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Friday Night College Hoops: Back the Hawks & Jays in Rivalry Games

Friday Night College Hoops: Back the Hawks & Jays in Rivalry Games

As the 2020 college football season draws to a close, the new college basketball season begins to take our attention on Friday nights. Tonight’s slate is once again juiced with several of the best teams from across the country taking the floor.

From rivalry games to the Big East opener, we have you covered with your Best Bets of the evening. We even threw in an extra bonus bet because it’s the holiday season.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the best college hoops bets on this Friday in December.

Nebraska at #8 Creighton

Spread: Creighton -14
Total: O/U 155
Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET, Big Ten Network

8th ranked Creighton looks to put a heartbreaking one-point loss to #5 Kansas behind them when they return home this evening to take on in-state rival Nebraska.

Calling this match-up a “rivalry” in recent seasons may be kind to the Huskers.  Nebraska has struggled mightily in this spot against their fellow Cornhusker State brethren, going 2-8 straight up and ATS in their last ten matchups against the Bluejays.  They face an immense challenge to buck that trend tonight.

Creighton boasts one of the best shooting units in all of college basketball, though to start the season they’re lagging behind their production from a season ago, particularly from three-point range as the Jays presently have the 154th best long-distance shooting team in the country.

This is a far cry from last season’s efforts that had the Jays finishing 6th overall in three-point efficiency but good news could be on the horizon for Creighton tonight as Nebraska will give them ample opportunity to find their usual stroke from the perimeter.

The Huskers have been sound defensively at the start of the season, but have yet to play on the road and have had a Charmin soft start to their non-conference schedule.  A season ago, the Huskers were one of the worst defensive teams in all of college basketball (266th overall per KenPom) and would routinely get punished on the glass as they surrendered an offensive rebound on a third of their opponents’ possessions (335th overall in the country in 2019/20).

Neither of those tendencies bode well for tonight.  Creighton features a dynamic quartet of players with their backcourt of Marcus Zegarowski (13.3 ppg) and Denzel Mahoney (13.3 ppg) pairing up with forwards Christian Bishop (14.5 ppg) and Damien Jefferson (10.8 ppg) to give the team a balanced scoring attack with any of the four Bluejays capable of carrying the offense in any given situation.

While the three-point shooting as a team is collectively down so far through the first five games of the new season, Creighton presently features three starters that shoot the three at better than a 40% clip.  If the three-point shot is on tonight, this game can get out of hand in a hurry.

Nebraska enters season two under Fred Hoiberg and the former Mayor of Ames is still in the middle of what figures to be a long rebuild to return the Huskers to prominence in the Big Ten.  The Huskers are a very young team who have struggled mightily on the road as evidenced by their current 19-game road losing streak.  Good things are coming to Lincoln, they’re just not going to come with much frequency this season and that includes tonight.

Look for Creighton to bounce back after their disappointing loss against Kansas with another comfortable beat down of their in-state rival.

Prediction: Creighton 85, Nebraska 65
Best Bet: Creighton -14

#9 Villanova at Georgetown

Spread: Villanova -11.5
O/U 143
7:00 PM ET, FS1

#9 Villanova and Georgetown rekindle their long Big East rivalry when the two schools tip-off the 2020/21 Big East conference slate tonight from the nation’s capital.

Jay Wright’s Wildcats come into tonight’s contest looking to build off a hard-fought 68-64 victory over then #17 Texas on Sunday, with his stable of shooting guards starting to come to life after a hit and miss performance in ‘Bubbleville’ at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Despite the lulls in the offense through the first five games, Nova still boasts the 4th most efficient offense in the country.  While the team still gets its shooting back into form, they’ve been especially good at limiting turnovers as they have committed a turnover on only 13 percent of their possessions, good for the 10th best unit in college basketball to begin the new season.

That comes in direct conflict with how the Hoyas have played basketball to start the season.  While Georgetown is coming off of an 80-48 thumping of Coppin State, they have dropped games to Navy and West Virginia and have been especially careless with the basketball with a turnover rate outside of the top 250.

Georgetown has turned the ball over one out of every four possessions to start the season and is even worse at forcing their opponents into mistakes, as they force a turnover on 14% of their opposition’s possessions.

When considering how stingy the Villanova offense is at wasting possessions, that may spell out a longer evening for the Hoyas than they’d prefer to endure.

For Georgetown to be competitive in their conference home opener, they will need a massive night from seniors Jahvon Blair (20.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and Jamorko Pickett (14.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg).  The senior duo may not be enough to overtake the swath of talent Jay Wright has assembled in Philadelphia this season, however, as Wright has four starters averaging double-digits and they’ve yet to play anywhere near to their actual potential.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (16.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg), Collin Gillespie (14.6 ppg, 37% 3PM), and Justin Moore (14.2 ppg, 36.7% 3PM) will be the catalysts for the Nova attack this evening, and with the Hoyas being particularly light in the frontcourt with only two players logging significant minutes being taller than 6-9, Robinson-Earl can be in for another big night.  If Nova’s three-point shot travels with them, that makes this matchup that much harder for Ewing’s Hoyas.

Nova enters tonight’s conference opener featuring a sparkling 10-2-1 ATS record in their last 13 road games, while the Hoyas are just 1-6 ATS following a win and 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games on a Friday night.

This is a spot where a quality Georgetown team is getting a lot of points on their home floor, but I believe Villanova has yet to put together a complete game.  Jay Wright’s crew gets it done tonight behind a dominant performance from Robinson-Earl and the ‘Cats outside shooting coming back to life.

Prediction: Villanova 84, Georgetown 70
Best Bet: Villanova -11.5

Iowa State at #3 Iowa

Spread: Iowa -12
O/U 158.5
9:00 PM ET, Big Ten Network

Life is pretty good if you’re a fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes right about now.  The Hawks are flying high to start the new season with the 3rd overall ranking in the country and the runaway favorite to bring home the 2021 Wooden Award in Iowa scoring machine Luka Garza (29.5 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 55.6% 3PM).

Iowa has scored 90 points or more in all four of their victories to start the new season, including a 93-80 win over #16 North Carolina on Tuesday.  They look like they will not only be a threat to win the Big Ten but to go on a deep run in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

On the other hand, their in-state rival Iowa State has seen better days.  Steve Prohm enters his sixth year in Ames and is coming off of a disastrous 12-20 campaign a season ago, giving the former Murray State coach his second poor season in the last three seasons (13-18 overall in 2017/18).  That has left Prohm’s seat getting noticeably warmer, and tonight’s opponent is likely not going to feel a whole lot of remorse for Prohm’s potential future on the Iowa State sidelines.

The Cyclones to date have only played in two games, splitting an 80-63 win over Arkansas Pine-Bluff with a 71-68 loss to South Dakota State on December 2nd.  It’s difficult to fully gauge the scope of what this season’s Cyclone team will present, but they face a massive uphill climb in replacing star guard Tyrese Haliburton who departed for the NBA Draft after one season in Ames.

If the first two games are any indicator of tonight, Iowa State is probably in for a long night.  The Cyclones have shot just 29-percent from three-point range in the first two games, their most recent showing being a 4-for-23 night in their loss to SDSU.  If they repeat that shooting performance tonight, Iowa will run them out of the gym.

There’s something possibly to be made out of a rivalry game featuring a coach that is very much coaching for his job this season, but Iowa State simply does not have the athletes to stay on the floor with this Iowa team.

Garza alone is a matchup nightmare that few teams in the nation can account for, and Iowa State is not that team.  In their first two games, the Cyclones surrendered a cozy 51.4% shooting percentage from two-point range, and last season teams shot at a 50.6% clip from inside the perimeter (223rd overall defensive ranking per KenPom).  Iowa State was even friendlier in surrendering three-point shots as they fielded a perimeter defense that ranked outside the top 300 a season ago.  That’s where Garza feasts.  That’s where Iowa feasts.

The only fear you would have tonight is if Iowa flat out overlooks their in-state rival tonight, but they seem like a team on a mission and should easily handle their foes from the Big 12 with another lopsided victory in Iowa City.

Prediction: Iowa 90, Iowa State 73
Best Bet: Iowa -12

Bonus Play: UW-Milwaukee at Kansas State

Spread: Kansas State -10.5
O/U 132
8:00 PM ET, ESPN+

Any other season, this game probably wouldn’t register a blip on your radar, but Bruce Weber’s Kansas State Wildcats’ are having quite the difficult start to their season.

The Wildcats were projected to be entering a rebuilding season that would have them finishing at the bottom of the conference, but no one quite expected K-State to struggle like this.  The Wildcats have begun the season with a dismal 1-4 record with their lone win of the season being a 62-58 victory over WAC member Missouri-Kansas City (ranked 290th overall by KenPom).  Their last game was an 81-68 home loss to Division II member Fort Hays State.

Simply put, this team stinks worse than the morning after a late-night Taco Bell binge.

Horizon League member UW-Milwaukee has yet to play a game this season, so we have no idea what’s in store from them tonight. The Panthers finished the 2019/20 season with a 12-19 record giving them their fourth straight season with a losing record, however, they return three starters and add transfer, Vin Baker Jr., from college basketball powerhouse Boston College, so at the least, they have the talent that rivals a D-II school, and that is evidently all you need to beat Kansas State this season.

Until they show a reason not to automatically fade them, I’m going to automatically fade them. Take the Panthers and the points.

Prediction: You will want to watch something else on TV
Best Bet: UW-Milwaukee +10.5

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