An exciting weekend of college basketball is upon us, and BetRivers.com has the latest December 19 CBB odds. Saturday features a potential National Championship preview when No. 1 Gonzaga takes on No. 3 Iowa. But there’s also the Crossroads Classic featuring Indiana vs. Butler and Purdue vs. Notre Dame. Did we mention No. 23 Louisville heading to the Kohl Center to take on No. 12 Wisconsin?
Rob Dauster, a longtime national college basketball writer, and co-founder of the Field of 68 Podcast Network, analyzed the December 19 CBB lines, and is here to break down the numbers that matter in the key matchups.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL ODDS: SATURDAY, DECEMBER 19 CBB LINES
#1 GONZAGA (3-0) vs. #3 IOWA (6-0), 12 p.m. ET
SPREAD: Gonzaga -4.5
OVER/UNDER: 170.5 points
The game of the season in college basketball is here.
The best team in the country. The best player in the country. The two best offenses in the country. Are you ready for the fireworks? I know I am.
Here’s the problem: I don’t think that this game is going to end up being all that close, because I think that Gonzaga will run fairly easily in a game that I fully expect to be a shootout that is played in the 90s. The tl;dr version is this: Both teams have lethal, transition-based attacks, but where Gonzaga is on solid defensively, Iowa is … not.
The simple truth is that I just do not see how Iowa is able to get stops in this game. Where they really struggle is defending on the perimeter. They just do not have the athletes or individual defenders to be able to keep opponents from putting the ball on the floor and getting to the bucket, a problem that is exacerbated by the fact that their star center, Luka Garza, is not a good rim protector or defender in ball-screens.
Why is this such a problem?
Because Gonzaga runs one of the most ball-screen heavy offenses in college basketball, and they do it with, essentially, three point guards on the floor. Jalen Suggs is the star — I have no clue how Fran McCaffery is going to go about trying to keep a player as explosive as him out of the lane — but Joel Ayayi and Andrew Nembhard are both 6-foot-5 guards that have thrived as point guards at different levels of basketball, Ayayi for the youth teams in the French national team setup and Nembhard at Florida. We saw them combine for 40 points and 11 assists against West Virginia when Suggs went down with the ankle injury last month. They’re awesome.
This is also why Iowa will have no chance to zone the Zags. There are too many good passers and good shooters.
That said, Iowa is going to score. Garza is a monster. We know this. And his presence will force Mark Few to make a decision — allow him to go one-on-one or send a double, allowing Iowa’s myriad snipers to move the ball and get an open three. Pick your poison. The difference is that Drew Timme and Oumar Ballo should be able to hold their own as well as anyone against Garza, and the Zags are good enough in scramble situations to be able to get contests on those open threes.
So, like I said, both of these teams are going to run and both are going to score a ton of points, but I think the Zags will be able to get enough points to win this thing by double-digits.
Which means that Gonzaga (-4.5) is one of my favorite bets of the day.
And I wanted to be on the over at 172.5, where it opened. Now that it’s at 170.5, I like it even more.
#22 NORTH CAROLINA (4-2) vs. KENTUCKY (1-4), 2 p.m. ET
SPREAD: UNC -3.5
OVER/UNDER: 141 points
I’m going to play the contrarian here.
How different would the narrative surrounding Kentucky be right now if Olivier Sarr had hit that jumper at the buzzer to finish off the comeback and beat Notre Dame, a shot that he had hit four times already in that game?
We’d be talking about how the Wildcats had turned a corner, about how they had figured something out when they erased a 22-point halftime deficit. Is it really all that different because one shot didn’t go in?
So I will take Kentucky’s ML at (+140) here. If you want a matchup reason to follow me, it’s this: when Kentucky’s defense is clicking, their length and athleticism in the backcourt forces all kinds of turnovers, and UNC is turning the rock over on more than 22 percent of their possessions. And the Tar Heels will play two bigs, which means that the spacing issues we saw with Notre Dame as Sarr and Isaiah Jackson shared a frontcourt won’t be there.
#23 LOUISVILLE (4-0) at #12 WISCONSIN (5-1), 12 p.m. ET
SPREAD: Wisconsin -6
OVER/UNDER: 132 points
This line has jumped up two points with rumors swirling that there are going to be key Louisville players missing in action on Saturday. The Cardinals have dealt with as many injuries as anyone this side of Miami throughout the early part of the season, and missing anyone important — particularly if it is Carlik Jones or David Johnson that is inactive — against a team that is as tough defensively as Wisconsin. I like the Badgers up to (-8).