We are in the midst of one of the most exciting times in the non-conference schedule, as many early-season tournaments begin this week. The biggest headliner is the Maui Invitational, along with many intriguing games in the Fort Myers Tip-Off and Empire Classic. Here are our college basketball picks.
Today’s post analyzes one of the high-profile games in the Maui Invitational, as well as games involving two other top-25 teams that may be vulnerable from an against-the-spread perspective.
Here are my top picks for Monday’s college basketball schedule. (Odds via DraftKings; pick confidence based on a 1-to-5-star scale)
Top College Basketball Picks
Houston -8.5 (-110) vs. Butler ★★★★
Seton Hall -1 (-110) vs. Ohio State ★★★
Illinois -11 (-110) vs. Cincinnati ★★★★
SEE ALSO: All College Basketball Picks
College Basketball Picks and Predictions
Houston -8.5 (-110) ★★★★
The Houston Cougars look like they are in midseason form on the defensive end, holding their last two opponents to 46.5 points per game. Now they face a Butler team that has topped 70 points just once in its first four games and is coming off a disappointing 21-point loss to Michigan State. As down as we are on the Bulldogs at this point, it sets up for an easy Cougars victory.
Houston’s stifling defense ranks sixth in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom, and is holding opponents to less than 26 percent shooting from 3-point range. Conversely, Houston ranks 14th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, led by the backcourt of Marcus Sasser and Kyler Edwards. The two combine for close to 39 points per game and each is shooting better than 45 percent from deep.
While Butler has three players averaging double figures, the Bulldogs lack the leader that can carry the team offensively through the droughts they are bound to incur against Houston’s smothering defense.
Houston is 17-8 ATS in its last 25 neutral-site games. As long as they do not play this game cautiously as they know they have multiple games on back-to-back days, the Cougars should cover this number.
Seton Hall -1 (-110) ★★★
The Ohio State Buckeyes lost as small road favorites against Xavier last week and they are ripe for another “upset” to another Big East opponent. Head coach Kevin Willard has his Seton Hall Pirates playing outstanding half-court defense, which was on full display in Ann Arbor in their upset of Michigan. Now they have their sights set on toppling a second straight Big Ten opponent and one that is not nearly as talented as the one they just beat.
The Buckeyes are fortunate to enter this game with just one loss, as they survived mediocre games against Akron and Niagara to start the season. Outside of E.J. Liddell, who averages 21 points per game, the Buckeyes do not have another player on their roster that can consistently get them a bucket in the halfcourt. That is where Willard’s team thrives, being able to key in on a top scorer and daring others to beat them. They lead the country in effective field-goal percentage defense and defend the 3-point line at the second-best clip (13.3 percent) to this point.
Ohio State is 1-4 ATS in its last five games, while Seton Hall has covered four of its last five. It should not come as a shock to bettors that the Pirates are favored here.
Illinois -11 (-110) ★★★★
Welcome back, Kofi Cockburn. One of the best big men in the country returns after a three-game suspension to start the season, and the Illini desperately need his services after a disappointing loss to Marquette. The Illini blew a 12-point second-half lead to the Golden Eagles, as they relented to Shaka Smart’s “havoc” pressure and were worn down over 40 minutes. However, Cincinnati has been content to play a half-court game to this point, as evidenced by its 123rd adjusted tempo rating, which should play right into the hands of the Illini.
Illinois’ standout guard Andre Curbelo was a disappointing 4-for-18 from the floor against Marquette, as he seemingly felt he had to shoulder the offensive load while they were shorthanded. Look for Brad Underwood’s team to run through Cockburn early and often in his first game, exposing an undersized Bearcats frontline that does not have a player taller than 6-foot-9 that accounts for more than 34 percent of their minutes.
Illinois knows how to bounce back from losses, covering in five of its last six games following a straight-up loss. Underwood will have his team ready to play tonight.
College Basketball picks made 11/22/2021 at 6:53 a.m. ET