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With March Madness around the corner, teams fighting for an NCAA Tournament berth or a regular season conference title have just a few weeks left to accomplish their regular-season goals.

The imminent launch of North Carolina sports betting on March 11 means all eyes in the Tar Heel State will be on the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels throughout March, if they aren’t already. That includes the final weekend of February, which features big ACC games for both Jon Scheyer’s Devils and Hubert Davis’ Heels.

In addition to the UNC-Virginia and Duke-Wake Forest matchups, both of which have ACC regular season championship implications, other notable games across the country on Saturday include big games in the Big 12, SEC and Big East:

  • No. 2 Houston at No. 11 Baylor — 12 p.m. (CBS)
  • No. 8 Duke at Wake Forest — 2 p.m. (ESPN)
  • No. 10 North Carolina at Virginia — 4 p.m. (ESPN)
  • No. 13 Alabama at No. 17 Kentucky — 4 p.m. (CBS)
  • Villanova at No. 1 UConn — 8 p.m. (FOX)

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Houston (2) at Baylor (11)


Houston enters this weekend atop the Big 12 with a one-game lead on No. 6 Iowa State with five games to play. Despite the fact that four teams are within four games of the Cougars, they are to win the league. They have a tough test on Saturday in Waco against a Baylor team coming off a seven-point loss to BYU in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday.

These two teams have not yet met this season. One of the most intriguing storylines is how the Bears will defend Houston’s top scorer, LJ Cryer, who transferred from Baylor to Houston last summer. The problem for the Bears is that between the Cougar’s offensive balance — Cryer, Jamal Shead, and Emanuel Sharp form one of the best backcourts in the country — and Houston’s outstanding defense, containing Cryer is just one of the myriad challenges Houston throws at its opponents.

Even on the road, Houston is a safe bet to cover the tight spread, especially with Baylor coming off a tough game and a long trip back to Waco.

Prediction: Houston (-2.5 at time of publishing)

Duke (8) at Wake Forest


Duke is the hottest team in the league after not just knocking off their last five opponents but doing so with ease. The Devils’ average margin of victory during the current stretch is 15.8 points, with their closest win an 8-point home victory over Wake on Feb. 12.

Saturday’s short trip to Winston-Salem will challenge Duke, as Wake Forest has not lost a home game this season. Wake is dangerous, especially when it shoots well from outside (four players shoot 35% or better on at least 3 attempts per game), making it tough to recommend a play on either side on the spread.

The best move here is to take the Over, as Wake is coming off a 91-point outburst earlier this week in a win over Pittsburgh.

Prediction: Over (152.5 at time of publishing)

North Carolina (10) at Virginia


The other big game this weekend that will impact the ACC title race pits the Tar Heels and the Cavaliers. The latter entered February on a winning streak that reached eight games but has lost two of its last three. Virginia’s offense has been awful the last two games, a 49-47 win over Wake Forest on Feb. 17 and an embarrassing 75-41 loss to Virginia Tech on Feb. 19.

On one hand, that makes it hard to imagine the Cavs keeping up with the high-scoring Heels, but at the same time, it’s hard to see a Tony Bennett-coached team following up a disastrous performance like the VT loss with another dud. Virginia should be able to keep this relatively close, but Carolina is a good bet to cover the tight spread on the road.

Prediction: North Carolina (-2.5 at time of publishing)

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Alabama (13) at Kentucky (17)


The past week has epitomized Kentucky’s frustrating season. The Wildcats stunned Auburn on the road last Saturday night, then squandered an outstanding performance by Rob Dillingham in a last-second loss to LSU on Wednesday. UK has the talent to beat anyone, especially in a crucial game at home. However, the Wildcats’ defensive issues could be exploited by Alabama, which is the highest-scoring team in the nation thanks to its 3-point-heavy approach (the Tide are fourth in the country in 3-point attempts and second in made 3s per game).

It’s the obvious play, but the Over in a game between two of the best offensive teams in college hoops feels like a lock.

Prediction: Over (178.5 at time of publishing)

Villanova at UConn (1)


The top-ranked Huskies have looked like the best team in the country for most of the season, including in an 81-53 rout of No. 7 Marquette last Saturday. UConn suffered an upset loss earlier this week, a disappointing stumble following one of its most impressive wins of the year, but this remains a team worth backing to not just win, but cover, especially at home.

Villanova is in sixth place in the Big East but is on a three-game winning streak entering this weekend’s matchup against UConn. Villanova keeping Saturday’s game close early seems feasible, but the Huskies will likely pull away and get enough separation to cover the spread.

Prediction: Connecticut (-13.5 at time of publishing)


About the Author
Tyler Everett

Tyler Everett

Tyler Everett has been a sports writer since joining the student newspaper at his alma mater, NC State, back in 2008. He's covered sports and sports business for a number of newspapers and websites, including the Denver Broncos, Charlotte Observer, High Press Soccer, and Sports Business Journal, where he currently works full-time.

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