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Best College Basketball Bets Today | NCAAB Picks December 5

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published December 5, 2023
11 min read
Best College Basketball Bets Today December 5

Today’s college basketball slate has two games from the Jimmy V Classic! This year’s edition of the famous event features the No. 9 North Carolina Tar Heels versus the No. 5 Connecticut Huskies and the No. 11 Florida Atlantic Owls against the No. 20 Illinois Fighting Illini. See our best college basketball picks for the Jimmy V Classic below!

No. 9 North Carolina @ No. 5 UConn

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PICK: UConn -5 (-110)

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North Carolina has seemingly put one of its most embarrassing seasons in the rearview mirror. The Tar Heels have a 7-1 record so far this year, with their only loss coming by two points to Villanova, who got a career game from senior forward Eric Dixon (34 points).

UNC returned Armando Bacot and R.J. Davis, two of its best players over the past few seasons, but lost microwave scoring guard Caleb Love in the transfer portal. As a result, the Tar Heels opted to get busy in the portal themselves, bringing in Cormac Ryan, Harrison Ingram, Paxson Wojcik, and Jae’Lyn Withers to replace the offense that they lost.

North Carolina’s offense is potent and this team plays fast-paced, often scoring between 80 and 100 points per game. However, the Tar Heels’ style of play can lend itself to lackadaisical defense at times, which could be a cause for concern against opponents with elite offenses, like the Huskies.

The Connecticut Huskies are in a terrific spot for a bounce-back game after suffering a heartbreaking road loss to Kansas; they will finally have five-star freshman Stephon Castle in the lineup once again. Castle’s absence absolutely changed the trajectory of the Huskies’ last game against Kansas. If he was available, they more than likely would have won.

However, they don’t have to think about “what-ifs” anymore, as Castle will rejoin Tristen Newton, Donovan Clingan, Alex Karaban, and Cam Spencer in what has to be the most loaded starting lineup in the nation.

Now, let’s dive into why this is such a terrific matchup for the Huskies.

First, the Huskies will be able to deploy 7-foot-2 center, and elite rim protector, Donovan Clingan, on All-American Armando Bacot. Bacot is a phenomenal collegiate player, but one of his weaknesses is his lack of athleticism and burst; he could struggle scoring over or around a player with NBA-caliber size and length like Clingan. Clingan won’t completely shut out a player of Bacot’s caliber, but he will limit him enough to cause disruption in the North Carolina offense.

Additionally, the Tar Heels’ middle-of-the-road defense has virtually no chance at containing Connecticut’s offense (fourth in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency.) The Huskies can get offensive outbursts from a number of players, such as Clingan, Newton, Spencer, Castle, or Karaban, causing UNC’s defense to lack specific direction; it has too many poor individual defenders to shut down everyone.

UNC is just not strong enough on the defensive end of the floor to hold the Huskies to a modest point total. Just look at the Tennessee game when it gave up 53 second-half points to the Volunteers, a slightly above-average offensive unit, at best. This matchup heavily favors the Huskies, as long as Clingan, Spencer, and Karaban are cleared to play.

No. 11 Florida Atlantic @ No. 20 Illinois 

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.

PICK: Florida Atlantic ML (-130)

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After a shaky start to the 2023-24 regular season, which could have been a direct result of a “Final Four hangover,” the Florida Atlantic Owls are back on track, having won five straight games since their embarrassing loss to Bryant at home.

Even with their brutal 52-point performance against the now-5-4 Bulldogs, a game in which they shot 5-for-30 from deep (16.7%) and 7-for-65 from the floor (26.2%), the Owls still boast the seventh-ranked offense per KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric. Had they taken care of Bryant, as they likely would 99 times out of 100, the Owls would have a top-five adjusted offense in the nation. Last season was no fluke.

As a matter of fact, the Owls have shot a blistering 54.5% from the field as a team and 42.1% from behind the arc since that Bryant game, going 5-0 in the process. This stretch includes wins over Butler (50th in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin), Texas A&M (20th on KenPom), Virginia Tech (66th on KenPom), Liberty (61st on KenPom), and College of Charleston (132nd on KenPom).

The Owls are led by seven-footer Vlad Goldin, who has taken massive steps forward on the offensive end of the floor, giving this team the ability to play from inside-out more than last season. Goldin has averaged 15.4 points and 7.1 rebounds so far this year. Florida Atlantic also returns a number of other uber-talented players, such as Johnell Davis, Alijah Martin, Bryan Greenlee, Brandon Weatherspoon, Giancarlo Rosado, Jalen Gaffney, and Nick Boyd. Surprisingly, none of these players left for a bigger school to get more national recognition.

Meanwhile, Illinois has a much different play style than Florida Atlantic; it wants to utilize exceptional defensive versatility, switchability, and effort to keep itself in games, instead of relying on heavy offensive output. The Fighting Illini have the eighth-best adjusted defensive efficiency ranking, per KenPom, in the nation, allowing opponents to score just 58.6 points per game on a 34/28/61 shooting split. Those numbers are impressive, especially considering the fact that they have already faced Marquette, who has one of the best offensive attacks in the nation.

Illinois lost a few key players from last season’s team but was able to return Coleman Hawkins, Dain Dainja, and Terrence Shannon Jr., a dangerous trio. The Fighting Illini also hit the transfer portal to bring in some talent to fill in around those guys, which has resulted in a very strong start to the season.

So, will the Owls claim a sixth-straight victim, or will the Fighting Illini put a momentary end to their reign of terror?

There is absolutely no way that we feel comfortable fading this Florida Atlantic team with the way they have been playing. The Owls are firing on all cylinders, boasting arguably the most impressive offensive attack in the past five games of any team in the nation. Illinois is a fantastic defensive team, but it has been propped up a bit by weak opponents. 

The Owls have more chemistry together and have played under the brightest lights already (2023 Final Four), so expect them to come out with virtually no hiccups.

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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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