College Basketball Odds & Picks: Our 3 Favorite Bets For Opening Night (Wednesday, Nov. 25)

College Basketball Odds & Picks: Our 3 Favorite Bets For Opening Night (Wednesday, Nov. 25) article feature image

Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Cody Riley (left) and Chris Smith (right).

College basketball is back.

The action tips off on Wednesday, and it’s clear that this season will be unlike any season in the past. But despite the scheduling mayhem that’s led us to this day, there’s still nothing better than the late-fall crossover between college football and college hoops.

To celebrate, our college basketball staff has broken down three evening games from Wednesday’s season-opening slate. Check out all of the analysis and betting picks for their favorite games below.

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How to Bet Wednesday’s College Basketball Slate

Here’s a rundown of our favorite betting spots on Wednesday’s slate of games:

Tip Time
6 p.m. ET
Liberty vs. Purdue
9 p.m. ET
#3 Villanova vs. Boston College
10:30 p.m. ET
#22 UCLA vs. San Diego State

All listed odds have been updated as of Wednesday afternoon and via DraftKings. Specific bet recommendations at the end of each matchup breakdown come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing.

Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.

Tip Time
6 p.m. ET
Liberty vs. Purdue
9 p.m. ET
#3 Villanova vs. Boston College
10:30 p.m. ET
#22 UCLA vs. San Diego State

Liberty vs. Purdue

By BJ Cunningham

Liberty Odds +9.5 [BET NOW]
Purdue Odds -9.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline +400 / -530 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 124 [BET NOW]
Time 6 p.m. ET
TV CBS Sports Network
(Photo Credit: Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images).

Liberty and Purdue meet in Melbourne, Florida, on Wednesday night in the Space Coast Challenge.

Liberty is coming off the best season in program history, going 30-4 before postseason play was canceled due to COVID-19. It’s won two straight Atlantic Sun titles and is poised to make it three this season. This will be the Flames’ third game against a Power Five school in the last two years. Last season, they upset Vanderbilt on the road but lost at LSU to end their 14-0 start.

Purdue had an up and down 2019-20 season, finishing 16-15 and 9-11 in the Big Ten, which is a step down from where the Boilermakers have been the past few seasons. However, Purdue did play the sixth-toughest schedule and was the 24th-rated team, according to KenPom. The Boilermakers bring back three starters and five players from last season’s nine-man rotation, so they are poised to be a threat in the Big Ten yet again.

Liberty Flames

If the Flames are going to repeat as Atlantic Sun champions, they’ll have to replace their entire frontcourt. The good news is that guards Elijah Cuffee and Darius McGhee are back to lead the Liberty’s backcourt.

Scoring is going to be the Flames’ Achilles heel for this season. They are ranked in the bottom half on KenPom in offensive efficiency. In 2019, Liberty was in the top 20 in effective field-goal percentage (eFG%) and 2-point FG%. However, those numbers are likely to drastically decrease due to their frontcourt losses.

According to KenPom, Liberty ranks 166th entering the season.  It does not have the talent to replace four seniors (Caleb Homesley, Scottie James, Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz, Myo Baxter-Bell), so it may be tough sledding for the Flames to start the season.

Liberty was the second-slowest team in the country when it comes to pace in 2019. With both guards coming back, it’s projected to be extremely slow again. The Boilermakers are also below average in pace, so Liberty should be able to play at a comfortable pace on Wednesday.

Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue is poised for a bounce-back season in 2020. The Boilermakers return three starters and added two four-star recruits to their roster. Purdue is rated 17th on KenPom in terms of offensive efficiency.

Power forward Trevion Williams is set to lead the Boilermakers with the departure of center Matt Haarms. Williams will be a problem for Liberty on Wednesday, as the Flames do not have any clear candidates to guard him.

Guards Eric Hunter and Sasha Stefanovic will lead the Purdue backcourt and are dead-eye 3-point shooters. Both shot over 35% from beyond the arc last season. However, Hunter injured his knee and will be out until the middle of January, so Purdue is going to be a little shorthanded going into the season.  Stefanovic will still present a challenge for Liberty, which will most likely have to double Williams in the post and will thus give Purdue opportunities on the perimeter.

Betting Analysis & Pick

Purdue is dealing with a couple of injury issues going into the game with Hunter out and four-star freshman Ethan Morton questionable.

Despite that, I think Purdue will be able to dominate this game with Williams and its frontcourt. The Boilermakers opened at -11 but were quickly bet down to -9.5 with Hunter out.

I have Purdue projected as -11.26 favorites, so I think there’s value on the Boilermakers at -9.5. However, I wouldn’t play it any higher than that number.

Pick: Purdue -9.5.

[Bet Purdue now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 bonus, including a $500 risk-free bet]

Tip Time
6 p.m. ET
Liberty vs. Purdue
9 p.m. ET
#3 Villanova vs. Boston College
10:30 p.m. ET
#22 UCLA vs. San Diego State

#3 Villanova vs. Boston College

By Mike Randle

Villanova Odds -14 [BET NOW]
Boston College Odds +14 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -1250 / +750 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 143.5 [BET NOW]
Time 9 p.m. ET
(Photo Credit: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images).

Villanova opens the season as the third-ranked team in both the AP Top 25 and coaches polls, with its eye on a third Final Four appearance since the 2016 campaign.

The Wildcats face a Boston College team predicted to finish in 14th place in the preseason ACC poll.

Will this be the comfortable Villanova win the oddsmakers are predicting? Let’s take a look to see what’s on deck.

Villanova Wildcats

Villanova returns four starters from a team that has won seven of the last eight Big East regular-season titles, as well as the last three conference tournaments. Head coach Jay Wright has achieved any coach’s ultimate goal, which is positioning his team as a national title-contender every season.

The Wildcats return most of their players from a 24-7 season in 2019-20, led by seniors Collin Gillespie (15.1 ppg/4.5 assists per game) and Jermaine Samuels (10.7 ppg/5.5 rebounds per game). Sophomore Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (10.5 ppg, 9.4 rpg) is also back for Villanova.

When it comes to statistics, the Wildcats always rank among the elite. Last season, they finished 15th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 36th in defense per KenPom.

However, Villanova ranked near the bottom nationally and in the Big East when it came to forcing turnovers. The Wildcats were only 292th in defensive turnover percentage.

Injuries have played a role in Villanova’s preseason, with the club opening the 2020-21 campaign without guard Bryan Antoine and forward Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree. Collin Gillespie (hamstring) and sophomore Justin Moore (knee) also missed significant time in the preseason due to injuries.

Cosby-Roundtree (1.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg) was expected to provide quality front-court minutes off the bench with his defense and rebounding. The Wildcats also expect big things from Antoine, who is still battling a shoulder injury that limited him throughout his freshman year.

The key player for Villanova will be Robinson-Earl, who is a former five-star recruit. Last season, he nearly averaged a double-double for the Wildcats, en route to picking up Big East Freshman of the Year honors. Robinson-Earl will need to be the focus of the Eagles’ defensive game plan if they’re going to have any success in this game.

The Wildcats rely heavily on the 3-pointer to generate offense, producing 47.3% of their points last year from beyond the arc. Villanova ranked first in Big East play with 48% of its offense coming from long range. Look for Justin Moore (39.6%), Gillespie (35.7%) and Cole Swider (35.2%) to take multiple shots from deep.

If Villanova can get hot from downtown, this game against Boston College could quickly become a blowout. However, if the Wildcats come out slow, it will be hard to generate consistent scoring from their four-out, one-in set.

Boston College Eagles

Boston College’s 2019-20 season was wildly inconsistent. Dealing with injuries at almost every position, the Eagles actually have reason for optimism this season. The most important positive thing they can rally around is the return of Wynston Tabbs.

The Boston College guard missed all of last season after surgery on his left knee. Tabbs was enjoying a fantastic freshman season before missing the final 16 games after sustaining the injury.

Prior to getting hurt, Tabbs was averaging 13.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. As a freshman, he was constantly in the high 30s in minutes played and made 85.2% of his free throws.

Tabbs will be joined in the starting backcourt by sophomore Jay Heath (13.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 38% 3P), in what should be one of the ACC’s most underrated guard tandems.

During Heath’s freshman season, he ripped off a string of 15 consecutive double-digit scoring performances, with a list of big efforts against top ACC competition. He had 18 points (2-for-4 on 3-pointers) and 17 points (3-for-5 from behind the arc) in two separate games against Virginia. Heath also went 4-for-4 from 3-point range in a 74-72 loss at Pittsburgh.

Senior Stefon Mitchell (7.8 ppg/8.7 rpg/2.3 spg/1.1 bpg) was named to the All-ACC Defensive Team, receiving eight votes for ACC Defensive Player of the Year. The versatile power forward notched seven double-doubles, including one for rebounds and assists.

The Eagles excelled at forcing turnovers under head coach Jim Christan’s man-to-man defensive principles. Boston College forced an average of 14.5 turnovers per game, which ranked 65th in the country. The Eagles played up to their competition with wins over Virginia and North Carolina, as well as a sweep of Virginia Tech.

Betting Analysis & Pick

The general betting consensus will be on a Villanova blowout. The Wildcats have the ability to get scorching hot from 3-point land, plus they can put up over 80 points on any given night.

However, this is a Boston College team that will be underrated nationally, especially with Tabbs missing all of last season.

Against the spread in 2019-2020, Villanova was just 10-14-1 as a favorite and 1-2-1 in neutral court games. The Wildcats hold a substantial talent discrepancy, but as we observed last season, early-season contests can favor lower-scoring matchups.

Playing at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., following a preseason interrupted by COVID-19 issues has me believing this will be a close game. Villanova will eventually pull away, but playing without Cosby-Roundtree and Antoine will keep the backdoor cover in play.

That said, I’m taking Boston College and the points on a line I expect to climb even higher before game time. I would also look to make a live wager if Tabbs and company can get the Eagles off to a strong start.

Villanova is going to win, but it will not be the blowout most expect. You should also keep an eye on Villanova as a live play in the first half if the score is close.

Pick: Boston College +15  (-110). Play down to +14.5.

[Bet Boston College now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 bonus, including a $500 risk-free bet]

Tip Time
6 p.m. ET
Liberty vs. Purdue
9 p.m. ET
#3 Villanova vs. Boston College
10:30 p.m. ET
#22 UCLA vs. San Diego State

#22 UCLA vs. San Diego State

By Mike Calabrese

UCLA Odds -3 [BET NOW]
San Diego State Odds +3 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -157 / +132 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 131.5 [BET NOW]
Time 10:30 p.m. ET
TV CBS Sports Network
(Photo Credit: Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

The tip-off of the UCLA-SDSU game will likely be pushed up to comply with the state of California’s 10 p.m. curfew, according to ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura. Any health and safety news that preserves a game being played is welcomed here in 2020.

This matchup is emblematic of the shift in the college basketball landscape on the West Coast. The Aztecs have won 41 more games than the Bruins in the past decade, punching their ticket to the Big Dance six times, while collecting six NCAA Tournament wins. The Bruins, meanwhile, cycled through four coaches and only captured a single regular-season Pac-12 title in that time span.

Yet despite these differences, the public can’t stop backing the California Blue Blood of yesteryear. Splashy recruits like Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Kevon Looney, and Lonzo Ball have forced bettors to pay a premium at the window in recent years. As a result, UCLA is 59-80-1 (42.4%) against the spread in non-conference play since 2010, while the Aztecs are a sterling 68-49-2 (58.1%).

The Bruins’ ATS woes extended to last season, with UCLA posting a losing record against the spread during its non-conference slate. But that hasn’t stopped oddsmakers from installing the Bruins as a three-point road favorite against SDSU.

Can the retooled Aztecs take advantage of a rare home game against a Power Conference opponent, or will UCLA experience a meaningful improvement in Year 2 of the Mick Cronin regime?

UCLA Bruins

The Bruins were a USC buzzer-beater away from closing their 2020 campaign on an eight-game winning streak. And with the exception of an 86-83 overtime shootout against Washington State, UCLA had essentially morphed into “Cincinnati West” down the stretch under Cronin. UCLA scored 70 points or fewer in five of the Bruins’ seven wins during that hot streak and relied upon one of the nation’s most surprising defensive turnarounds to do so.

The Bruins really cleaned things up on the glass, using their strong finish to vault into the top 35 in a few key rebounding metrics. Senior wing Chris Smith and junior forward Jalen Hill led the way in the rebounding department during the last month of the season.

The Bruins return all five starters, a factor that has raised expectations in Westwood considerably. The continuity gains should be apparent in their opener, but it’s fair to wonder just how much UCLA can improve on the offensive end with essentially the same cast of characters.

Here’s a look at UCLA’s lowlights on the offensive end from last season:

  • Points Per Game — 69.3 (206th)
  • Effective FG% — 48.4% (230th)
  • 3-Point% — 32.2% (226th)
  • AST-TO Ratio — 0.990 (164th)

San Diego State Aztecs

The Aztecs opened last season unranked and rose as high as fourth in the AP Poll. Of their 2019-20 roster, they return their starting center, power forward and small forward. But the most interesting element of their starting lineup this year is graduate transfer Terrell Gomez.

The 5-foot-8 point guard is a lethal 3-point shooter (43.6%) and was a two-time, first-team All-Big West performer at Cal State Northridge. His offensive instincts should help the Aztecs space the floor properly in Brian Dutcher’s offensive system.

Defensively, the center I mentioned above is arguably a new addition to the lineup. Nathan Mensah played in SDSU’s first 13 games before complications related to blood clotting derailed his season.

With the Ghanaian rim-protector defending the lane, the Aztecs allowed just 56.3 points per game. Without him, SDSU surrendered 61.6. He will be critical in this one from the jump.

Betting Analysis & Pick

It took a while for UCLA to properly execute Cronin’s vision, but once it turned the corner, it became a reliable team to tail ATS. This was also true in terms of its totals, as it slowed the pace and tightened the screw on defense.

Add a healthy and potentially dominant post defender into the mix for SDSU, and I’m fairly confident that this game will be played in the low 60s. I’ll be playing the under down to 133.

Pick: Under 134.5 (down to 133).

[Bet the UCLA-SDSU under now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 bonus, including a $500 risk-free bet]

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