Our Staff’s 4 Best Bets for Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 24)

Turkey, family, and football are often mentioned when talking about Thanksgiving.

But especially this year, we have a huge helping of college hoops.

The two Phil Knight events (Invitational and Legacy) and the ESPN Events Invitational kick off, while the Battle 4 Atlantis continues from the Bahamas.

We’ve got matches from 11am ET until the last tip between Gonzaga and Portland State at 12:30pm ET.

Guess what? There’s a lot of value across the board – from a betting perspective. With that in mind, our contributors have four best bets for the Thanksgiving slate.


Thanksgiving Day College Basketball Best Bets

The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups our college basketball staff is focusing on as of Thursday’s series of games. Click on the team logos for any of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet featured in this article.


Army vs Princeton

Through Patrick Strolo

A service academy getting double-digit points? To check. A service academy getting double-digit points on foreign soil? Double check.

Army (2-2) and Princeton (2-2) will travel across the pond before meeting in London, England to kick off the 2022 London Basketball Classic.

We are clearly still in the early stages of the season as we work out the quantitative and qualitative assessments of all 363 Division I teams. However, there are constants around service academies that we can rely on for an edge in this game.

It goes without saying, but playing basketball for the US Army isn’t your traditional coed college experience.

The Black Knights will be exceptionally well positioned to handle the difficult journey to England and the associated loss of five hours.

I’m confident in Army’s ability to keep this game close for three reasons.

First off, the Black Knights are shooting exceptionally well this season. The Army ranks 12th in the nation in field goal percentage of 2 points and hits 61.1% of shots from the bow.

Second, Army plays an up-tempo style of ball, ranking 65th in the nation in Adjusted Tempo. This will create a mismatch for Princeton, which is running at a slower pace (216th in Tempo).

Finally, and in keeping with the theme of discipline, Army is great at creating chances at the free throw line. The Black Knights rank 85th in the nation in free throws, which reflects the ratio of free throws attempted to field goals attempted.

Army has many contributors on offense, with a quartet of players averaging double digits this season.

Juniors Chris Mann (17.2 PPG) and Jalen Rucker (15.0 PPG) provide experienced leadership, while spark plug freshmen Coleton Benson (15.8 PPG) and Ethan Roberts (10.0 PPG) were welcome additions.

I’m projecting Army as 8-point underdogs in this matchup, but I see value in the double-digit number Vegas hung on Thanksgiving.

Look for the Black Knights who come out of the gates with a disciplined and fast attack.

Grab the double digit points in London.

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Duke vs. the State of Oregon

Through Kyle Remillard

Duke travels west to participate in the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament on Thanksgiving, and the Blue Devils draw Oregon State in the first round.

The Beavers are 3-1 this season, but they showed their true colors last in a 13-point loss to 260th-ranked Portland State. Let’s not forget that this is the same Oregon State program that finished 3-28 last season with a 320th defensive efficiency rating.

This year hasn’t been much better, despite having a cakewalk schedule so far. The Beavers have turned the ball over on 23% of their offensive possessions. Giving the Blue Devils extra assets is a recipe for disaster.

In addition, the program has no outside shooting threats this season, going just 17-of-67 from deep, which ranks 311th. It won’t be able to find success in the paint against the format Duke presents.

The Blue Devils will be able to dominate the paint offensively against an Oregon State defense that allowed opponents to hit 56% from 2-point area last year. That was the ninth worst figure in the entire country.

Duke has crushed opponents this season, grabbing rebounds on 46% of his misses, the second highest percentage in the nation.

Duke has a significant talent gap in this matchup. Through extended possession on turnovers and rematch points, the Blue Devils will turn this game into a loss early.

I will also try to play the first half in this matchup. After starting the previous timeout slowly, I expect Jon Scheyer to want to set the pace early.


Florida vs. Xavier

By Cooper Van Tatenhove

Florida and Xavier go head-to-head in the second game of the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament.

Both teams go 3-1 in this matchup.

Florida is coming off a 76-67 road win against in-state rival Florida State, while Xavier is coming off a tough battle with Indiana (losing by two).

Both teams have had success on the offensive end this season and are in the top 50 of Adjusted Offensive Efficiency.

While both are effective, Xavier has shown a much more balanced offensive offense – nationally he ranks 19th in effective FG%, while Florida ranks 171st in the same category.

In addition, Xavier has been able to create additional possession through an offensive rebound percentage of 38.1%, which ranks in the top 20 nationally.

Florida has relied heavily on the play of Colin Castleton, who scored 25+ in three of the Gators’ four games this season. Xavier will be able to match Castleton with veteran senior duo Zach Freemantle and Jack Nunge.

Look for Xavier recovering from a heavy home loss to Indiana by restraining Casleton and creating additional possessions from the attack glass.


Alabama vs Michigan State

Through DJ James

In the Phil Knight Invitational, Alabama and Michigan State face off to wrap up a great day of hoops.

Alabama has three wins, but none of the magnitude the Michigan State Spartans have to their credit. MSU has beaten both Villanova and Kentucky, almost upsetting Gonzaga as well. The Spartans are real, while Bama has yet to be tested.

MSU splits its points pretty well. The Spartans aren’t necessarily an inside team with Malik Hall, Joey Hauser and Mady Sissoko, but they’ve got the bodies low to contest the Crimson Tide.

That said, MSU is much better at deep. The Spartans are shooting 36.8% to Alabama’s 33.6%.

One thing to keep in mind is how often the Crimson Tide 3s fire. Nearly 40% of their score came from outside the arc. MSU defends the bow very well, allowing opponents to shoot only 26.5% from deep. They’ve also seen some of the best.

One problem is that MSU is not recovering nearly as well as Alabama. The Nate Oats guys are number one in offensive rebound, so the frontcourt for Tom Izzo will have his hands full.

But once Michigan State takes the 3-ball out of the equation for Bama, the Tide will struggle to find other areas to score. Only 38.9% of Tide points are on 2s, so their only alternative is riding and getting fouled, which they are used to.

Alabama has its own pollution issues, so this may not be the advantage the team needs.


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