College Basketball Opening Night: Previews, Predictions & 5 Best Bets

Jason Radowitz gives his 5 best bets for College Basketball’s Opening night, November 5th.

CBB: 0-0 ATS

North Florida Osprey @ (6) Florida Gators 7pm EST on SECN 

Opening night is an interesting night. We don’t know much. Freshman could become stars and players can underachieve. But one thing I’ve always learned betting college basketball during the first week is that you should always bet the big teams against the spread. The belief is that in the first week of the season, these favorites are undervalued against bad mid-major teams.

North Florida (16-17 last season) will welcome back four starters and eight of their top nine scorers. They were second in the Atlantic Sun and scored 75.3 points per game. This North Florida team has a ton of experience. They’ve competed against 18 Power 5 conference teams in the last three years and will welcome more competition. North Florida played Florida last season and lost by the score of 98-66.

North Florida is coming off seven wins in a row before losing to Liberty in the ASun tournament. They got on a roll late in the season against conference play. Not against power 5 conference teams … or a top 6 team in Florida.

Florida (20-16 last season) are expecting big things from Kerry Blackshear Jr. who is said to be the difference-maker for the Gators this season after transferring into the program from the ACC. Florida has six more newcomers (all freshman) and these freshmen are expected to be high impact players, including Tre Mann and Scottie Lewis. Andrew Nembhard will return for his sophomore season after he started 36 games for the Gators producing 194 assists in those 36 games. Noah Locke nailed 81 threes last season.

Florida is 8-0 all-time against UNF after their whooping last season however Florida will only have 212 games played in a Florida uniform combined, which is the fewest in the last decade for Florida. The line sits at -19.5 for Florida. And just like I said, it seems too low. This will be a 30 point blow out. Take Florida on the spread.

(3) Kansas Jayhawks vs (4) Duke Blue Devils 7:00PM EST on ESPN

This is the first of two HUGE games at Madison Square Garden to start the College Basketball season. A 3 vs 4 and a 1 vs 2 later.

Kansas (26-10 last season) worked around some big injuries last season including senior center Udoka Azubuike who only played nine games last season due to a torn ligament in his right hand. That didn’t stop him from being voted as the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year by the league’s coaches. Kansas added Isaiah Moss from Iowa as a transfer to add some three point shooting, where they lacked last season. Kansas also landed a Michigan commit in Jalen Wilson after John Beilein left Michigan to coach in the NBA.

Duke will be losing a ton of talent this season but don’t worry, they have some new guys that’ll be just fine. Sophomore, Tre Jones elected to stay in college for another season and lead Duke this season as point guard. The rest of the team will be freshmen, including top recruit Vernon Carey Jr. who was the 6th best recruit in the nation. They’ll also have five-star recruit and shooting specialist, Matthew Hurt, who was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball after averaging 36.8 points, 12.4 rebounds, and five assists per game in his senior season in high school.

Duke is 7-5 all-time against Kansas but has lost the last three matchups. Coach K and the Blue Devils have won 19 straight season openers and are 37-2 in these games under Coach K. I’m riding with Duke with the PICK.

Eastern Illinois Panthers @ (13) Texas Tech Red Raiders 8pm EST

We’re back at it again. They undervalue favorites in the first week of the season. This game is another prime example.

Eastern Illinois (14-18 last season) finished 6th in the OVC with a conference record of 7-11. Eastern Illinois will return their top scorer last season in Josiah Wallace who averaged 15.5 points per game as well as 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game. They’ll also return JaQualis Matlock who was their leading rebounder with just 4.8 a game.

Texas Tech (31-7 last season)  is coming in fresh off a huge NCAA tournament run, falling just short in the finale. They went 14-4 in Big 12 conference play. Although the Red Raiders will lose Jarrett Culver to the NBA, they’ll bring back Davide Moretti who averaged 11.5 points per game, along with 2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. 

Eastern Illinois scored 71.8 points per game while allowing 76.8 per game. Texas Tech is known for their defense where they allowed offenses to score just 59.6 points per game (third best in the country). Texas Tech, even without Culver, will be very good defensively and score a ton offensively against Eastern Illinois. They’ll cover the spread at 23 points.

St. Mary’s Gaels vs Wisconsin Badgers 9pm EST on ESPNU

This game doesn’t match-up with the two games at the Garden, but it’s going to be a good one.

St. Mary’s Gaels (22-12 last season) had an exciting season beating Gonzaga for the first time in a while but then the lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Here’s the good news; they’ll be returning four starters from that team. Wisconsin (23-11 last season) also lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They also lost their star forward/center Ethan Happ to graduation.

St. Mary’s four starters are led by Jordan Ford who averaged 21.1 points per game shooting an incredible 41.2 percent from downtown. St. Mary’s is said to have a lot of depth, talent and experience. They could be in line to play Gonzaga tough again this season. But right now, it’s about Wisconsin.

Wisconsin will miss out on Ethan Happ, of course. They’ll have to rely on D’Mtrick Trice, Brad Daison, Brevin Pritzl, and Ohio State Transfer Micah Potter (who isn’t eligible until the first 10 games are over.

There are so many unknowns with this Wisconsin team and a lot of established players at St. Mary’s. I’ll gladly take St. Mary’s -3 here.

(1) Michigan State Spartans vs (2) Kentucky Wildcats 9:30pm EST on ESPN

What a week we’re going to have. Michigan State vs Kentucky (one vs two) and LSU vs Alabama (in college football one vs two). This is the second time in only the second time in NCAA history that an opener has featured the 1 vs the 2.

Michigan State will return ultimately one of the best athletes in college basketball in Cassius Winston, who decided to stay one last season with Michigan State in hopes of an NCAA Championship. He averaged 18.8 points, 7.5 assists and won the Big Ten Player of the Year last season. They’ll also bring back Xavier Tillman who became a legitimate feature in the second half of the season.

Michigan State’s Cassius Winston will have his hands full against Kentucky’s sophomore Ashton Hagans, who led the team in points, assists, and steals last season. Hagans will be joined by Tyrese Maxey, a McDonald’s All-American who has already been named to the All-SEC Preseason Second Team… he hasn’t seen a minute of action yet in a game.

Michigan State has problems come when they have to face pressure defenses. Kentucky will more than likely be in the face of Winston and try to force some turnovers. Winston is without Joshua Langford has his backcourt mate due to a foot injury, so Michigan State will have to rely on their freshman Rocket Watts.

Kentucky has some interesting experience on this year’s team. They’ll have two freshmen, two sophomores, and a graduate transfer in Nate Sestina, who transferred out of Bucknell. He had 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in the Patriot League. This is going to be different competition for Sestina but he’s already averaged 12 points and 9 rebounds in Kentucky’s two exhibition games, while shooting 64.7 percent from the field. I’m not worried about how he adapts to playing against better talent.

This one will be close all the way. I’ll take Kentucky, who I believe have more talent on the team this season (at least to start.) They’ll get +3.

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