limit Carolina's open threes in the perimeter. The absence of fellow frontcourt mate Dawson Garcia has been felt. Brady Manek will have to guard either Wendell Moore or Paolo Banchero. That is just a total mismatch. This play is extremely public, but there is simply no way Duke is losing this game. Coach K gives one last silent middle finger to Carolina fans. Give me Duke in this one.
The pick: Duke (-3)
Utah Valley at Sam Houston State
Spread: Sam Houston State (-2.5)
Every article needs a write up about a random game from a mid-major conference. We are going to the WAC this week. You will be able to find this one ESPN+. I like Utah Valley here. Sam Houston State has been a quiet little story, they have a six-game home winning streak, and former Texas A&M Aggie Savion Flagg has made a case for Conference Player of the Year - scoring 20.0 points per game while pulling down 7.7 rebounds.
At the same time, don't forget about the reigning WAC Player of the Year either. UVU center Fardaws Aimaq leads the team in both scoring (18.8 points per game) and rebounding (13.2 rebounds per game). The Bearcats don't have a starter that stands over 6-foot-8; they are not going to have an answer for Aimaq. In addition, I love what UVU brings defensively. SHSU takes threes at a top 50 rate, and UVU allows opponents to shoot 28% from behind the line- 18th best in the country. The Bearcats don't really find offence outside of that, ranking 306th nationally in two-point offense. Aimaq is the presence in the middle for Flagg's drives. I think Utah Valley puts on a defensive clinic. Give me the Wolverines to secure the win on the road.
The pick: Utah Valley +2.5
Gonzaga at BYU
Spread: Gonzaga (-12.5)
I gave you enough action to pick from in the early slate. So let's quickly preview the nightcap. Going into the season, I thought this would be the one conference game Gonzaga would trip up. And this one is huge for BYU as well - they'd all but clinch an NCAA Tournament bid with a win here. Unfortunately, I just don't see that happening unless they go nuclear from three, which will probably be Mark Pope's strategy. The Cougars do not have the ingredients to stop Gonzaga's frontcourt duo of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren. The Zags have scored over 100 points in four conference games this year. They scored 115 in their first contest against BYU. I won't be surprised if they hit that number again. BYU is going to try to go punch for punch with the Zags. BYU has good guards that can score. I don't think you can set this over high enough for me not to bet it—the Zags rank 2nd in the nation in pace. BYU is going to shoot a ton of threes which results in a three-point bucket, or a long rebound which results in an easy Gonzaga transition bucket 90 percent of the time. Don't get cute by betting against Gonzaga or try to lay double digits on the road- just enjoy the late game with an over.
The pick: Over 157.5
Follow Austin Montgomery on Twitter @AMontgomeryLive
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