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College basketball predictions: Our three best bets for Friday

Back Villanova, Houston and Michigan State in trio of Veterans Day matchups

Villanova guard Caleb Daniels scored a game-high 24 points in a season-opening 81-68 home victory over La Salle on Monday. Daniels and the Wildcats visit Temple on Friday in another Big 5 battle. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Villanova guard Caleb Daniels scored a game-high 24 points in a season-opening 81-68 home victory over La Salle on Monday. Daniels and the Wildcats visit Temple on Friday in another Big 5 battle. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)Read moreJamie Squire / Getty Images

The 2022-23 college basketball season is off and running, with 19 ranked teams — including every squad in the top five — taking the court Friday on Veterans Day.

Among the matchups on Friday’s stacked card, three in particular caught our attention: a Big 5 battle in Philly; another local school looking to shock a national title contender in the shadows of the Naval Academy; and a clash of perennial powers on the deck of an aircraft career in San Diego.

Here’s our betting breakdown — including predictions — for this trio of intriguing non-conference contests.

Note: Odds updated as of 5 a.m. ET on Nov. 11.

Villanova vs. Temple Prediction

  1. Villanova -5.5, -112 (at FanDuel)

Villanova vs. Temple Prediction: Analysis

Villanova opened its season Monday with a Big 5 clash against La Salle, doing so without its three leading scorers from last season.

Not only did longtime point guard Collin Gillespie (15.6 points per game) and forward Jermaine Samuels (11.1 ppg) run out of eligibility, but guard Justin Moore (14.8 ppg) was sidelined with an Achilles’ injury. On top of that, legendary coach Jay Wright (retired) wasn’t on the bench for the first time in 21 years.

None of it mattered a lick, though, as the 16th-ranked Wildcats rolled to an 81-68 win in new coach Kyle Neptune’s debut. The lone negative: Villanova — which took a 37-23 halftime lead into the locker room — came up short as a 15.5-point home favorite.

On Friday, the Wildcats face a Temple squad that also raced out to a big lead in its debut Monday, opening a 15-point second-half advantage against Wagner. Except the Owls failed to close the deal, falling 76-73 in overtime as a whopping 16.5-point home favorite.

To put Temple’s stunning collapse in perspective: The Owls are ranked 101st by KenPom — which is 160 spots higher than Wagner.

Temple senior guard Damian Dunn had a huge night in defeat, scoring 29 points (including tying a school record with an 18-for-18 effort from the free-throw line). However, the Owls shot just 39% from the field, including 25% from beyond the arc (5-for-20).

Villanova, meanwhile, blistered the nets against La Salle, shooting 56% overall and 65% (13-for-20) from long distance. And the Wildcats won going away despite getting out-rebounded (30-27) and shooting nearly half as many free throws (20 vs. 11).

Villanova will be without Moore again Friday. But if guard Caleb Daniels and forward Eric Dixon perform close to as well as they did against La Salle (combined 44 points), the Wildcats should have no trouble winning and covering for the eighth consecutive time against Temple.

» READ MORE: Villanova still figuring out its early-season rotation ahead of Big 5 clash with Temple

Houston vs. Saint Joseph’s Prediction

  1. Houston -21.5 (at FanDuel)

Houston vs. St. Joseph’s Prediction: Analysis

No. 3 Houston took the court at home Monday expected to devour cupcake North Colorado, which was a 23.5-point underdog. The Cougars met those expectations — and then some — winning by more than double the point spread, 83-36.

Oddsmakers believe Houston will get a much stiffer test Friday when it faces Saint Joseph’s in the Veterans Classic in Annapolis, Maryland (home of the Naval Academy).

While the Cougars have a game under their belt, the Hawks will be tipping off their season after going just 11-19 a year ago.

At most schools, such a record would be deemed highly disappointing. But considering Saint Joseph’s notched 11 wins total in the previous two seasons, an 11-19 campaign can only be viewed as progress.

Still, Houston — which entered the season with its highest ranking since the Phi Slama Jama days of 1983-84 — is absolutely loaded. And under coach Kelvin Sampson, the Cougars are fierce on both ends of the court, which is why we recommended a national championship futures bet on Houston.

Saint Joseph’s figures to take another step forward this year under fourth-year head coach Billy Lange. But this is a bad matchup at the wrong time for a program that faced just one power program last year in Villanova. Result: 81-52 loss.

Expect something similar in Annapolis. Lay the big points with Houston.

Michigan State vs. Gonzaga Prediction

  1. Michigan State +11.5, -115 (at FanDuel)

Michigan State vs. Gonzaga Prediction: Analysis

This early-season matchup would be difficult to handicap on a neutral court inside an arena. Put it on an aircraft career and the handicapping degree of difficult rises exponentially.

Dubbed the Armed Forces Classic, these two marquee basketball programs will duel on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in San Diego harbor, with tipoff at 3:30 p.m. PST.

It’s not often one has to check the weather ahead of a college basketball game, but such is the case with this one. Of course, mild conditions — temperatures in the low 60s, light winds — are forecast for America’s Finest City.

That should favor Gonzaga, which cracked the century mark in its first game Monday (104-63 rout of North Florida). A year after leading the nation in scoring (87.2 points per game), coach Mark Few’s team once again is expected to have the most potent offense in Division I.

That said, these aircraft carrier games tend to be lower scoring (understandably so, as players aren’t used to playing outdoors). And while Michigan State’s offense isn’t anywhere near as potent as Gonzaga’s, coach Tom Izzo usually has his teams ready to go defensively out of the gate.

Yes, Michigan State got thumped by Kansas in last year’s season opener on a neutral court (87-74). Still, even including the poor defensive showing against the eventual national champs, the 2021-22 Spartans allowed just 67.1 points per game in early-season nonconference play.

Speaking of last year, Gonzaga went 28-4, but bowed out of the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 after a 74-68 loss to Arkansas. With that defeat, the Bulldogs finished just 3-3 SU and ATS against Power 5 competition.

Gonzaga’s top-ranked offense averaged “just” 78.2 points in those six contests. Given the unique conditions both teams will be dealing with Friday, it’s tough to see the Bulldogs beating that average.

If that prediction is accurate, Michigan State essentially would need to get to 70 points to cover this number. Seems doable, especially since Few admitted after the North Florida win that “defense could be his team’s Achilles’ heel eventually.”

Do we see the Spartans walking off the USS Abraham Lincoln? No. But they should hang within single digits.

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