The college basketball season has just begun and there are already some pretty exciting matchups. We were honored with a 1 vs. 2 on the women’s side Monday, and now we get it from the men. This is the first time we’ll have the top two teams on both sides to face off in the same week this early in the season. Also, we’ll preview another matchup between ranked opponents, and an in-state game featuring a struggling powerhouse.
North Carolina Asheville at North Carolina: North Carolina Asheville +21.5
(11/23, 7:30 PM ET tip)
It’s been a tough start of the year for the Tar Heels in their first season without Roy Williams. They fell out of the AP Top-25 after losing both games in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament over the weekend. The Tar Heels have struggled on defense and gave up 182 points combined to Purdue and Tennessee. They allowed 50% from the field and 40% from behind the arc in those games.
The Tar Heels shouldn’t be on upset alert against the Bulldogs, but this may not be a blowout. North Carolina Asheville has one of the nation’s best shooters in Tajion Jones. The redshirt senior made 3.4 threes a game last season, which was the sixth-best in the country. He currently leads all active players in the Big South conference in three-pointers with 187.
UNC has failed to cover the spread in all five this season. UNCA is coming off a straight-up underdog win over Tennessee Tech. If North Carolina continues to struggle on defense, this should be a close game.
No. 2 UCLA at No. 1 Gonzaga: UCLA +5.5
(11/23, 9 PM ET tip)
This game is the marquee matchup of the early College Basketball season. Gonzaga and UCLA will add an interesting twist to the 42-game history of No. 1 versus No. 2 in the AP college basketball poll that dates back to 1949. It will be the first time both teams are from the west coast.
We all remember the last time these two teams met. It was an instant classic between the Zags and Bruins as Jalen Suggs hit a 40-footer at the buzzer in Gonzaga’s 93-90 overtime win at the Final Four last April.
Gonzaga has held the No. 1 spot all season, looking hungrier than ever to get back to the NCAA championship game. UCLA has to be chomping at the bit to play this game. Everyone who started in this game last year is back except for forward Cody Riley, who is out due to a knee injury. Replacing him in the frontcourt is Rutgers transfer Myles Johnson, who has been a defensive standout at center.
The Bulldogs still have the All-American big man Drew Timme, who was a star in March and is already a favorite for National Player of the Year. He’s coming off a career-high 37 points on 15-for-19 in the 86-74 win over No. 5 Texas.
Both teams have played one big game, followed by several games against much inferior opponents. We’ve already seen them pass tests against top-4 opponents at home, but this one is at a neutral site under the bright lights of Las Vegas. With quite a few of the same players, we could very see another exciting game. With UCLA having more chemistry and things figured out and Gonzaga playing less than 24 hours previously, I think they’ll make fewer mistakes in a close one.
No. 22 UConn at No. 19 Auburn: UConn ML
(11/24, 2:30 PM ET tip)
UConn will get their first big test of the season as they face Auburn. Sophomore forward Adama Sanogo, who surprisingly was not on the first-or-second-team preseason in the Big East, has emerged in his second season as he leads the Huskies in points. Senior Tyrese Martin is another player that has vastly improved as his current 61.8 field goal percentage is way better than his career 43.8%.
Forward Jabari Smith has been phenomenal here the first week of the season, posting back-to-back games with ten rebounds. Auburn played a close one on Saturday against South Florida. They had a six-point deficit going into halftime but were able to step up in the second half and come away with the 58-52 win. The big key in the Tigers’ comeback was the second-chance opportunities. They struggled from the floor, shooting only 34.1%, but were tough on the boards and could get to offensive rebounds. Still, with bad shooting and having more turnovers (14) than assists (12), they were fortunate to come out with a win.
UConn has the better playmakers in this game and is stronger on the boards. Guard R.J. Cole will be a problem on the backcourt, while Sanogo will be tough to stop in the paint. Auburn cannot continue the shoot the way they have, or this game could get away from them early.
Whether you’re new to sports betting or a betting pro, our How To Bet and Sports Betting Strategy and Advice pages are for you. You can get started with our Sports Betting 101 Section — including 10 Sports Betting Tips for Beginners — or head to more advanced sports betting strategy — like Key Numbers When Betting Against the Spread — to learn more.