The gridiron takes a backseat on Saturday, and college basketball takes its place.
We dive into two games as Purdue faces Alabama being played in Toronto and Grand Canyon matches up with Liberty.
Grab those passports Saturday for a matchup in the Great White North before heading down south to take in a fantastic mid-major battle between two teams that could be busting brackets this March.
College basketball best bets and picks Saturday
Purdue vs. Alabama prediction
Since arriving in Tuscaloosa in 2019, Nate Oats has been an Over-bettor’s dream.
His Crimson Tide have cashed overs at a 57 percent clip in the past five-plus seasons, making them the top over-bet in the SEC during that window.
They’re also the fourth-most profitable over team among all power conference programs since 2019. And when facing teams outside of the SEC, this over trend jumps up to 61.3 percent.
Last season Purdue preferred to slow things down and methodically run their offense in the halfcourt. They finished 324th out of 363 teams in KenPom’s adjusted tempo metric last season.
How much has that changed in one year?
The Boilermakers have jumped up nearly 200 slots (130th) and increased their points per game average by 12 points year over year.
A big reason for that has been their improved shooting.
The Boilermakers are noticeably up across the board, and as a result, they’ve become a statistical darling in the advanced metric community.
Purdue is first in Bart Torvik’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric and fourth in both KenPom and ShotQuality’s offensive rankings.
Sophomores Brayden Smith and Fletcher Loyer have each improved their three-point accuracy by five percentage points and seem emboldened to fire away from long range.
Their improved play, along with senior Lance Jones, has provided Zach Edey with steady scoring support.
Purdue has cruised past totals by an average of 8.5 points per game this season, the sixth-highest mark among power conference teams.
And then there’s the venue.
This neutral-site game in downtown Toronto is a homecoming for the reigning National Player of the Year.
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Zach Edey was born and raised in Toronto and attended Leaside High School for a few years before enrolling at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
With family and friends less than 20 minutes from the venue, you can expect this game to be a homecoming for the dominant center.
And if that emotional angle doesn’t convince you he’s in line for a huge performance, consider Alabama’s injury issues.
Grant Nelson, Alabama’s starting power forward, hasn’t practiced this week after injuring his leg on Monday against Arkansas State.
Losing a physical 6-foot-11 defender with Edey on deck is bad news for the Tide.
I would play this total all the way up to 164.5.
Recommendation: Over 162 (-110, BetMGM)
Grand Canyon vs. Liberty prediction
This is a textbook letdown spot for Grand Canyon.
The Antelopes just beat a ranked opponent for the first time in program history, downing San Diego State 79-73 at GCU Arena.
Head coach Bryce Drew has completely revitalized his career after flaming out at Vanderbilt.
He’s guided GCU to a 71-28 record in three-plus seasons, complete with two trips to the NCAA Tournament.
But now his ’Lopes must leave their home court advantage back in Phoenix, travel across the country, and deal with one of the very best mid-majors.
Liberty is uber-efficient, leading the nation in rim-and-three rate, which means they avoid inefficient looks.
And they frustrate opponents by slowing them way down, something GCU won’t like one bit.
The ’Lopes like to attack teams that aren’t settled into their halfcourt defense, as they did against SDSU where they consistently went to the line (31 attempts).
Liberty will bog them down and cover yet again on their home floor (68.3 percent ATS since ’20).
Recommendation: Liberty -3.5 – Caesars – (play up to -5)