CBB weekend best bets: Back Arizona to start conference play strong
Multiple weeks of college basketball have allowed us to assess many teams and their respective places in the Division I landscape.
Our weekend best bets feature some of our favorite squads to back and fade in juicy matchups.
USC @ Washington State (-1, 138)
Dec. 4, 6 p.m. ET
USC hasn't faced much size or perimeter talent thus far this season. Washington State is one of the few teams in the country that can compete with the Trojans size-wise and has enough high-level guard play - led by star Noah Williams - to test USC's elite defense.
The Cougars nearly defeated USC twice last season but fell short due to strong performances from Tahj Eaddy and Evan Mobley. Both players have since left the Trojans, who have yet to fully develop a go-to option - because they haven't had to. Expect USC to struggle on the road against a solid conference foe en route to its first loss of the season.
Pick: Washington State -3 or better
Old Dominion @ George Mason (-7, 126)
Dec. 4, 7 p.m.
After a hot start, George Mason has dropped four straight games, albeit mostly against decent competition on the road. The Patriots return to Fairfax to face an Old Dominion team that struggles to create its own shots.
The Monarchs also allow opponents to shoot a scorching 40% from beyond the arc, which should make George Mason salivate; the team made 46 threes in its first four wins versus just 37 in its last four losses. Consider this a get-right game for the Patriots against a team that hasn't shown it can score efficiently or defend the 3-point line.
Pick: George Mason -8 or better
Iowa State @ Creighton (-5, 138)
Dec. 4, 9 p.m.
Creighton has faced two teams in the top 100 in turnover percentage defense and coughed up 33 total turnovers in those games. The Bluejays now take on a ferocious Iowa State defense that ranks ninth nationally in that statistic, forcing at least 14 takeaways in every game this season.
The Cyclones are nothing special on offense, but their defensive unit should provide all sorts of problems for Creighton's inexperienced guards. Look for Iowa State to play a scrappy road game and topple a Bluejays team that hasn't looked particularly impressive this year.
Pick: Iowa State +1 or better
Detroit Mercy @ Illinois Chicago (-1, 143)
Dec. 5, 2 p.m.
Illinois Chicago head coach Luke Yaklich utilizes a unique half-court defense set on limiting threes. As a result, the Flames rank second nationally in allowing just 24.7% of their opponents' shots to come from beyond the arc. Detroit Mercy, meanwhile, scores the 13th-most points from 3-pointers in the country.
The Titans are also ranked No. 344 in effective field-goal percentage, according to per KenPom, meaning Illinois Chicago should have no problem scoring. Expect the Flames' defense to throw Detroit Mercy off its game.
Pick: Illinois Chicago -3 or better
St. Thomas @ Drake (-19, 145)
Dec. 5, 3 p.m.
Drake hasn't looked overly impressive lately, but it's faced some stiff competition. The Bulldogs get a nice break here against St. Thomas and its 356th-ranked defense. Drake should be able to get what it wants offensively, and it could flirt with 100 points as it did against a similarly poor South Dakota team in November.
St. Thomas is very dependant on the three, ranking second nationally with over 50% of its points coming from beyond the arc. Drake is an excellent defensive team on the perimeter, however, allowing opponents to shoot under 30% from deep this season. Take Drake to win in a blowout.
Pick: Drake -23 or better
Arizona (-10, 143) @ Oregon State
Dec. 5, 4 p.m.
Oregon State has lost seven straight games, with all seven losses coming against teams ranked below 80th in KenPom. The Beavers couldn't even come within double digits of lowly California in their Pac-12 opener and must now duel arguably the conference's most impressive squad in Arizona.
The Wildcats have more than enough firepower to blow out opponents, with five of their six wins coming by 18 points or more. Arizona has countless offensive weapons, while Oregon State has virtually none. The Wildcats won last season's road tilt against the Beavers by 34, and it should be more of the same this time.
Pick: Arizona -15 or better