David Caraviello for Bookies.com

By David Caraviello | | 4 mins

NCAA Basketball Betting: 5 Great Matchups To Wager On In 2021-22

NCAA Basketball Betting: 5 Great Matchups To Wager On In 2021-22
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It might be easy to overlook given the focus on football, but the college basketball season is upon us, with the first games tipping Nov. 9. And with conferences adding more league games to their schedules - conference games now start as early as Dec. 3 - that means less time for the big nonconference matchups that are so alluring to both viewers and bettors in the early part of the season.

But what we lose in volume, we gain in quality. This nonconference season boasts several matchups that would preview the national championship game in New Orleans, beginning with the Nov. 9 showdown between Duke and Kentucky at Madison Square Garden. The Blue Devils are a 1-point favorite according to at sportsbooks as Coach K begins his final season, and expect a massive amount among those making college basketball picks given the popularity of the two programs involved.

But Duke-Kentucky is hardly the only marquee matchup during this nonconference season worthy of wagering attention. Here are the five best nonconference games to bet on this college basketball season:

Villanova at UCLA, November 12

Get ready to stay up late — and not just for this game. Villanova and UCLA are both top-five in the AP preseason poll, with the Bruins returning most of the team that reached last year’s Final Four, and the Wildcats returning four starters including point guard Collin Gillespie, whose knee injury late last season derailed Nova’s NCAA tournament hopes.

The Bruins add Rutgers transfer Myles Johnson to a team that won’t be a Cinderella this time around; their college basketball odds of winning the title are +1200, tied for second-best. Expect betting sites to favor UCLA at home.

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Gonzaga vs. UCLA, November 23, Las Vegas

Another blockbuster involving the Bruins, this time against the preseason No. 1. Gonzaga beat UCLA 93-90 in last season’s Final Four on Jalen Suggs’ half-court buzzer-beater, but Suggs has moved on along with Corey Kispert, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer a season ago. Yet the Zags remain formidable — they’re the college basketball futures odds favorite at +650 to win it all — thanks to the interior presence of Drew Timme, the preseason favorite for Player of the Year. He’s joined by the No. 1 recruit in the nation, 7-foot Chet Holmgren. Expect the Zags to be favored in this game on a neutral court.

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Duke vs. Gonzaga, November 26, Las Vegas

What an odd situation for the Blue Devils. Not only is Mike Krzyzewski on his farewell tour and not only did they miss the NCAA tournament last season, but their hopes of a return to prominence rest on a trio of five-star recruits who join a returning roster largely comprised of role players.

Even so, those freshmen — Paolo Banchero, A.J. Griffin and Trevor Keels — are good enough to carry Duke, although Griffin will miss the first week of the season with a sprained knee. He should be back for this bout against the Zags, who should be favored by betting apps.

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Michigan at North Carolina, December 1

It’s a season of transition at North Carolina, where Hubert Davis takes over a program that’s gone 32-30 over the past two seasons. But North Carolina returns four starters, including leading scorer and rebounder Armando Bacot, adds transfers from Marquette and Oklahoma, and is likely to play a different offensive style with Davis now in charge.

They’ll get a huge test against the Wolverines, who have a player of the year candidate in Hunter Dickinson and the No. 2 recruiting class. Michigan at +1200 trails only Gonzaga in national title odds and should be favored by betting sites on the road.

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Kentucky at Kansas, January 29

The marquee game of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge pits two bluebloods on the rebound: The Wildcats after going 9-16; the Jayhawks after getting ousted in the NCAA’s second round. Regardless, these are both huge names that will generate lots of wagering interest. Although both sport +1600 title odds, Kansas has the talent edge.

The Jayhawks return four starters and add transfer Remy Martin from Arizona State. John Calipari is rebooting the Wildcats yet again, with freshman forward Damian Collins leading a group of newcomers. Kentucky has time to gel before facing Kansas, which will surely be favored at home.

About the Author

David Caraviello for Bookies.com
David Caraviello
Veteran sports journalist David Caraviello has covered college football, college basketball, motorsports and golf, covering all three US golf majors, the Daytona 500 and SEC football.