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Most casual sports fans poo poo the end of the college hoops regular season. But, the real sports bettors will find reasons to gamble on these games.
I got picks for the Texas-Baylor Big XII battle, the Auburn-Kentucky SEC showdown, the Virgina-North Carolina ACC meeting, and Saint Marys-Gonzaga part II.
No. 8 Texas Longhorns (22-6) at No. 9 Baylor Bears (20-8), 2 p.m. ET
This is a buy-low spot for Baylor and a sell-high spot for Texas. Baylor has lost back-to-back (B2B) games entering Friday, both in Kansas vs. the Jayhawks and Wildcats.
Texas has won B2B games, both at home vs. the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Iowa State Cyclones. But, the Longhorns needed overtime to get past OK State at home, 85-83, as 10-point favorites.
The Longhorns beat the Bears 76-71 as 4-point home favorites last month. Texas’s win over Baylor Jan. 30 snapped a 6-game losing skid to the Bears. The Longhorns are 2-5 against the spread (ATS) vs. the Bears over that span.
Baylor plays a lot better at home. The Bears are 13-2 straight up (SU) at home with a +18.4 SU margin and 9-6 ATS. On the road, Baylor is 4-5 SU with a -6.0 SU margin and 3-5-1 ATS.
The Bears’ offense has strength-on-weakness edges over the Longhorns’ defense. Per KenPom.com, Baylor is 14th in offensive rebounding and 46th in offensive free-throw attempt rate (FTr). Texas ranks 212th in defensive rebounding and 260th in defensive FTr.
Finally, this is a “bad spot” for the Longhorns. They are 1-3 ATS as road underdogs, 7-8 ATS in conference games, 2-6 ATS vs. ranked teams, and 2-8 ATS after their last 10 covers.
College Hoops Best Bet #1: Baylor -3.5 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Auburn Tigers (19-9) at Kentucky Wildcats (19-9), 4 p.m. ET
Rupp Arena (Kentucky’s home gym) is one of the toughest places to play in college basketball. Especially for Auburn who hasn’t won at Rupp Arena since 1988.
The Wildcats are trending up and the Tigers are trending down. Kentucky is on a 3-game win streak (3-0 ATS) and Auburn is just 3-6 SU and ATS over the last nine games. UK is 5-3 SU in Quad 1 games vs. SEC teams and the Tigers are 1-4 SU.
Auburn held onto beat Ole Miss 78-74 at home in its previous outing but failed to cover as 13-point favorites. Ole Miss is 2-13 SU in SEC games and just fired its now-former head coach.
Kentucky should get a ton of putbacks and 2nd-chance points Saturday. The Wildcats rank 3rd nationally in offensive rebounding and the Tigers are 301st in defensive rebounding out of 363 schools.
Also, Auburn’s offense is just 244th in effective field goal shooting (eFG%) but crash the offensive glass and get to the foul line. But, Kentucky has an above-average defensive rebounding rate and defensive FTr.
The Tigers get the majority of their buckets inside the arc since they are a poor 3-point shooting team. In fact, neither teams attempt a lot of 3s but the Wildcats have the better big.
Auburn big Johni Broome is 2nd on Auburn in usage rate and 2nd in the SEC in PER. UK big Oscar Tshiebwe is the reigning National Player of the Year, leads the SEC in PER and has a better offensive rating than Broome (122.0-108.8).
College Hoops Best Bet #2: Kentucky -4 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook, up to -5
No. 6 Virginia Cavaliers (21-5) at North Carolina Tar Heels (17-11), 6 p.m. ET
The advanced analytic community disagrees with the AP Poll, which ranks Virginia 6th. College hoops nerds Ken Pom and Bart Torvik rank the Cavaliers 34th and 28th, respectively.
More importantly, the betting market disagrees with the rankings. The Tar Heels are favorites vs. a supposed title contender who they lost to earlier this season.
Virginia beat North Carolina 65-58 at home on Jan. 10, covering as 4.5-point favorites. That result is misleading because the Tar Heels lost C Armando Bacot in the 1st minute to a sprained ankle.
Bacot leads North Carolina in both points and rebounds per game and leads the ACC in PER. Despite Bacot’s absence, the Tar Heels were leading the Cavs at halftime in their meeting earlier this season.
UNC needs this game like blood to keep their hopes alive for an at-large bid in the NCAA tourney. With Bacot available, I like the Tar Heels in this revenge spot at home vs. a Cavs team they smacked last season.
Finally, the public is going to be all over Virginia. Usually casual bettors back the ranked team vs. the unranked team. Especially when the ranked team is getting points and public ‘dogs get slaughtered by sportsbooks.
College Hoops Best Bet #3: North Carolina -2 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook
No. 15 Saint Marys Gaels (25-5) at No. 12 Gonzaga Bulldogs (24-5), 10 p.m. ET
The 1st point in my Virginia-UNC handicap applies to this game. Everyone disagrees with the AP Poll. Ken Pom, Bart Torvik, Sports Reference and even the NCAA all rank the Gaels ahead of the Bulldogs.
Saint Marys beat Gonzaga 78-70 in overtime at home as 3-point favorites in their 1st meeting earlier this month. The only reason Gonzaga is 5-point favorites for this game is because, well, it’s Gonzaga.
But, the Bulldogs rank 268th nationally in defensive eFG% and 86th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per Ken Pom. Whereas the Gaels are 6th in adjusted defensive efficiency and 14th in defensive eFG%.
These metrics don’t matter because the public is in love with Gonzaga’s brand. Per VSIN, roughly 90% of the early action at DraftKings is on Gonzaga when this game opened up to the betting public.
I’m sure that betting discrepancy will even out closer to tip-off. However, it’s clear the Bulldogs are the public side. Let’s get on the same side as the sportsbooks and take the points with the Gaels.
College Hoops Best Bet #4: Saint Marys +5 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook, down to +4
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