The push towards the NCAA Tournament with another loaded Saturday of college basketball on the docket.
There's plenty of conference matchups to sink our teeth into with plenty of marquee matchups, but how should we attack games from a betting perspective? There's a ton of rematches as teams go through a second tour around respective leagues and we can use the first game and recent form to generate sound bets for the high volume card.
Here's a trio of bets I'm eyeing on Saturday, including road favorites like Creighton and Houston to slay some demons away from home.
Best College Basketball Bets for Saturday, February 10th
- Creighton ML vs. Xavier
- Houston (-5) vs. Cincinnati
- Tennessee (-2) vs. Texas A&M
- Kansas/Utah State ML Parlay (+103)
Creighton vs. Xavier Prediction and Pick
While I have mentioned concern about Creighton against defenses that can ramp up the ball pressure against a Bluejays team that struggles to get penetration, I don't believe Xavier is the team to provide that.
The Musketeers are outside the top 250 nationally in terms of turnover percentage, per KenPom, and the team struggles in the half court.
If Xavier can't run, the team is 53rd in adjusted tempo according to KenPom and fifth in transition rate per ShotQuality, Sean Miller's group can't score. In half court offense, the Musketeers are 323rd in points per possession according to SQ.
Now, the team welcomes Creighton to the Cintas Center, who is stewing off a tight loss at Providence in overtime. While some may peg this as a brutal situation for the short bench of the Bluejays to play a second straight road conference game, I believe this matchup suits Greg McDermott's bunch nicely.
Creighton doesn't let you run, 341st in opponent transition frequency, and is elite on the interior with Ryan Kalkbrenner in the paint, 17th in the country in two-point percentage. A lot of Xavier's offense comes from second chances, the team is second in Big East offensive rebounding percentage, but Creighton is the best defensive rebounding team in the league. This can be a slog for the home team.
The Bluejays just missed a cover against Xavier as seven-and-a-half point favorites back on January 23rd in Omaha, winning by seven, but in that game the Musketeers shot 44% on two's and 33% on three's. I believe the defensive structure of Creighton can navigate the team to a win.
PICK: Creighton ML (-118)
Houston vs. Cincinnati Prediction and Pick
Cincinnati has had a week off to prepare for Houston's blitzing scheme on Saturday afternoon, but I don't think it's going to matter much as the team is devoid of the necessary ball handlers to outlast the Cougars defense that is generating turnovers on more than 26% of opponent's possessions.
The Bearcats have struggled protecting the ball in Big 12 play, the team is 12th in turnover percentage in league play, and will likely be a welcome sight for the visiting Cougs, who have played a gauntlet of Big 12 teams so far on the road.
So far in Big 12 play, Houston has face Iowa State (No. 12 in KenPom's adjusted efficiency rating), TCU (No. 29), BYU (No. 11), Texas (No. 31) and Knasas (No. 13) on the road. While Cincinnati checks in at a respectable No. 32, this is the worst team that Houston will face ont the road so far.
While many will remember last Saturday's shellacking in Lawrence against Kansas, or the team's near losses at Iowa State and TCU, Cincinnati doesn't have the firepower on offense that those teams have.
The Bearcats are shooting 29% in league play and are incredibly reliant on generating second chances to keep up. However, Houston is the third best defensive rebounding team in the league and possess one of the most compact defenses in the country (324th in opponent three-point rate). Cincy won't be able to score.
While it's not a perfect comparison, these two played three times last year in AAC play, with the Cougars winning every game by at least six, including a 13-point win at Fifth Third Arena. You can lay it with the chalk on the road.
PICK: Houston -5
Tennessee vs. Texas A&M Prediction and Pick
Texas A&M may be in a good spot to score a necessary win to ensure an NCAA Tournament appearance, but boy are you going to have to pay for it.
So, why are the Vols, a true National Championship threat, laying only a bucket on the road? This is the same team that closed inside of a bucket to Kentucky last weekend, and proceeded to win in a wire-to-wire double digit win. Sure, this is a new opponent with an elite defense, but this market is baking in the "spot" for the Aggies to knock off a highly ranked team way more than necessary.
So, I'll play against it.
Texas A&M's offense is one of the worst offenses in the nation, hell bent on mucking the game up by getting to the free throw line and grabbing offensive rebounds to offset the team's dismal shooting. Led by Wade Taylor IV, the Aggies are tops in free throw rate as well as offensive rebounding percentage, negating the team's SEC worst effective field goal percentage.
The Aggies defense is formidable, playing a compact morphing zone scheme that allows teams to hoist from deep. Opponents are shooting three's on nearly 46% of its field goal attempts, but Tennessee's ability to shoot from the perimeter is a serious concern.
Given the Aggies' inability to shoot, any team with a pulse from the perimeter can out-pace the home team. Just ask Ole Miss, who went to Reed Arena, shot 41% from three (10/24) and won by three.
Tennessee is the top offense in the SEC. With Dalton Knecht giving the team a scoring punch from inside and out to take attention away from the likes of deadeye shooters like Santiago Vescovi, the offense is as versatile in Knoxville as its been in years.
Maybe the Aggies are as good to win this game at home as the market is saying, but the proof is in the pudding that is the season long metrics that are indicating that you are getting a serious discount with one of the best teams in the country.
I'll happily grab it.
PICK: Tennessee -2
Baylor vs. Kansas Prediction and Pick
This is setting up for a Kansas route on its home court.
The Bears defense has been a disaster this season, particularly weak at defending at the rim, 275th in field goal percentage allowed at the rim according to Haslametrics. Against a Kansas offense that is the No. 1 team in the country in assist rate while ranking fifth in field goal percentage at the rim, the hosts should get whatever they want downhill and score at will.
Meanwhile, this is a Baylor team that hasn't beaten a team inside the KenPom top 60 in a true road game all season, it's two road wins are against UCF and Oklahoma State, arguably the two worst teams in the conference. According to Haslametrics, the Bears are 346th in away from home rating, meaning the team sees a massive drop-off on the road this season.
I believe Kansas' offense dominates this matchup and is able to pull away from a Baylor team that is seventh in effective field goal percentage in Big 12 play and struggles on the road.
Boise State vs. Utah State Prediction and Pick
I'll pair Kansas with Utah State to make a cheap moneyline parlay price of two home favorites.
The Aggies won at Boise State in overtime in an entertaining back-and-forth affair, and I believe Utah State can do it again at home. While some may be spooked by two straight losses from the Aggies, including earlier this week against Nevada, this matchup suits Utah State much better.
Boise State is 257th in two-point percentage allowed this season, highlighted by ranking 228th in defending at the rim. That is massive against Utah State, who has one of the best big men in the country in Great Osobor, who scored 14 points and got to the free throw line 11 times in the first meeting. Overall, the Aggies shot 62% inside the arc back on January 27th.
Boise State couldn't keep up with another interior force in Colorado State on Tuesday, and now stay at altitude against another brute force in Mountain West play at the Spectrum on Saturday night in a game with Mountain West title implications.
Most of the Broncos offense comes from generating second chances, the team is tops in the conference in offensive rebounding rate, but Utah State checks in second in terms of defensive rebounding rate. I believe the home team can limit the Broncos, who have an incredibly short bench (bottom 50 in the country in bench minutes), to cruise to a win at home.
PICK: Kansas/Utah State ML Parlay (+103)