After two days of light action in college basketball, the slate ramps up on Friday night. What are our three best bets to help kick off your weekend?
After Tuesday’s PACKED opening night, things cooled off in the college hoops world with most of the nation’s top teams being off, but with some big names back in action, the Friday night slate has a few great plays to get back on track.
Recap of last night’s bet:
1. UConn’s first performance in the Dan Hurley era was a disappointment. Only beating a Morehead State team that managed a 1-13 record the previous season by 10 points at home fell short of expectations, both in general and gambling. UConn led by 16 points with a little over five minutes remaining, but shot itself in the foot over and over again down the stretch with a combination of ill-advised shots, bad fouls, missed foul shots and sloppy turnovers. The shining moment of the second half would be the Huskies shooting 52% from the field. Moving forward, expect Hurley to get more comfortable with his personnel and to put things together, as UConn showed flashes of being an improved team, but it was unable to play cleanly enough over the full 40 minutes to cover this game.
Here are our best gambling plays for Friday night in college hoops:
1-2. Southern Illinois at Kentucky (Kentucky -17, over/under 148.5)
7:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Well, things can’t go much worse for Kentucky than they did in the season opener Champions Classic matchup vs Duke, where the Wildcats fell 118-84 in a game that was never close. Had Kentucky played Duke closely, or even slightly competitively, both the line (-17) and the total (148.5) would probably have looked drastically different. So, what does that mean? Let’s capitalize on Vegas’s overreaction and make some money. Kentucky is going to win this game, and will likely win it pretty handily, but this Southern Illinois team is by no means a bad team. The Salukis return all five starters to a team that placed second in the Missouri Valley Conference last season behind now famous Loyola-Chicago and Sister Jean. Southern Illinois was not known as a high-scoring team, or one that played quickly, ranking 253rd out of 351 total teams in KenPom adjusted tempo, but were efficient with the ball, ranking 98th in AdjO. Kentucky, on the other hand, in an objectively bad game against Duke, still pushed the ball at a considerable pace and managed to score efficiently. The defense was just that bad, and a team like Duke was able to take advantage in a way not many teams could. Expect Kentucky to do to Southern Illinois what the Blue Devils did to them on Tuesday: force it to get out into transition and push the ball. For an inexperienced team, this could spell disaster, but a team returning five starters and getting an additional asset back from injury, as the Salukis have, it should equal a faster pace and more points. Certainly not enough to win, but enough to drive the total score up. This is going to be a giant statement game for Kentucky, as it now has to prove to both itself and the world that the No. 2 preseason ranking granted to the team was not a total miscalculation. Historically, Kentucky is 101-14 in home openers, with a 9-0 record in the last nine. Now, regarding the over, 148.5 is a lot of points, but even in the loss Kentucky showed an ability to score, even with a terrible debut from sharpshooting freshman Tyler Herro, who went 1-6 from beyond the arc. The end story is that Kentucky will be looking to get out in transition and push the ball against a veteran Southern Illinois team that would rather slow things down, which will lead to a pace increase and more points. However, defensive struggles will occur. This Kentucky team was ranked No. 2 to start the season for a reason, and the sheer talent and athleticism on the offensive end combined with some questions defensively will be enough to cover a pretty hefty line while still powering the score past the over.
Picks: Kentucky -17 and OVER 148.5 Points
3. Wichita State vs. Providence (-7) in Annapolis, Maryland
6:00 p,m. ET, CBS
Over the last handful seasons, Wichita State was a consistently good team. Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Cleanthony Early made way for Landry Shamet, but when the latter decided to depart early for the NBA, Wichita State was left without a suitable replacement. In the team’s opening game against Louisiana Tech, the Shockers (-9.5) were shocked 71-58 at home, their first home-opening loss in 23 years. Conversely, Providence opened the season against Siena, winning by 10, but not covering the 19.5-point spread. The win was bolstered Thursday night, when Siena upset George Washington, proving the Saints may be a bit better than many expected, and showing the line against Providence may have been a bit inflated. Wichita State managed only 37% shooting from the field and 28% from three in the loss to Louisiana Tech, looking lost on both ends of the floor. The Shockers clearly have a lot to figure on offense, while the Friars were firing on all cylinders, bolstered by the performance of freshman A.J. Reeves, who went 10/13 from the field and 7/9 from three. Providence took its foot off the gas after a securing a 16-point lead against Siena, but never let the score get closer than nine. Wichita State looks lost, and will struggle continuing to find their identity against the Friar’s offense, which will allow Providence to continue its hot start to the season by beating the Shockers and covering.
Pick: Providence -7
Overall Record: 3-2