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College Basketball Tip Off Betting Guide

Published on 11/15/2021
By Jack Fitzpatrick
Kentucky basketball player taking a shot
Kentucky basketball player taking a shot
© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

College basketball is back! For the first time in well over a year, fans will be in arenas and the electricity of college basketball will be pulsing. 

The buzzer beaters. The bad beats. The elation that betting on a random Tuesday night game between James Madison and Elon brings. 

It is all back. 

With all the games coming at you the next few days as the college basketball season begins, here are some fun bets and angles to help get your season going right. 

Marquee matchups:

No. 10 Kentucky (+1) vs. No. 9 Duke @ MSG

A top 10 matchup between two blue bloods who didn’t make the NCAA tournament last year has all the makings for an early classic this season. 

After last season’s lackluster performance, the Wildcats have retooled by way of the transfer portal adding four impact players. Notably bringing in Oscar Tshiebwe, a big man from West Virginia, who, if healthy, should provide some issues in the post for Duke. 

Last year was an anomaly for Kentucky, it should be a top team not just in the SEC but in the entire nation. 

Duke is embarking on the Mike Krzyzewski farewell tour starting in Madison Square Garden. Can the Blue Devils bounce back after a disappointing campaign just a year ago? They bring back Wendell Moore and others while also adding a few transfers paired with three 5-star recruits, notably Paolo Banchero who should be a star. 

Both of these teams should have successful years and both were picked to win their respective conferences. It is always fun when you get marquee matchups this early in the season. 

Dukes is 4-2 straight up vs. Kentucky since 1997 and the Blue Devils won their last matchup against Kentucky. However, this is a new year and I believe despite the preseason ranking, Kentucky is the better team in this game. 

Kentucky is 38-20 against the spread in neutral court games when the total is 140-149.5. The total for this game? 149. 

The pick: Kentucky gets their season going with an electric against the spread win in the Big Apple. 

No. 3 Kansas (-4.5) vs. Michigan State @ MSG 

Kansas is coming off a solid season that ended in heartbreak against USC in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Whereas Michigan State went 5-2 over their last 7 to make the tournament and were bounced in the First Four to UCLA. 

Michigan State lost assistant coach Dane Fife and while that name might not move the needle for you or for Vegas when making this line, it is the first coaching staff change under Tom Izzo in 10 years at Michigan State which is insane.  

Kansas on the other hand is one of the best teams in the nation and is at +1400 to win the championship. As long as Bill Self is at the helm the Jayhawks are a solid team that will be in the mix in the postseason. 

Kansas was missing consistently great guard play last season and now look to some transfers to fill that void. Michigan State on the other hand still has some question marks at two of the most important positions in college basketball, the 1 and 5. 

Early in the season, I like to lean on the team that showed more positives the previous season. There is no true coaching edge as Bill Self and Tom Izzo are some of the best in the business so you have to look at other parts of the game and I trust Kansas more than I do the Spartans at this moment in time. 

The pick: Kansas wins and covers the 4.5 point spread

Louisiana Tech @ No. 14 Alabama (-11.5) 

Alabama was a fun team last season. When it was playing well, the Crimson Tide can beat anyone in the nation. Up-tempo and launching threes, their head coach, Nate Oats, was once a math teacher and leans heavily into analytics. 

The departure of Herb Jones — the SEC Player of the Year — and the injury to guard Nimari Burnett does hurt this team on the season but not as much in this game. 

LA Tech has their own big man that plays a special brand of bully ball in sophomore Kenneth Lofton Jr. He is going to put up huge numbers and dominate the C-USA this season, if you are looking at team futures, hammer LA Tech to win the C-USA and Lofton to win C-USA Player of the Year. However, with Alabama’s play style of playing from the outside in, he may become a non factor in this game. 

I was high on Alabama last season and I’m high on them yet again. What makes me hammer Alabama even more is the fact Eric Konkol, LA Tech’s head coach, is 1-11 ATS when his team is on the road and the point total is between 150-154.5. 

The pick: Alabama -11.5 and not thinking twice about the points. 

Some value plays: 

It is worth mentioning, I have a soft spot in my heart for mid-major basketball and teams that don’t dominate the headlines. Watching Wednesday A10 hoops or Thursday MAAC action is always a great time. This week’s value plays aren’t as much favoring the mid major teams (surprise I pick both favorites) but it is fun to look at schools from non Power 6 conferences. 

The Citadel @ Pitt (-10.5)

Get excited, a bottom feeder SoCon team is taking on a bottom feeder ACC team. This may be the worst/best basketball game of the day.

Last season, Pitt started their season 8-3 and was a solid team. Then its youngness started to set in, paired with COVID cancellations, the Panthers’ season fell apart and they finished just 10-12. 

Pittsburgh did lose star Justin Champagnie but have some solid pieces still in the backcourt. This game comes down to the difference in mid major talent and ACC talent. While Pitt isn’t going to be a world beater in the ACC, they would be a world beater in the SoCon. The talent disparity is worth more than 10.5 points and Pitt should win this game with relative ease. 

The Pick: Pittsburgh -10.5. To make the Pittsburgh pick a little stronger, Jeff Capel III, Pitt’s head coach, is 12-6 against the spread in November games.

Evansville @ Cincinnati (-9.5) 

You’re telling me I can get Cincinnati -9.5 vs. Evansville?! 

I’m hammering that Every. Single. Time. 

Wes Miller comes to Cincinnati after spending the last 10 seasons at UNC-Greensboro where he built them into perennial SoCon winners and racked up a fantastic 125-43 record. Now, he heads to Cincinnati to try and take them back to where Mick Cronin had them prior to his departure to UCLA.

Evansville is coming off of back to back seasons with just 9 wins. (Three years ago they had a whopping 11 wins!) You may look at drf.com/sports and see that Cincinnati is just 4-14 ATS in non-conference games the last 3 years, and want to side with Evansville in this game. Don’t. 

Here’s the thing, this is a new Cincy team led by Wes Miller who is 7-1 ATS as a home favorite of 9.5-12 points. 

Cincinnati has the makings to be a solid team in the American, whereas Evansville is a bottom team in the Missouri Valley Conference. I think Cincinnati covers this spread with ease and starts the season with a statement win. 

The Pick: Cincinnati -9.5 as they start their march back March after missing the tournament last season for the first time since 2010.  

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