College basketball best bets for Saturday, 3/16: Trust the Tar Heels to bring home ACC title

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Caleb Wilfinger


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Deputy Editor for Pickswise with years of experience handicapping and giving out winning picks. Lover of all US sports and Southampton FC. For Caleb Wilfinger media enquiries, please email
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The college basketball regular season is finally complete and conference championship week is here! We’ve already seen plenty of madness on the hardwood this week and we still have nonstop action and marquee games for 2 more days before the reveal of the NCAA Tournament bracket on Selection Sunday.

While the college hoops market is as sharp as it has ever been, there are still a few good value bets of which to take advantage. Let’s take a look at my best bets for Saturday’s action, but make sure you also check out our college basketball picks for the biggest games of the day.

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North Carolina Tar Heels -8.5 over NC State Wolfpack (-110)

Odds available at FanDuel Sportsbook at time of publishing. Playable to North Carolina -9.5.  

From a situational perspective, this is arguably the best spot on the board for Saturday. While North Carolina looked a bit sloppy at times in a 7-point victory over Pittsburgh, the Tar Heels are entering Saturday’s matchup with in-state rival NC State at a serious advantage. For starters, this will be the fifth game in as many days for the Wolfpack, who entered the ACC tournament as the #10 seed. Playing since Tuesday, NC State has already upset the likes of Syracuse, Duke and Virginia to get to this point, including a miraculous comeback against those Cavaliers on Friday, punctured by a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime. From there, it was the D.J. Burns show, as the big man dominated the extra session and NC State escaped with yet another victory.

While it’s hard not to root for the story in this tournament, it’s also difficult to know just how much gas this Wolfpack team has left in the tank. The Tar Heels already have a 2-day rest edge on their rivals, plus they had the additional advantage of playing first during Friday’s semifinal session. I expect Hubert Davis’ squad to get out and run early and often (45th in adjusted tempo per KenPom), which will certainly test the weary legs of their opponent. It’s difficult enough to keep the game close against the Tar Heels when playing on full rest, so I can’t see NC State being at its best on Saturday. Let’s back North Carolina to win this ACC title in convincing fasion.

Nebraska Cornhuskers +4.5 vs Illinois Fighting Illini (-110)

Odds available at FanDuel Sportsbook at time of publishing. Playable to Nebraska +3.5. 

For our second best bet, we’re heading over to the Big Ten where I believe that Nebraska is still being undervalued in the market despite thrashing Indiana on Friday. This Cornhuskers team continues to defy all expectations, sitting at 4th at Barttorvik over the last month with a top 10 offense and top 20 defense over that span. It’s also no secret that Illinois is pretty fortunate to be in this position after trailing for most of the second half against Ohio State on Friday. The Fighting Illini fought back admirably to take the lead late, but they also had some serious help from the officiating crew, benefiting from a +14 foul differential on the night. This was only the second time in the last 6 seasons of Big Ten basketball that we’ve seen this large of a foul differential, so some regression can be expected in that department on Saturday as well. Let’s take the Cornhuskers to keep rolling, and I could easily see Nebraska winning this game outright.

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