CBB Picks: Take Illinois, Auburn-Georgia over in early Saturday slate

The best Saturday of the college basketball season to date is upon us.

A tripleheader of fantastic contests await us in the late afternoon and evening windows.

The first editions of Baylor-Kansas and Duke-North Carolina headline the Saturday slate and we get a nice dessert in the form of Kentucky-Alabama.

Those three games just touch the surface on the list of games scheduled for Saturday.

Because there are so many games I’m adding the picks for the early slate first and then putting in the late afternoon picks so I can break it all down properly.

Illinois (-111) at Indiana (Noon ET, ESPN) 

This is the ultimate test of the Big Ten home teams theory we have at The Gambler. 

Indiana should win based off the theory that Big Ten home teams win and cover, but the Hoosiers could have some trouble dealing with Kofi Cockburn. 

Cockburn was an absolute monster against Wisconsin on Wednesday and he could turn in a similar showing against Trayce Jackson-Davis. 

The Fighting Illini have played well on the road in Big Ten play and the strengths of the two defenses could cancel out the advantage Indiana may have against other conference foes. 

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (-2.5) (Noon ET, ESPN2)

Oklahoma State carries the edge in home court and defense in the Bedlam matchup with Oklahoma.

The Cowboys rank in the Top 20 in three defensive metrics on KenPom and they have played a handful of close games during their four-game losing streak.

Oklahoma lost six of its last seven games and it did not look great in recent road trips to Texas and Auburn.

Vermont (-10.5) at UMass Lowell (1 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Vermont is once again proving to be the class of the America East.

The Catamounts have won all of their nine conference games by double figures and they have a manageable point spread on their side on Saturday.

Typically, Vermont is a high double-digit favorite, which is why its ATS record is not great, but in its current form, it can certainly cover a 10.5-point spread versus UMass Lowell.

The big difference here is Vermont ranks fifth in effective field-goal percentage on KenPom. UMass Lowell is 305th.

Auburn at Georgia (Over 152) (1 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

Georgia's defense has been atrocious over the last few weeks.

The Bulldogs allowed over 80 points in each of their last four losses, one of which was an 83-60 loss to Auburn on January 19.

Auburn and Georgia both rank inside the Top 85 in adjusted tempo on KenPom. Georgia's 336th-ranked two-point defense could be vital to the over hitting because of how often Auburn can score.

Texas Tech at West Virginia (+4.5) (2 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Hello let down spot, Texas Tech.

The Red Raiders just went through the emotional ringer with Chris Beard's return to Lubbock on Tuesday.

West Virginia played a solid game on the road at Baylor on Monday and it should be motivated to pull off a home win on some rest and at the back end of a ridiculously tough schedule in Big 12 play.

James Madison at Hofstra (-7.5) (2 p.m. ET)

Hofstra ranks 11th in two-point offense on KenPom and it is the fourth-best free-throw shooting team on those metrics.

James Madison ranks 348th in two-point defense on KenPom and it let up over 85 points in each of its last two losses to Delaware and Drexel .

The Dukes did not look great on the road at Northeastern and they face a tough matchup against the Pride.

Tulsa at Temple (-4) (2 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Tulsa has been horrible on the road in the American.

The Golden Hurricane lost by double digits at Wichita State, Tulane and Cincinnati.

That bodes well for the small spread in favor of the Temple Owls.

Temple covered the spread in each of its last four games and it is 7-1 ATS in its last eight games. The Owls have played better basketball over the last few weeks and they should take advantage of Tulsa's poor road form.

Eastern Michigan at Kent State (Over 137.5) (2 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

The Over is 4-0 in the last four Eastern Michigan games and 3-0 in the last three Kent State games.

Kent State scored 75 or more points in the last three games, which is six points above its average of 69.5 points per game.

Eastern Michigan gives up 75 points per game and that should lend itself to Kent State scoring at a good clip.

George Mason (-5.5) at La Salle (2 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

George Mason should back to its winning ways on Saturday.

The Patriots had a four-game winning streak before it fell in double overtime against Saint Louis on Wednesday.

GMU ranks in the Top 35 in effective field-goal, two-point and three-point percentage on KenPom, while La Salle is on a five-game losing streak and it allowed over 75 points in each of its last three defeats.

Michigan at Purdue (Over 145.5) (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox)

Purdue is 8-2 to the over in its last 10 games and it hit the 80-point mark in each of its last four games.

Michigan has the same record to the over in its last 10 games and its offense put up over 70 points in three of the last four.

Purdue is No. 1 in offensive adjusted efficiency on KenPom, but believe it or not, Michigan ranks 19th in that category.

Notre Dame (-104) at NC State (3 p.m. ET, ACC Network)

Notre Dame being an underdog might be the fishy line of the day.

The Fighting Irish are coming off a big road win over Miami and they are well in the mix for the ACC regular-season crown.

NC State has been awful this season and it just lost to the Irish by eight points in South Bend on January 26.

Michigan State (-1.5) at Rutgers (4 p.m. ET, FS1)

The mystique of Rutgers playing well at home is gone.

Michigan State is the much better team than the Scarlet Knights right now and it needs a Saturday win to keep pace with the other Big Ten regular-season title contenders.

The Spartans shoot over four percent from the field and they have the edge in rebounds, assists and steals per game over Rutgers.

Baylor at Kansas (Over 144.5) (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Baylor and Kansas both rank in the top five in offensive adjusted efficiency.

They are also Top 40 teams in two-point offense and they play at a decent pace.

Baylor and Kansas should trade baskets in what many expect will be a tight affair inside Allen Fieldhouse. Both teams also average over 78 points per game, so that should the aid the over in the Big 12 clash of the titans.

Austin Peay at Morehead State (-11.5) (4 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Morehead State beat Austin Peay by 11 points on the road on January 8.

Austin Peay just lost by 12 points to Murray State, who is also at the top of the Ohio Valley Conference standings.

Morehead State needs a strong game on Saturday to avoid some stress ahead of a big week in which it faces Belmont and Murray State.

Miami (+4) at Virginia (5 p.m. ET, ACC Network)

I'm not giving up on Miami.

The Hurricanes lost a tough one at home to Notre Dame, but they can bounce back with a nice performance against Virginia, who is far from what it was in previous seasons.

Virginia could still win the game, but it definitely will not be in dominant fashion.

Northern Illinois at Bowling Green (Over 149.5) (5 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Bowling Green is 9-1 to the over in its last 10 games.

The Falcons give up 78.4 points per game and Northern Illinois allows over 70 points per contest.

Bowling Green won the first meeting, 93-82, and I think we see a similar total on Saturday.

Duke at North Carolina (+3) (Over 151) (6 p.m. ET, ESPN)

North Carolina is undefeated inside the Smith Center.

The Tar Heels are better positioned to beat Duke inside their home arena, and if they do so, they will score a ton of points.

North Carolina scored 74 or more points in four of its last five games in Chapel Hill. Duke should match UNC's production for most of the contest, but I think the Tar Heels can keep it close for a majority of the contest.

Both teams rank in the Top 25 in adjusted efficiency, UNC is 15th in three-point percentage and Duke is 30th in two-point percentage.

Those offense should help the total soar over 151 points. That is the safer play for me, but I do think UNC can be competitive for 40 minutes.

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