The 2021-22 college basketball season is upon us, and the nonconference schedule loaded with matchups between the top teams in the country.

Below is my analysis and favorite bets for the Saturday slate of games.

 

 

Villanova vs. Tennessee

(Line: Villanova -2.5, Total 140, DraftKings Sportsbook)

We have a really fun opening round of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at the Mohegan Sun starting with Villanova and Tennessee. This is an excellent matchup between two coaches who have been coaching basketball at a high level for a very long time. What sticks out to me in this one is Villanova has one distinct disadvantage — interior defense — and Tennessee doesn’t quite have the horses inside to exploit that. Veteran John Fulkerson is certainly adequate but missed a ton of the preseason with an injury, the junior Olivier Nkamhoua has had the benefit of beating up on lesser competition and freshman Brandon Huntley-Hatfield is their most talented big but still getting his feet wet. Tennessee’s inability to take advantage in the paint (42% of their shots come from three) will allow Villanova to play the way they want this game to be played on the perimeter through their veteran guards.

That said, Tennessee’s backcourt is certainly talented in itself, especially with the addition of five-star dynamo Kennedy Chandler at point guard. But Villanova’s transition defense ability to switch 1 through 5 should slow down the freshman’s playmaking ability and the Tennessee offense typically struggles outside of that. This game will be a chess match, and I see both teams really struggling to score at times. Tennessee’s tempo looks to be a bit inflated due to their easy early schedule and in a much tougher matchup here they will get sucked into playing Villanova ball in the half court and revert to their more typical slower tempo. I love the ceiling for this Tennessee team, but they run into this veteran backcourt too early in the season.

The Pick: Villanova -2.5/Under 140

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North Carolina vs. Purdue

(Line: Purdue -6, Total 154.5, FanDuel Sportsbook)

The action doesn’t stop as the second matchup of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off is just as exciting between Purdue’s intimidating frontcourt and the new-look North Carolina Tar Heels under Hubert Davis. The start to the season couldn’t be any different for these two squads, as Purdue has been mowing through their nonconference schedule with ease while North Carolina has had some close calls with their mid-major opponents. The story for North Carolina has been improved play from backcourt mates Caleb Love and RJ Davis, who seem to be thriving in Davis’ 4-out NBA-style offense that allows much more spacing. Can they stay in good form facing increased competition? We will find out Saturday as they go up against a top-20 defense led by dynamic sophomore guard Jaden Ivey. North Carolina has struggled mightily on the defensive end to start the year (108th per KenPom) and Ivey is an absolute terror with the ball. If mid-major guards have been able to get in the lane against UNC, what Ivey could do is a scary thought.

Moving to the frontcourt, it’s hard to analyze this game without talking about the war that’s going to happen in the paint between Armando Bacot and the bash brothers Trevion Williams and Zach Edey. Both teams will go as far as their guards take them, but their strengths lie on the interior. After seeing cupcakes to start the year, both Bacot and the Purdue bigs should have it much more difficult to have their way inside. Both teams, Purdue especially, have had tempo boosts to start the year and have done a ton of their scoring in transition. In a much more difficult matchup that is going to involve a lot of paint touches, we should see the game played more in the halfcourt and I see Purdue dictating the pace here in typical Matt Painter fashion. The total is just too high of a number here, and for sides I am not completely sold on the Carolina back court just yet and I think Ivey has a huge day. The sharps have been betting this down on the UNC side, but I think the analytics are correct in having Purdue as such a heavy favorite.

The Pick: Purdue -6, Under 154.5