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Best College Basketball Bets Today | NCAAB Picks February 24

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published February 24, 2024
8 min read
UConn vs DePaul Prediction

Only a few weeks stand between us and NCAA Tournament basketball, but first, there are a handful of regular season games and then conference tournaments! The two games we will be zeroing in on are the No. 2 Houston Cougars versus the No. 11 Baylor Bears and the Villanova Wildcats versus the No. 1 UConn Huskies! 

Houston has a narrow, one-game advantage in the Big 12 over sixth-ranked Iowa State, so it will be desperate to try and hold off the Cyclones with a road win over No. 11 Baylor. Meanwhile, the UConn Huskies got steamrolled by 19 points on the road against Creighton on Tuesday night; they will look to bounce back in a significant way at home against Villanova.

Find our best college basketball picks today below for this Saturday’s slate!

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No. 2 Houston @ No. 11 Baylor

All odds are available via DraftKings Sportsbook but are subject to change.

PICK: Baylor +2.5 (-110)

As mentioned above, the No. 2 Houston Cougars hold a one-game lead over the No. 6 Iowa State Cyclones for first place in the Big 12. On Saturday, Houston has a road game against the No. 11 Baylor Bears, one of the nation’s best home teams, while Iowa State will be at home versus West Virginia, the worst team in the Big 12. You might be asking what the likelihood is of the Mountaineers putting together a monumental upset on the road against Iowa State. The answer is “not likely.”

Regardless of whether they win the Big 12 outright or share a regular season title with Iowa State, it has been a fantastic year once again for the Kelvin Sampson-led Houston Cougars. Houston has finished the past three seasons in the top five (second, second, and fifth) in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin; it has been utterly dominant despite falling short of securing an NCAA title. This season, the Cougars sit in first in adjEM and in the NET rankings due to their suffocating defense and unrelenting rebounding. In fact, they have the lowest (best) adjusted defensive efficiency, second-lowest (best) opponent-effective field goal percentage, and second-highest offensive rebounding percentage nationally.

Anyone who has followed Houston in the Kelvin Sampson era knows that the team will be elite on the glass and the defensive end of the floor, but this season, the Cougars are also taking care of business offensively behind the efforts of L.J. Cryer, Jamal Shead, Emmanuel Sharp, Damian Dunn, Ja’Vier Francis, and J’Wan Roberts. 

If Houston improves its overall shooting percentage and free-throw shooting (310th in the nation), which is fairly horrendous, this team will be borderline unstoppable, as evidenced by their elite 9-3 record in Quad 1 games. 

Houston scarcely turns the ball over (fifth in turnovers per game) and collects a massive chunk of its missed shots (third in offensive rebounds per game), but the Cougars must avoid fouls and knock down free throws if they want to win a championship. Or if they just want to beat Baylor on the road.

As briefly mentioned earlier, the Baylor Bears are one of the best home teams in the nation. The Bears own a 13-1 home record and the tenth-highest average scoring margin despite playing in the toughest conference in college basketball. Further, this team knocks down an eye-opening 43.7% (fourth nationally) of their three-point attempts and has the sixth-highest effective field goal percentage at Foster Pavilion.

Like Houston, the Baylor Bears have done an exceptional job behind head coach Scott Drew in developing a program that builds primarily within as well as establishing a culture of winning basketball. The Bears have had a ton of turnover in the past few seasons, as several players have gone on to the NBA or transferred to a different program; however, that has not fazed Baylor. 

They lost their top three guards (and scorers) from last season’s team, including Adam Flagler, L.J. Cryer, and Keyonte George. Still, they quickly filled in the gaps through the transfer portal with RayJ Dennis and Jayden Nunn, and by signing highly touted freshmen Ja’Kobe Walter and Yves Missi. Langston Love and Jalen Bridges also returned from last season’s team, giving Baylor a solid and deep rotation.

Similar to the 2022-23 Baylor Bears, this season’s squad is electric offensively and a complete and utter liability defensively; they rank fourth in adjusted offensive efficiency but 89th in adjusted defensive efficiency, which is the worst defense of any team in the top 25 of KenPom’s adjEM.

There’s no way we can get behind the Cougars as road favorites against a borderline top-10 team in the nation, even though Ja’Kobe Walter has been struggling in the past month. 

For as great as Houston is on the glass, the Bears actually rebound the ball four percent more at home than the Cougars do on the road, per TeamRankings, which bodes quite well for Baylor. Houston is also five percent worse on the O-Glass on the road than at home.

Additionally, Baylor is 8-4-1 against the spread at home, and giving the Bears points on their own floor is nearly unfathomable, especially since Houston (1-6 ATS on the road) doesn’t have the kind of offensive attack that can bury the Bears early and hold them down.

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Villanova @ No. 1 UConn

  • Date: Saturday, February 24

  • Time: 8:00 pm EST

  • Moneyline: Villanova N/A | UConn N/A

  • Spread: Villanova +12.5 (-110) | UConn -12.5 (-110)

  • Total: Over 132.5 (-110) | Under 132.5 (-110)

All odds are available via DraftKings Sportsbook but are subject to change.

PICK: UConn -12.5 (-110)

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you have seen the viral clip of UConn head coach Dan Hurley earlier this week telling a Creighton fan that he would knock him out while he was leaving the floor after a road loss to the Bluejays. We don’t know much, but it doesn’t seem advisable to upset Coach Hurley; he is a pretty intense guy.

However, that loss to Creighton has undoubtedly set the Huskies on fire, and they are ready to exact revenge in a home bounce-back game against Villanova, a team that they narrowly squeaked by earlier this season. 

Before losing to the Bluejays, UConn had strung together 14 consecutive wins. In fact, the loss that started the Huskies’ spurt was against Seton Hall in their first Big East conference game of the season. 

It is no mystery why the Huskies have been so good this season; they are extraordinarily effective and efficient offensively, and they have terrific interior play on both ends due to 7-foot-2 giant Donovan Clingan, a likely lottery pick in this upcoming NBA Draft. This team has one of the best all-around players in the country in Tristen Newton (15.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 5.7 APG), one of the best shooters in Cam Spencer (43.8% shooting from three on 5.9 3PAs per game), one of the best freshman in Stephon Castle (projected lottery pick), and one of the most efficient forwards in Alex Karaban (52/40/89 shooting split this season.) 

On the other side, Villanova has had a roller-coaster season, boasting a 15-11 record which includes three Quad 1 wins. If the Wildcats want to hear their name called as an at-large bid on Selection Sunday, they have some work to do before the end of the season; this likely would be a big enough win on their resume to solidify a spot in the Big Dance.

Villanova has been inconsistent, to say the least, offensively this season. Eric Dixon, Justin Moore, and T.J. Bamba have kept Villanova’s offense just relevant enough to stay in games against superior teams.

The Wildcats’ bread and butter has been slow-paced, grind-it-out games where they can use their technically sound and fundamental defense to hold opponents to lower-scoring outputs than usual. The Wildcats rank 349th (out of 362 teams) in KenPom’s adjusted tempo, often taking nearly the entire shot clock to get a lookup. Further, they allow opponents to score just 65.9 points per game, which ranks 24th in the nation.

However, the Huskies will pull away in this game due to the sheer interior dominance of Donovan Clingan, who will be six inches taller than his primary defender. Clingan will create space in the lane for penetrators, get his hands on offensive rebound opportunities, and contest opponents in the paint on the other end of the floor.

Villanova is a poor three-point shooting team, especially on the road (32.4%), and even though the Huskies aren’t terrific on the perimeter defensively, they should contest the Wildcats well enough to hold them to below-average shooting. And there is little chance that Villanova scores anywhere inside the arc with Clingan roaming. Plus, this is a classic bounce-back spot for UConn. Dan Hurley and Co. will help us cover the spread.

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AUTHOR

Andrew Norton

148 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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