CBB Saturday Picks: Take Virginia, Arkansas, Wake Forest against the spread

Welcome to the Saturday College Basketball Buffet.

College hoops takes the spotlight on a Saturday afternoon for the first time this season and we have a handful of intriguing matchups at our disposal.

Virginia faces one of the toughest challenges on the early slate on the road at North Carolina. The Cavaliers are trending in the right direction, but they need a signature win to boost their profile on the national stage. That could come against an up-and-down Tar Heels squad.

Arkansas and Syracuse trended in the wrong direction recently. They both have chances to bounce back on the road, but I believe only one of them will complete the task.

Below are picks for the first few windows of Saturday's slate. More picks will be added throughout the morning.

CBB Saturday Picks

Overall Record: 73-96-1

Duquesne at UMass (Over 147.5) (Noon ET, ESPN+)

What better way to start the day than with an over bet?

UMass is 10-3 to the over this season and 9-1 to the over in its last 10 games.

The Minutemen rank seventh on KenPom in three-point offense and their defense isn't great. UMass allows 78.2 points per game.

Duquense's overall field-goal percentage is not as good as UMass, but the Dukes average over 70 points for and against.

Virginia (+5) at North Carolina (1 p.m. ET, ESPN)

I'm getting sucked into the Virginia trap again!

Tony Bennett's team won two games in a row as an underdog and I'm convinced it can go into Chapel Hill and compete with North Carolina.

Virginia prides itself on defense and it held both Clemson and Syracuse under 70 points. Saturday's trip to the Smith Center is the ultimate test to see if the Cavaliers are back after a rough start.

North Carolina wins games with its offense, but we haven't seen the Tar Heels tested quite like Virginia can challenge them and they are coming off a brutal loss to Notre Dame.

UNC Greensboro at VMI (-4.5) (1 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Offense is the difference-maker in the UNC Greensboro-VMI matchup.

VMI averages over 16 more points per game than the visiting Spartans, and oh by the way, the Keydets are 6-1 against the spread in their last seven games.

VMI could push UNCG out of its comfort zone early. The Keydets rank 156th in adjusted tempo on KenPom, while the Spartans are near dead last in 356th place.

The home side should create more scoring opportunities and that should allow it to cover the small spread.

Arkansas (-108) at Texas A&M (1 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

I'll admit I'm taking a risk with picking Arkansas right now.

Eric Musselman's Hogs lost four of their last five games, but they have a great chance to make a statement on the road at Texas A&M.

The Aggies didn't look too impressive as they tried to put away Georgia on Tuesday. They needed a buzzer-beating shot to beat the worst team in the SEC on the road.

Arkansas' offense hasn't been the problem lately and it has the potential to outscore Texas A&M in what will be the first true in-conference test for Buzz Williams' team.

East Carolina at Temple (-4.5) (2 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

I was on the wrong end of Temple earlier this week, so I'm going with the Owls at home against East Carolina.

That isn't the only reason for me to pick the Owls. I think the program has turned a small corner in the last week. They only lost to Houston by five points and they went on the road to defeat a decent UCF squad.

East Carolina is somehow playing its first true road game of the season. Its first away trip in the American was postponed. The Pirates are also coming off a tough overtime clash with Tulsa.

I'm willing to risk it with Temple since the Owls look like they can be a decent team in conference action.

IUPUI at Wright State (-21.5) (2 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

IUPUI stinks.

There's really no other way to put it. The Jaguars rank 355th overall on KenPom and they have some of the worst offensive stats of any Division 1 team.

Wright State just beat Illinois-Chicago by 18 points and it is flying high on a five-game winning streak that includes an upset over NC State on the road.

Nebraska at Rutgers (-7.5) (2 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

No one comes into the Trapezoid of Terror and beats the Scarlet Knights!

Rutgers already beat Purdue and Michigan in Piscataway and it should have an easy afternoon against Nebraska, who is one of the worst teams in the power conferences.

Nebraska looked poor in its last three road contests against Michigan State, Auburn and Indiana and it may have trouble scoring against one of the better home teams in the nation.

Syracuse at Wake Forest (-4.5) (2 p.m. ET, ACC Network)

Wake Forest has quietly gotten up 12-3 under Steve Forbes.

The Demon Deacons blew out Florida State at home on Tuesday and they get another struggling ACC power to come to Winston-Salem on Saturday.

Syracuse lost back-to-back games to Miami and Virginia and it could have trouble dealing with Wake Forest's scorers.

The Demon Deacons have the fourth-best two-point offense, per KenPom. They also give up eight fewer points per game than the Orange.

I'll gladly take the home team in a conference matchup in which the road team is trending in the wrong direction.

Oral Roberts (-1.5) at Western Illinois (3 p.m. ET)

Oral Roberts (Remember Max Abmas and Co?) is starting to find its form on the hardwood.

The Golden Eagles have won five of their last six games outright and they have covered the spread in their last six trips to the court.

Western Illinois is trending downward after an impressive start. The Leathernecks are on a three-game losing streak and they have not covered the spread in their last five games.

Ball State at Eastern Michigan (Over 148.5) (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

There's something comforting about betting a MAC over on a Saturday.

Ball State and Eastern Michigan both rank in the Top 80 in adjusted tempo on KenPom and the over is 4-2 in the last six Eastern Michigan games.

Ball State hit the over against Bowling Green on New Year's Day. That is significant because Bowling Green also ranks high in adjusted tempo.

The Cardinals and Eagles both give up 77 points per game, so the tempo and poor defense should help the game go over.

Louisiana Tech (-12.5) at UTSA (4 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Louisiana Tech and UTSA sit on opposite ends of the Conference USA standings.

UTSA is on a four-game losing streak and three of those defeats were by double figures.

LA Tech averages close to 10 more points per game than UTSA and it ranks 27th in two-point percentage on KenPom. UTSA is 354th in that category.

That's all you need to know about lopsided this matchup could be.

Mercer at Furman (Over 139.5) (4 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Mercer and Furman's overall stats lead you to believe the total should be a bit higher for their Southern Conference clash.

Both programs average over 72 points per game and they each concede above 70 points per contest.

The Over is 7-1 in the last eight Mercer games. That is the betting trend to look at here instead of Furman's recent 5-1 mark to the under since a majority of those totals have been above 140.

Dixie State at Utah Valley (-11.5) (4 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Dixie State lost its last three games by double figures and it faces a tough matchup against Utah Valley's defense.

Utah Valley ranks in the Top 75 in five different defensive metrics on KenPom and it is clearly the better side in this matchup.

Utah Valley just beat Tarleton State by 22. That is significant because Dixie State lost to Tarleton by 14 points just a few days prior.

Miami (Ohio) at Bowling Green (Over 155.5) (5 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Bowling Green is an over machine at the moment.

The Falcons are 8-2 to the over in their last 10 games. That run is aided by their fast pace. Bowling Green ranks 18th in adjusted tempo on KenPom.

Miami (Ohio) just scored 91 points against Buffalo, who also plays at a high tempo. All of those factors should help the total go over.

Baylor at TCU (+9.5) (5 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

TCU is going to give Baylor its best shot in Fort Worth.

The Horned Frogs are 10-1 and they have covered in each of their last six games.

Baylor is undefeated, but it has not covered in its last three victories. The Bears did not cover in their victories over Iowa State and Oklahoma.

TCU can hang within single digits for most of the contest and the home court advantage should help it compete.

Iowa State (+6.5) at Oklahoma (6 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Iowa State is too good to be a 6.5-point underdog.

The Cyclones are one of the best teams in the Big 12 and they played Baylor better than Oklahoma. That is part of the breakdown I'm using to feel out this matchup.

Iowa State lost by Baylor by five points and rebounded from that with a gritty win over Texas Tech. Oklahoma lost by 10 to Baylor and it has a worse defense than the Cyclones.

Iowa State gives up five fewer points per game and its defense should keep it in the contest in Norman.

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