The best NBA bet on a busy Friday night, plus bowl game picks and more for the weekend

What an incredible weekend of sport is coming up. With the college football regular season over, the NFL has three games scheduled for Saturday — but that’s not all. The college football regular season is over, so the bowl season begins in force on Saturday with six games.

Then there’s the full slate of college basketball, the NBA, the NHL, and in case all that isn’t enough, we’ve got the World Cup finals and third-place games on Saturday and Sunday, too. With cold weather across the country this weekend, it couldn’t come at a better time as we’ll all be staying where it’s warm and toasty.

And I have enough options to tide you over. Before we get to those, though, let’s catch up on today’s top stories.

Let’s throw some logs on the gambling fire.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

πŸ”₯ The Hot Ticket

Timberwolves at Thunder, 8 p.m. | TV: NBA League Pass

Latest odds:

Minnesota Timberwolves +2.5

  • Basic trend: Minnesota has swept four of the last five meetings in OKC.
  • The Pick: Timberwolves +2.5 (-110)

There are bigger NBA games on the schedule tonight, but there’s no better value than what we’re getting at the Timberwolves. Before I get to that, though, I’d like to go on a tangent about the name of the Timberwolves. Can we shorten it to Wolves? I mean officially. Timberwolves is too long a name for a team nickname. Ideally, team names should be two syllables, but three still works. However, four is just too many. And when you combine that with the four syllables in Minnesota, we’re straight out of control here.

Anyway, the Wolves have lost three straight, and this is the final game of a five-game road trip. They are 3-4 since losing Karl Anthony Towns, including a 135-128 loss to the Thunder in Minnesota two weeks ago, and tonight Rudy Gobert and D’Angelo Russell are questionable. I have more confidence in Gobert going, but if Russell comes back tonight, we’ll be a steal at 2.5 points, and I like the value even if Russell doesn’t play.

The Thunder have lost four streaks themselves, and while they’ve been decent defensively this season (112.4 defensive efficiency ranks 16th), they’ve been terrible in this losing streak (116.3) and their offense has been non-existent (107.0 in last four vs. 110.5 on season). The Thunder are playing poorly right now, and it’s hard to trust them to cover because of it.

Here’s what SportsLine has to say about the game: The Projection Model doesn’t have much value anywhere in this game, but it does have a slight slant on Thunder.

πŸ’° The Options

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πŸ€ College basketball

Central Connecticut at Manhattan, 7 p.m. | Television: ESPN+

Latest odds:

Manhattan Jaspers -5

The Pick: Manhattan -4.5 (-110) — If you’re not betting on a college basketball game between two teams ranked outside the top 300 by KenPom on Friday night, what are you doing with your life? Especially when the Manhattan Jaspers don’t get the respect they deserve! OK, maybe a team that has lost three straight and is only 3-6 on the season doesn’t deserve a lot of respect, but the Jaspers are the better team here.

Neither team is good offensively (Manhattan ranks 335th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency while CCSU is 337th). The difference is on the defensive end, where Manhattan is 257th and CCSU is 305th. Oh, and Manhattan has a significant size advantage. Finally, CCSU is just 1-10, including an 0-6 record on the road, where they give up an average of 16.5 points per game.


Dolphins at Bills, Saturday, 8:15 p.m. | TV: NFL Network

Latest odds:

Below 44

The Pick: Under 44 (-110) — Much has been made of the Dolphins having radiators on the sideline when it was 55 degrees in Los Angeles last week, and deservedly so. I was out earlier today doing yard work in a t-shirt and joggers, and it’s 27 degrees, windy, and snowing. Still, I don’t think the Dolphins should be underdogs in Buffalo just because it’s going to be cold and windy. The Bills have to play in the same conditions, and they are not conditions meant to help offenses.

It will definitely snow, but it won’t be a blizzard. The most important factor for this game will be the strong winds. This affects offenses and special teams. I wish this game was played on Sunday which is supposed to have even stronger winds, but I guess we can’t get everything we want. Sure, the Bills could cover, but so can the Dolphins, and either way, I don’t expect this to be a high-scoring game.

Eagles at Bears, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: Fox

Latest odds:

Above 48.5

The Pick: Over 48.5 (-110) — The over has been almost automatic in Bears games recently when Justin Fields starts. His ability to make things happen, combined with the Bears’ abysmal defense, has led to the over hit in eight of the last nine Bears games, including the last seven.

And now coming to town is a Philadelphia crime that no one has been able to stop. I’m not kidding when I say the Eagles could outdo themselves in this one. Philly scored 40 points against the Giants last week and has scored 123 points in their last three games (41 each).

🏈 Bowl games

Cincinnati vs. Louisville, Saturday, 11 a.m. | Television: ESPN

Latest odds:

Louisville Cardinals -2

The Pick: Louisville -2 (-110) — The old Keg of Nails rivalry returns for the first time since 2013 — before Louisville left to join the ACC and the Big East morphed into the American. As if that wasn’t enough, head coach Scott Satterfield left Louisville to take the Cincinnati job. With the game being played at Fenway Park, the two teams will share a side game. In my opinion, they should force Satterfield to stand between the two sides. If Cincinnati wins, they don’t have to pay their buyout. If Louisville wins, it will double. Who says no? Let’s make it interesting!

As for the game, Louisville QB Malik Cunningham has been ruled out, which stinks, but Brock Domann has plenty of experience and weeks to prepare for this start in relief. The Bearcats made the playoffs last season and that team was one of the best in the AAC. However, I have concerns about them offensively. My gut is that the Cardinals offense will do more in this than the Bearcats, so I’m leaning that way.

No. 14 Oregon State vs. Florida, Saturday, 2:30 p.m. | Television: ESPN

Latest odds:

Below 53

The Pick: Under 53 (-110) — The worst part about this game is that Oregon State has flown under the radar all season, but if they can beat an SEC team in the bowl game, they will be written off because Florida is far from full strength. The Gators will be missing several key players between opt outs and the transfer window, including starting QB Anthony Richardson. Considering how ineffective the Gators’ offense has been all year (79th nationally in passing percentage), it’s hard to imagine things improving without the one player who seemed capable of making something out of nothing.

As for the Beavers, Chance Nolan started the year as the starting QB, but missed the last seven games with an injury and was replaced by Ben Gulbranson. Nolan has since stepped into the gate and the Beavers’ offense hasn’t been big with freshman Gulbranson. If I were to bet on any of this first week’s bowl games to be ugly, low-scoring, it’s this one.

Boise State vs. North Texas, Saturday, 9:15 p.m. | Television: ESPN

Latest odds:

Boise State Broncos -10.5

The Pick: Boise State -10.5 (-110) — It’s a battle of losers in the conference championship! Boise State lost to Fresno State in the Mountain West Championship Game and faces a North Texas team that lost to UTSA in the Conference USA Championship Game.

The biggest difference is that Boise State didn’t fire its coach after the loss, while North Texas did. The Mean Green will be in this game under an interim coach, and you have to wonder what frame they’ll be in because of that. Boise State will be without leading rusher George Holani due to injury, but the Broncos have an elite defense that I suspect will overwhelm North Texas up front. The Broncos also have the most electric QB in the matchup in Taylen Green — no disrespect to 29-year-old UNT QB Austin Aune — and I’m not sure the Mean Green can keep up here.

πŸ”’ SportsLine Pick of the Day: The Projection Model sees great value in the spread in tonight’s game between the Charlotte Hornets and Atlanta Hawks.

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