Viva Las Vegas! There will be several games played in Vegas at T-Mobile Arena, as part of the Continental Tire Main Event, including the Baylor Bears versus the Virginia Cavaliers and the UCLA Bruins versus the Illinois Fighting Illini.
These games contain two of our three best bets for Friday’s slate; the other game I cover is the Florida Gators versus the Florida State Seminoles. Check out my analysis on each of these games below, including my best bets!
When: 7:00 PM EST
O 133 (-110)
U 133 (-110)
There’s not much to say about the Baylor Bears except that it seems they have picked up right from where they have left off the past few seasons. In its first three games, Baylor has averaged 100 points, while merely allowing 62. The Bears have shot 51% from the field and just shy of 39% from deep during that span, too.
Baylor once again has the perfect blend of experience and talent. The combination of Adam Flagler, Flo Thamba, Dale Bonner, Jalen Bridges, L.J. Cryer, and Keyonte George gives the Bears a little bit of everything on both ends of the floor.
In the months leading up to the season, I wasn’t as big of a believer in the Bears as I have been in prior years; however, they have quickly changed my mind with massive, convincing wins. There are still a lot of question marks with Virginia, in my opinion. A 12-point opening game win against NC Central left much to be desired with this team. The Cavaliers will have plenty of highlight moments this year, but consistency and chemistry are immediate concerns. I expect somewhat of a roller coaster for Virginia in 2022-23. I will take Baylor against the spread!
When: 8:00 PM EST
O 146.5 (-110)
Florida State Seminoles
U 146.5 (-110)
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You’d have to be crazy to think I would bet money on the Florida State Seminoles again after what I have seen through their first three games of the 2022-23 college season. The Seminoles have started the season with an 0-3 record, including losses to Stetson, Troy, and UCF. The ‘Noles wouldn’t have covered this number in any of those three games, and I highly doubt they do against Florida, undoubtedly the best team of all those listed.
The Florida Gators rank 39th in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin, one of the favorite ways for avid fans and experts alike to identify how well a team has played throughout the course of a season (Florida State is 105th in the nation in that same metric.) Florida is 2-1 this season, but just lost a brutal game to Florida Atlantic; that is not a game the Gators should lose.
While I wouldn’t describe Florida as a particularly deep team, it does have talent. The Gators have senior forward Colin Castleton, who is posting 25 points, nine rebounds, and three assists through their first three games. Florida will lean on Castleton for offense, but I have little doubt that he will provide. Meanwhile, Florida State is a lost cause due to injuries, suspensions, and just bad overall chemistry. I will ride with Florida against the spread.
When: 9:30 PM EST
O 145.5 (-105)
Illinois Fighting Illini
U 145.5 (-115)
I couldn’t have been the only one that thought Illinois might sink for a few years after Kofi Cockburn, Jacob Grandison, Andre Curbello, Trent Frazier, and Alfonso Plummer all left the program, right? Those guys made up the Fighting Illini’s five best players last season and helped the program reach new heights. However, Illinois hit the transfer portal hard.
As a matter of fact, it brought in Matthew Mayer, one of the best wings for Baylor, Texas Tech volume scorer, Terrence Shannon, and another Baylor frontcourt player, Dain Dainja. Dainja and Shannon have shined bright for Illinois to start the season, proving that Illinois will be the real deal this season, despite all of its departures.
The Fighting Illini also returned Coleman Hawkins and R.J. Melendez, and brought in four four-star recruits. That list of freshmen includes one of their highest recruits ever, Skyy Clark, as well as Sencire Harris, Jayden Epps, and Ty Rodgers. All of a sudden, this team has gone from hopeless to hopeful. In all of the first three games, Illinois has won by at least 30 points. Big Ten, beware.
It hasn’t been that long, but it feels like some of these UCLA players have been on the team forever. Johnny Juzang departed, but Tyger Campbell, Jaime Jaquez Jr, David Singleton, and Jaylen Clark are all still around. These four make up one of the most talented backcourts in all of college basketball, but then, when you add in five-star freshman Amari Bailey, things get even more interesting.
The Bruins are an incredibly guard-heavy basketball team, sacrificing height and length for speed and shooting. The only two big men getting significant tick right now are freshman forward Adem Bona and senior forward Kenneth Nwuba; neither player contributes much as far as offense is concerned.
UCLA ranks ninth in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin and sixth in his adjusted offensive efficiency rating. The Bruins can outshoot most teams that they play, but the only potential issue that they face will be interior defense. If the two aforementioned big men get into foul trouble, especially against Illinois, they will have to dig into their bench, which is not exactly deep with frontcourt players.
All things considered, this is going to be a dogfight until the final horn. I don’t see either team running away with this game, but I have to stick with UCLA, a team that has played together for much longer. The Bruins have four key returnees who have displayed chemistry and cohesiveness as a unit. These things matter, especially early on in the season when the chemistry is still being developed on teams like Illinois that had to hit the transfer portal hard in order to recoup lost talent. The Bruins against the spread is the play!
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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.More info on Andrew Norton
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