The best three underdogs for college basketball's opening night

UTSA guard Jhivvan Jackson shoots over UTEP's Souley Boum
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Andrew Ortenberg

NCAAB· 11 months ago

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I'm an editor here at Pickswise who was raised in a household full of sports fanatics. Since I unfortunately never had LeBron James' jumping ability I wasn't able to make it to the NBA, and chose writing about sports as the next best thing. An avid sports bettor myself, I'm excited to get to write about the industry as it gets set to take off across the country. Buckle up.

We don’t have to wait much longer, as less than 24 hours from now the 2020-21 college basketball season will officially be underway. There’s no better sport in the country for upsets than college basketball, where cinderella stories are abundant. That’s what we’ll be focusing on today, as we break down the three best underdog plays for Wednesday’s action. Buckle up, because things are about to get crazy.

UTSA +15 @ Oklahoma

Let’s start things off with one of my favorite teams out of Conference USA. UTSA returns one of the most productive backcourts in the country from last year in Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace, who combined to average over 45 points per game last season. Those guys are both seniors now, and that kind of continuity will benefit them greatly in such an unusual season where offseason programs were heavily restricted by COVID-19. These teams played each other in their openers last year, and UTSA lost by 18.

I don’t see any reason to believe they won’t keep it closer this time around, as they kept most of their key players while Oklahoma lost top scorer Kristian Doolittle. The Roadrunners have just as much size as the Sooners, so you don’t have to worry about them getting dominated physically like is often the case with big schools vs. small schools. This one isn’t going to be a blowout.

Liberty +11 @ Purdue

Liberty made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament two years ago and then went 30-4 last season, so I can’t see why they’re this large of an underdog here. Granted they lost a lot of production from that team, but Purdue is coming off a down year and I just don’t think they have the offense to blow many teams out. They’re lacking the lead scorer like Carsen Edwards that they’ve usually had over the last decade.

Both these teams also played at paces as slow as molasses last year, and with a total this low I don’t see how anybody could lay double digits with Purdue. Liberty also added talented freshman Isiah Warfield this offseason, and he should be an immediate contributor for this team.

Georgia State +8 @ Georgia Tech

Let’s go three for three with mid-majors against power conference teams. Georgia State has been one of the best teams in the Sun Belt the past handful of years, and I expect that to be the case yet again in 2020. They had three different guys average at least 13 points per game last year, and all three are coming back as upperclassmen. Likewise with UTSA, that’s a major asset in the age of COVID-19.

Georgia Tech hasn’t done anything of note in the past decade, and with this being an inter-state rivalry it should be an especially hard-fought and physical game. The Yellow Jackets shot just 31 percent from deep as a team last year and only had one player above 33.6 percent, and there’s no way I could lay this many points with that lack of outside shooting.

Pickswise is the home of free NCAA basketball picks and predictions. We will provide predictions on both the side and totals for all of the power-conference and Top 25 games during the 2020-21 season.

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