Top Underdogs For 12/23 NCAA Basketball Picks

Willie Bee

Tuesday, December 23, 2014 1:16 PM GMT

College hoops takes a three day Christmas vacation following Tuesday's NCAA basketball odds card, and our handicapper is searching for the best available underdogs heading into the break.

Cornell Big Red vs. Siena Saints
Here's a matchup of little guys that's intriguing in part of a strange scheduling quirk that finds both the Cornell Big Red and Siena Saints coming off losses to Radford. The Ivy League-MAAC clash tips a little past 7 PM (ET) at Albany's Times Union Center, and it's the Saints who are drawing a 6 point chalk line.

As with all the games on Tuesday's card, SBR's live NCAA Basketball odds will have a total once sports books get around to releasing them later this morning.

We occasionally see teams facing each other after meeting the same foe once the conference schedules roll around, but it very rarely happens on the non-con slate.  Siena made the trip to Radford last Friday evening, coming back home with a 76-66 defeat in a game that failed to make SBR's live odds board. That was also the case Sunday when Cornell fell on the Highlanders' floor, 74-61.

It was the third loss in a row for the Saints, leaving them 3-6 after a solid showing a season ago. That was Jimmy Patsos' first year on the job at Siena, culminating in 20 wins and the CBI postseason title, and expectations were high heading into the 2014-15 campaign. The Saints brought back the bulk of that team, but things haven't clicked so far and they'll likely be without guard Lavon Long tonight due to an ankle injury.

Cornell comes into the match relatively injury-free, something head coach Bill Courtney hasn't been blessed with in his last two seasons on the job for the Big Red. Their loss at Radford followed a 15-day break for academics, halting a 3-game win streak that began with a victory over one of Siena's MAAC rivals, Canisius.

This line opened with Siena laying 7½ before it started to move towards the underdog Big Red, and I like them a +6 just as much.

Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Cornell +6.5 at Pinnacle

 

Arizona Wildcats vs. UNLV Rebels
Despite having six ranked teams on the schedule, it's still a pretty weak card to send college basketball bettors into the 3-day break over the Christmas holidays. One of the better games on the slate is among the late-night matchups when the Arizona Wildcats head to Sin City to take on the UNLV Rebels.

The CBS Sports Network will have its cameras set up at Thomas & Mack Center for the 10:05 PM (ET) tip, and Arizona is currently priced at -13 after the number went out a half-point lower.

This is the final tune-up on the non-conference schedule for Sean Miller and the No. 3 Wildcats who have 11 days off before hosting Pac-12 rival Arizona State on January 3. It's also the second consecutive road game for Arizona after playing its first 11 games at home or at neutral sites.

The UTEP Miners gave the 'Cats a tough go of things this past Friday before Miller's crew pulled out a 60-55 win in El Paso. Both teams left a lot of points at the free-throw line, and that has been one of the few weaknesses for Arizona this season (65.4%, 263rd in nation).

Dave Rice wishes his Rebels were shooting 65% of their free throws; UNLV sits about 80 rungs lower than Arizona in that column at 59.2%, and is coming off a 59-46 loss to No. 14 Utah this past Saturday when the Rebels sank just 10 of 23 tries from the charity stripe.

The Runnin' Rebels haven't shown us much so far against some of their more talented opponents, but I still like their chances to cover this evening. We might even see this number creep up another point before tip-off, so for my NCAA Basketball pick I'll take UNLV and 13.

Free NCAA Basketball Pick: UNLV +13 at BetOnline

Season: 3-8 (-5.80)