Jim Root's College Basketball Wednesday best bets: Auburn keeps up home dominance

The Auburn Tigers

Maine Black Bears +11 over Hartford Hawks (-110)

Let’s kick it off on the extra board by wagering on KenPom’s 355th-ranked team! Feel the excitement coursing through your veins…

Hartford is coming off a huge emotional win against the top team in the league, having beaten powerhouse Vermont with a late tip-in on Monday. The Hawks gave a home run effort in that one; replicating it against a 5-19 team will be nearly impossible. 

That letdown effect is amplified by playing their 3rd game in 5 days. Hartford also recently lost a key starter, Hunter Marks, for the season to injury, and sniper DJ Mitchell also missed the Vermont game. The Hawks will surely be short-handed in this one with little rest. 

Meanwhile, Maine has been off since Sunday, giving the Black Bears time to rest and prepare. Coach Richard Barron is a savvy game-planner, and prep time plus a short-handed opponent should allow him to craft a devious strategy against the Hawks. 

Plus, Maine has not been the doormat you might imagine for such a lowly-ranked team. The Black Bears are 8-5 against the number in league play, and they have not lost by more than 13 since January 22. At minimum, they will compete here – a smaller play on the first half could also be interesting. 

I like this one at anything +10 or better.

Marquette Golden Eagles -13 over Georgetown Hoyas (-110)

Okay, let’s move to a better team. Marquette has stunned many a critic this season, ascending to a clear NCAA Tournament team despite meager preseason expectations. 

Shaka Smart’s Coach of the Year candidacy has taken a hit over the past 2 weeks, though, as Marquette has dropped 3 of its last 4. That includes a disappointing loss at Butler on Saturday.

This game needs to be a “get right” spot for the Golden Eagles, who are back home after a 2-game road trip. The familiar surroundings should help a team that ranks 350th in the entire country in KenPom’s weighted experience metric. 

On the other side of the court sits Georgetown, a team that is circling the drain. The calls for Patrick Ewing to resign have increased in fervor, primarily due to the Hoyas’ horrendous 0-13 record in Big East play. 

It’s not just that they’re losing, though – it’s how. Georgetown has lost 4 of its last 5 games by 13 or more points, and Ewing’s squad has failed to cover 7 straight games. 

There’s unquestionably some risk with backing a young Marquette team as a big favorite against a team it has already blown out by 28 points on the road. The young Golden Eagles could easily be complacent. I am banking on Shaka’s terrific motivational skills and the recent losing streak to combat any of that, however. 

I would not want to go a ton higher than -13 here – let’s call the strike price -14. But given the spot and the sad trajectory that Georgetown is on, I think the Golden Eagles win in blowout fashion on Wednesday night.

Auburn Tigers -13 over Vanderbilt Commodores (-110)

Line generally available at time of publishing.

No long-winded explanation here – this one is entirely about Auburn’s home dominance. So far this season, the Tigers are 12-1 against the spread, covering by an average of 5.3 points per game. 

Some teams just form a symbiotic bond with their rabid arena, and this Auburn team clearly has that going for it. Emotional players like KD Johnson and Wendell Green feed off the crowd’s energy, and the Tigers constantly put big runs on foes in Auburn Arena. 

If you’re looking for additional reasons, Auburn should completely dominate the paint. Liam Robbins is giving the Commodores some minutes, but the Minnesota transfer clearly is not ready to fully contribute. 

Additionally, Vandy has been sloppy with the ball (9th in the conference in turnover rate) and middling on the defensive glass (8th in defensive rebound rate). The Tigers should expose those weaknesses, and any miscues will quickly be turned into points by Auburn’s devastating transition attack.  

I am happy to continue to lay points with home Auburn (up to -15 here), even though I think Vandy is on the rise with Rodney Chatman and Robbins getting healthier.

Be sure to check out our full game preview for Vanderbilt Commodores vs Auburn Tigers

Gonzaga Bulldogs vs Pepperdine Waves over 160.5

We aim to close the night with some fireworks in Malibu. 

After starting league play with some dizzying performances (110+ points in each of their first three games), Gonzaga has shifted away from being an OVER machine. The Bulldogs sailed way under the number against Saint Mary’s on Saturday, their 3rd straight game below the total. 

I see that game as an inflection point – the nadir of Gonzaga’s scoring value. The Gaels drained the life from that game, limiting it to just 67 possessions. The last time Gonzaga was slowed down like that, the Bulldogs followed it with an 84-possession game against Portland. 

This game should have a similar “slingshot” effect. These 2 teams played previously on January 8, an absurd 90-possession track meet that barely resembled a basketball game. Gonzaga won 117-83, and the Waves were a willing participant in such an up-and-down affair. 

Gonzaga should once again thrash Pepperdine inside. Drew Timme, Chet Holmgren, and Anton Watson can overwhelm a frontcourt that is missing its most versatile option, starting forward Keith Fisher. And on the other end, Pepperdine has the shot-makers in Mike Mitchell, Houston Mallette, and Jan Zidek to score over the top of Gonzaga’s elite interior defense. 

A total of 160 is certainly lofty, but I think this game lands about halfway between that number and the first game’s total (200 points!). Value-wise, I’d bet this up to 163.

Make sure you read the rest of our picks for tonight’s big college basketball matchups!

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