Corrigan's Gambling Corner: College Basketball Opening Night Best Bets
Welcome to opening night for the 2021-2022 college basketball season. We have a full slate of games, and as always, there are two great matchups between blue-bloods tonight.
With the return of college basketball comes the return of gambling on college basketball. I have five can't-miss bets for tonight's games, and I cannot wait to start this season strong.
This is a long season and the process of picking games will change as we get closer to March Madness. For now, we are going off of what I know about the teams at this time.
*Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook
Akron Zips at Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State is the better team in this game, but with the departure of Duane Washington Jr., Ohio State lost their "bucket-getter."
The Ohio State offense was one of the best in 2020 thanks to a plethora of talented shooters and big men. The defense was ranked 82nd last season and allowed 71.1 points per game.
Normally, they would rely on their deep roster of offensive weapons to bail them out, but sometimes, it is just not your night offensively, and Ohio State was exposed in the first round of the tournament last season.
Although Akron is the inferior team, this could turn into a matchup nightmare if the Ohio State offense is rusty to start the season. The Zips were the 42nd ranked scoring offense last season, and they shot the three better than most teams in the country. Akron lost the majority of their offensive production from 2020 but was able to add a couple of big transfers in Xavier Castaneda and K.J. Walton.
You have to think that Akron's offensive production will go down in this game with all of their departures. Even though the majority of their roster is filled with upperclassmen, I do not think they have enough to keep up with Ohio State.
The Buckeyes are also missing a lot of key production from last season, so I am looking at an offensive struggle for both teams.
Pick: Under 141.5 (-114)
Kansas Jayhawks at Michigan State Spartans (Madison Square Garden)
Not only is Kansas returning four starters this season, but they also added Arizona State point guard Remy Martin, through the transfer portal. Marin averaged 19.1 points per game, which led the Pac-12, and he was a three-time first-team All-Pac-12 selection. Adding a talent like that to a team that went 21-9 last season may make the Jayhawks the team to beat in 2021.
Kansas is the third-ranked team in the country, which was expected, but Michigan State is starting the season unranked for the first time since 2011. Although the Spartans had a down year in the Tom Izzo era, Michigan State is returning Joey Hauser and Gabe Brown at the forward positions.
Michigan State also added Northeastern transfer Tyson Walker, who averaged 18.8 points per game and is widely regarded for his defensive game. Having three experienced players will help Michigan State against one of the most complete starting-fives in college basketball, but it will not be enough.
Kansas is just too experienced, too talented, and they are trending upwards while the Spartans seem to be entering some lean years.
Pick: Kansas -3.5 (-120)
Navy Midshipmen at Virginia Cavaliers
Both of these teams play at an incredibly slow pace. Virginia was ranked dead-last in team possessions per game (62.4), and Navy is ranked 243rd with 69.8 possessions per game. There is not much reason to think that these two teams will change their philosophies this season, especially Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers.
Virginia likes to let the offense open up and utilize their big boys to punish teams down low. East Carolina transfer, Jayden Gardner, will give Virginia a boost on the offensive side of the ball as he averaged 18 points per game in his three years at East Carolina. He also gives Virginia great length and athleticism on both sides of the court, even though his defensive numbers leave something to be desired.
Defensively, Virginia forces you to use the entire shot clock as they play a suffocating brand of defense. opposing teams held the ball for an average of 18.6 seconds against the Virginia defense. This gives opposing offenses more opportunity to slip up or forces them to abandon the play and just freestyle out there.
Although both teams play a similar style, Navy was an extremely-poor shooting team last season, and their defense was one of the worst teams against shooting teams. The Cavaliers do not shoot the ball necessarily well, but this is the perfect game to open up the offense a little and work on finding "that-guy" on offense. That opens the door for an offensive struggle tonight, so the under is the smart play.
Pick: Under 124.5 (-115)
Dixie State Trailblazers at Gonzaga Bulldogs
How hilarious is it to look at a 40.5-point spread?
Gonzaga lost their best player to the NBA draft in Jalen Suggs, but there is a lot of excitement around top-rated recruit Chet Holmgren. The No. 1 ranked player out of high school stands at 7-feet tall, but he only weighs in at 190 Ibs. He is not the most physically dominant big man in the game, but he is very skilled and will pair wonderfully with Drew Timme this season.
Timme is another athletic big man who has an incredible post-game. The pairing of Holmgren and Timme will be a handful for any team, let alone a team in only its second year of Division 1 basketball.
Dixie State has a solid duo of Cameron Gooden and Hunter Schofield, but they do not have the horses to keep up with one of the most talented teams in the country.
Although Gonzaga will be without head coach Mark Few due to a suspension stemming from a DUI in September, Gonzaga will dismantle a team that does not belong on the same court as them.
Pick: Gonzaga -40.5 (-106)
Kentucky Wildcats at Duke Blue Devils (Madison Square Garden)
Welcome to the first chapter of Coach K's "everyone look at me" retirement tour. Now that we got that out of the way, let's get into the pick for a great matchup.
Duke had a down year in 2020 and missed the tournament for the first time in 35 seasons. Not only that, but Jalen Johnson, who was the prize NBA prospect on the team, left the program early to focus on the draft. He can say all he want's, but he left so he did not have to be a part of a team that is looking down the barrel of a bad time in the program's history.
Duke was able to grab three five-star recruits, but I am legitimately worried that Duke will be caught up in the Coach K retirement tour. Sure, the players may "play hard" for him, but it is clear that the spotlight is on the coach this season rather than the team.
2020 was a disaster for Kentucky as well. They finished 9-16 on the season, and most of their talented freshman once again bolted for the draft. Like Duke, Kentucky still recruited at a high level and even added a few transfers that give them an edge tonight.
Sahvir Wheeler was the leading scorer for Georgia last season, and he joins sharpshooter CJ Fredrick and Kellan Grady as offensive weapons to transfer into the program. I am not high on both teams, but I love Kentucky's mix of freshman talent and veteran transfers.
Pick: Kentucky +3.5 (-118)
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