Saturday’s Best Bets

Another Saturday means another full slate of college basketball betting in the marketplace, and with this Saturday being the first one of February, we have arrived at crunch time in the season. Before you know it we will be watching conference tournaments tip off and the NCAA Tournament following that, so it really is a great time to be a college basketball fan/bettor.

Saturday's slate has some great games from top to bottom, but there are two small home underdogs welcoming in ranked foes who I've got my eye on for ATS/ML plays.

Louisville at N.C. State (ESPN, 2:00 p.m. ET)

Best Bet #1: North Carolina State +3.5

NC State hosts a very good Louisville team on Saturday, as Louisville going on a run through the entire NCAA Tournament to cut down the nets in 60 odds days would hardly be a huge surprise. The Cardinals have been rolling too, winning seven in a row outright (4-2-1 ATS), with all but one of those wins coming by at least four points. And with NC State dropping two in a row – most notably their last game was a 10-point home loss as -6.5 chalk to hated North Carolina – chances are we will see plenty of support for the visitors here. So why am I stepping in front of that?

Well for one, home court means more in college basketball then it does in any other sport in my view, and the Wolfpack are still 11-2 SU at home this year. Their only other home loss this season came in the season opener when they fell 82-81 in OT to Georgia Tech. So losing two in a row on their own floor just isn't a common occurrence for NC State, and they'll do everything in their power to make sure that doesn't happen here.

Secondly, as odd as it may seem to figure, NC State could have been looking past the Tar Heels a bit earlier in the week and ahead to this game against this very good Louisville team. It's hard to really look past a big time rival like UNC, but it's no secret that this has been a disastrous year for UNC and NC State may have been a bit too complacent in that regard. Knowing they had this big game with Louisville on deck, and a three-game road trip following that, they probably took the slumping Tar Heels quite lightly. The Wolfpack couldn't hit anything from distance (4-for-20) and didn't shoot the ball well at all in general, and it ended up costing them.

I wouldn't put a heavy weight into the idea that NC State was looking ahead to this Louisville game, but it's definitely a possibility, and when teams do get caught in that scenario, I love to back them when that big game arrives, especially when they are catching points at home. There is no better way to erase the bad taste out of their mouths from that UNC loss then by beating a foe the caliber of Louisville, and I do believe the Wolfpack are live in that regard here.

Finally, for as good as Louisville is, they haven't really shown their best in games that are expected to be close. In the two games this year that have closed with a line that's +/- 4 for the Cardinals, they are 0-1-1 ATS, losing in OT @ Kentucky and pushing as -3 favorites @ Notre Dame. Dominating these games that are expected to be tight is the mark of a team that's a legit national title contender and Louisville still has to prove they can do that.

Until they do, I'll gladly fade them in a situation like this - on the road in a high market support situation.

Rutgers at Michigan (Big Ten, 4:30 p.m.)

Best Bet #2: Michigan +1

There is no conference in college basketball this year where home court has meant more then in the Big 10, and while there have been a few more road teams winning in Big 10 play of late, asking a Rutgers team that's just 1-4 SU away from home all year to get the job done here just doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense to me.

Part of the reason the line is in that pick'em range is the fact that Michigan has been struggling of late, dropping four of their last five overall, including their last two games at home. You go back a bit further to their OT win at home vs Purdue, and the month of January was not kind to Michigan at home (1-2 SU, 0-2-1 ATS). But I do expect things to be on the upswing for this team now that February's arrived, and with G Zavier Simpson likely back running things for the Wolverines, Michigan should be the ones who come out on top here.

Rutgers has been a great story in the Big 10 all year, but the bulk of their success as come on their own floor. A 15-0 SU record at home can't be discounted for Rutgers, but they just can't seem to find anywhere near that type of success on the road.

Rutgers lone road victory this year came against a bad Nebraska squad, and outside of that game, their results on a neutral floor or as a true road team in terms of margin of defeat have been -6, -11, -12, -3, and -5. Those are not the results of a team I believe is deserving of being a -1 or pick'em road favorite in this spot, especially when their opponent is getting back arguably their best player.

So chalk up another win for a home team in Big 10 play with this game, as Michigan's fans get to see their squad win in front of them for just the second time in 2020.