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Best College Basketball Bets Today | NCAAB Picks December 1

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published December 1, 2023
11 min read
Best College Basketball Bets Today December 1 2023

How much more blessed can we get early on in the 2023-24 college basketball season? The No. 4 UConn Huskies travel to Allen Fieldhouse to battle with the No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks, while the No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers face their first Big Ten challenge on the road versus Northwestern. Take a look at the breakdown for our best college basketball picks today on an amazing Friday slate!

No. 4 UConn @ No. 5 Kansas

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PICK: UConn +2.5 (-110)

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This will be the first true test of the 2023-24 college basketball season for the Connecticut Huskies; they have beaten every opponent by double-digits dating back to the beginning of the 2023 NCAA Tournament last March. 

UConn has played No. 16 Texas, Indiana, New Hampshire, Manhattan, Mississippi Valley State, Stonehill, and Northern Arizona this season. Realistically, only two of those teams have the potential to make the NCAA Tournament.

Still, Connecticut has not “played with its food,” putting that championship experience, discipline, and talent on display. The Huskies currently rank third in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin, including sixth in adjusted offensive efficiency and tenth in adjusted defensive efficiency. 

The combination of Alex Karaban, Donovan Clingan, Tristen Newton, and Cam Spencer has been extraordinarily tough to handle. Clingan handles the paint on both ends of the floor, allowing the Huskies to be an elite rebounding (third in total rebounding rate) and stout interior defensive team (eighth in block percentage).

Newton is a triple-double threat every night, filling up the box score with a bit of everything (15.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 6.9 APG), while Spencer (16.3 PPG on a 51/48/100 shooting split) is the lights-out shooter that UConn desperately needed after Jordan Hawkins declared for the 2023 NBA Draft. Karaban provides phenomenal secondary scoring to a potent offense, too; he utilizes his size and physicality to challenge other power forwards.

The all-important question for this game, in particular, will be the availability of five-star freshman guard and likely Top 10 pick in next year’s draft, Stephon Castle. Castle underwent a minor knee surgery a few weeks ago, but he has targeted tonight’s game as his first game back. 

While Castle has only played in two collegiate games, his importance to this UConn team is evident; he has averaged close to 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals on 67% shooting from the field. Even crazier has been the fact that Castle has only averaged 21.5 minutes in those two games.

Meanwhile, Kansas has looked elite on the defensive end of the floor, ranking fourth in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Jayhawks have held opponents to less than 30% shooting from behind the arc and they also allow an effective field goal percentage of just 43.6%. 

The Jayhawks’ combination of pesky perimeter defense, with Kevin McCullar and Dajuan Harris Jr. locking opponents’ best guards down, and physical interior defense, anchored by 7-foot-1 big man Hunter Dickinson, is a recipe for success all season long. Last season, Kansas lacked a true rim protector and interior force, but it has that now with Dickinson.

Ultimately, Kansas is a phenomenal basketball squad that has already racked up wins against Kentucky and Tennessee, but this is not an ideal matchup for it, assuming Castle can give it a go. With Castle, UConn is in a great position to cover as a road dog and is likely the best team in the nation. Our best bet for this thrilling top-five battle depends entirely on his availability. If he plays, we play. UConn +2.

No. 1 Purdue @ Northwestern

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PICK: Purdue -7 (-110)

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Purdue has done the exact same thing early on in this season as it did last season: win everything. The Boilermakers won 22 of their first 23 games last season on their way to a No. 1 ranking in the nation; they got to that mark a whole lot quicker this time around.

A large portion of that can be attributed to the fact that they were able to bring back nearly every key contributor from their 2022-23 squad, including reigning Wooden Award winner Zach Edey, a 7-foot-4 center, Braden Smith, Fletcher Loyer, Mason Gillis, Trey Kaufman-Renn, Caleb Furst, and Ethan Morton. The only player they didn’t bring back was Brandon Newman, who transferred out.

However, Newman’s production (six points and three rebounds per game) and minutes were quickly replaced by the addition of four-star freshman Myles Colvin (six points per game) and grad transfer Lance Jones (10 points, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals per game.) Jones is averaging the third-most points on the team, and everyone on the team seems to have improved; that is a recipe for success.

Meanwhile, Northwestern is fresh off a strong third-place finish in the Big Ten last season; the Wildcats secured a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament and nearly knocked off second-seeded UCLA to get to the Sweet 16. They fell just a little bit short. 

Northwestern returned leading scorer Boo Buie, one of the greatest players in program history, Brooks Barnhizer, a player who caught fire towards the end of last season and has carried that into this year, Matthew Nicholson, a bruising center whose physical play in the interior led the charge on the defensive end of the floor, and Ty Berry, one of the Big Ten’s most experienced and steady guards, turning the ball over less than once per game throughout his career.

While the Wildcats suffered a big loss with Chase Audige departing, they left no stone unturned in the transfer portal, bringing in talented guard Ryan Langborg, who has already filled much of Audige’s production. Blake Preston could also be a player who can provide some quality minutes for this Northwestern frontcourt.

The hope for this team is that they can replicate the success they had on the defensive end of the floor last season; they forced 14 turnovers per game and held opponents to just 41.4% shooting from the field. How have they fared so far this season?

Thus far, KenPom ranks Northwestern 82nd in adjusted defensive efficiency; it has allowed opponents to post a shooting split of roughly 45/39/69. Ouch. 

Still, the Wildcats force many turnovers and wreak havoc by trapping a ton and playing physically on the defensive end of the floor. The most eye-popping statistic for Northwestern, though, is its adjusted tempo, which ranks 357th in the nation; it is the sixth-slowest team in the nation.

What does all of this mean for this game?

Big Ten play is always extremely physical and calculated; it is a real basketball gauntlet. Any team can win on any night, and that speaks volumes about the competitiveness and talent of this league. Still, it is challenging to back this Northwestern team right now. 

The Wildcats have been subpar defensively, allowing teams to shoot lights out against them. Further, the chaos they create with their double teams and hard traps will not affect this Purdue team much. If anything, it plays into the Boilermakers’ style of play thus far this season, which is much faster-paced. Purdue gets a slight lean from us here.

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AUTHOR

Andrew Norton

117 Articles

Andrew has always been an avid sports fan and followed his hoop dreams all the way to college. He’s well-versed in everything betting with multiple years of experience and is qualitatively and quantitatively knowledgeable in sports statistics and analytics.

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