Find college basketball best bets and expert picks for the Saturday slate (1/20/24), featuring analysis of Baylor vs. Texas and Alabama vs. Tennessee.
College Basketball 1/20 Best Bets
With the college football season in the rearview mirror and the NFL season winding down, I’m going to ramp up some college basketball content for the site as we get closer to March. In this article, I’ll cover two of my favorite spots on the board for the Saturday slate. Let’s get to work.
Baylor at Texas
The Longhorns are reeling with a 1-3 start in conference play, their worst since 2016. Rodney Terry is very much on the hot seat right now, and if you ask most Texas fans, they’re not very excited about the trajectory of this team. And yet, they find themselves favored by 3.5 points on Saturday against a 9th-ranked Baylor team.
Ranked teams have struggled on the road all season, going 35-57 SU (38%). We’ve seen several “upsets” this year where a ranked team loses on the road in a spot where the market saw it coming. In fact, unranked home teams have gone 32-21-1 ATS (60%) against road ranked teams this season. Over the last two years, that trend is 129-88-1 ATS (59%).
As far as the matchup goes, Dylan Disu’s recent return to the lineup has provided a big lift in rim protection. That matters a ton against a Baylor team led by RayJ Dennis, a guard who looks to play downhill and drive and kick to shooters. Overall, the Longhorns allow opponents to shoot just 35% in the paint, which is in the 86th percentile.
Meanwhile, Baylor allows opponents to shoot 47% on the interior (9th percentile) so you can expect Max Abmas to put on a show on the drive. The insertion of Ithiel Horton into the starting lineup paid dividends for Texas against UCF as he finished with a season-high 20 points, and he’ll help take some of the scoring burden off Max Abmas moving forward.
I locked this line in at Texas -1, and by the time I published this article, it had ballooned to -3.5. I believe we’ll see buyback on Baylor at this number, but if we don’t get back to Texas -1, I’d parlay their ML with the 49ers later today. For more on why I like the 49ers, check out this article here.
Best Bet: Texas -3.5
Alabama at Tennessee
Alabama heads to Rocky Top with the most efficient offense in the country according to KenPom, and the Nate Oats system is in full swing as Bama ranks 11th in 3-point attempt rate. However, I’m still not sold on the Crimson Tide as they have gone just 2-4 in Quad 1 games this season and they rank just 32nd in strength of record per ESPN.
It’s easy to make the argument that the Tide are overly reliant on the three-point shot, though, as they rank 20th in three-point rate this season. Alabama is arguably due for regression in their shooting, as well – they rank just 233rd in open 3 rate according to ShotQuality. That’s a problem against Tennessee’s defense in this game.
The Volunteers rank second in overall defensive efficiency per KenPom and allow the 13th-lowest rate of open 3-point shots this season. Tennessee will run Bama off the three-point line, and while the Tide have scorers who can take it inside, the Vols allow opponents to shoot just 41% inside the three-point line as well.
That impressive defense has allowed Tennessee to go a perfect 9-0 at home this season. The Vols used their defense to beat Alabama by 9 at home last season in a game where the Tide shot just 37.5% from 3-point range. However, the biggest difference for Tennessee this season is the presence of Dalton Knecht.
The Northern Colorado transfer has been dominant in conference play, averaging an absurd 34 points per game over his last three outings. Knecht gives this Tennessee team something they didn’t have last year – a go-to scorer who can take over games on his own. Alabama has no answer for Knecht on its roster.
Ultimately, I see Alabama as a team due for regression as it gets into the heart of SEC play, and this is a perfect place for it to start against an elite Tennessee defense. Knecht should lead the Volunteers to another big home win in this game as he continues his torrid scoring pace and Tennessee builds on its current 9th-ranked strength of record.
Best Bet: Tennessee -4.5