College basketball best bets today

When at full strength, Connecticut is a cut above the rest and the top-rated team in college basketball. The bad news for the rest? The Huskies are whole again, with 7-foot-2 sophomore center Donovan Clingan returning from a foot injury.

UConn (16-2) has won six straight since a 15-point loss at Seton Hall on Dec. 20. The Big East road is not for the weak and feeble, and the Huskies are back on it Saturday night. When the No. 1-ranked team hits the road, there is a target on its back, and the crowd will be electric.


Villanova (11-6) defeated North Carolina, Maryland and Memphis in November, but the Wildcats have hit a few speed bumps and need another big-time win. With star guard Justin Moore back from a knee injury, Villanova should have enough firepower to put a scare into and possibly upset UConn.

DraftKings opened UConn -1, and early money pushed the line up three points. The opening line might have been a bit low, but the oddsmakers had the right idea. The home ‘dog looks live.

Pick: (794) Villanova +4.

With only seven games remaining in the NFL season, many bettors will soon shift their focus to college basketball with March around the corner. Of course, some of us have been handicapping hoops on a daily basis since early November, so this is nothing new. With the main betting card consisting of 112 games today, I’ll start by focusing on the UConn-Villanova game and five more plays (with betting rotation numbers in parenthesis):

(610) St. John’s -1 over Marquette

With coach Rick Pitino absent because of a bout with COVID-19, the Red Storm suffered an 80-65 blowout Tuesday at Seton Hall. Pitino is returning to the bench today, and the St. John’s team that failed to bring intensity against the Pirates will bring it this time. Senior center Joel Soriano and senior guard Daniss Jenkins will show up and put up big numbers. The Golden Eagles have taken road losses at Wisconsin, Providence and Seton Hall.

(628) Boise State -1 over San Diego State

The Broncos, 9-2 in their past 11 games, are looking to bounce back from a 68-64 loss to UNLV on Tuesday. Junior forward Tyson Degenhart, who totaled 44 points in the past two games, should help Boise avoid back-to-back home setbacks. Aside from a late-December win at Gonzaga, the Aztecs have been shaky on the road and lost by 18 at New Mexico last week.

(632) Arkansas -3 over South Carolina

Eric Musselman is a coach who almost always figures it out. The Razorbacks have been a puzzling team, but their upset of Texas A&M this week could be a turning point. Junior guard Tramon Mark, a transfer from Houston, scored 35 against the Aggies. One win in SEC play might be enough to get the Razorbacks rolling.

(654) Iowa +7 over Purdue

DraftKings opened the Boilermakers -8.5 before money immediately showed on the home underdog. The Hawkeyes have won three in a row, including a 94-76 blowout of Nebraska. On paper, Iowa does not match up and will have trouble defending 7-4 Zach Edey. However, this is a bad spot for Purdue, which is off a 21-point win at Indiana on Tuesday.

(680) Nebraska -2.5 over Northwestern

The Cornhuskers seem headed for the NCAA Tournament, with an upset of Purdue highlighting the resume, but they have slipped to 3-4 in Big Ten play and can’t afford a home loss here. Nebraska has shooters — Keisei Tominaga, Brice Williams and CJ Wilcher — and should find its range against a Northwestern team that has played poorly on the Big Ten road.