College Basketball Best Bets (3/4/23)
March college basketball rolls on, and the action will only continue to heat up. In this article, I’ll have you covered with a handful of best bets for a loaded slate on the final regular season Saturday of the year. With ranked teams in action, senior days across the country, and high stakes in abundance, let’s get to work.
March Best Bets Record: 9-7 (+1.3 units)
Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan State Spartans
It’s been a brutal season for Ohio State. One of the preseason dark horses to win the Big Ten, the Buckeyes sit in second-to-last place in the conference with a 5-14 record. They’ve been incredibly unlucky all year, though, and they are dead last in the country in KenPom’s luck ratings. That alone should have you intrigued.
That bad luck came through in their earlier game against Michigan State. The Spartans took that one in Columbus by a final score of 62-41, but it was graded as just a three-point win by ShotQuality. The Buckeyes shot a pathetic 17-60 from the field (28.3%) and 6-29 (20.7%) from the three-point line.
The Spartans do have a very good defense, to be fair. They’re ranked 33rd in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom, but they’re due for a fair bit of negative regression in that regard per ShotQuality.
Regardless, it’s hard to imagine Ohio State repeating those putrid shooting numbers, particularly as their offense has found itself in recent games. The Buckeyes have won two straight games after a nine-game losing streak, particularly as they have figured out their rotations following Zed Key’s season-ending injury.
The parity in the Big Ten this season has been fascinating, and there are eight teams between 10-9 and 11-8 in conference play. Michigan State is one of them, and they will be fighting for important seeding in the upcoming conference tournament.
This game is also Michigan State’s Senior Day as it’s the last home game for seniors Tyson Walker, Joey Hauser, and Malik Hall, three of their top five leading scorers. However, Ohio State will be plenty motivated to upset the Spartans on their day and avenge their prior loss.
The motivational factors are high for the Spartans here, but I believe that’s leading to an inflated spread. The Buckeyes have looked like a different team in their last two games, and with their expected positive regression, that’s been a welcome sight. They find a way to make this game come down to the final few possessions.
Best Bet: Ohio State +7.5 (play to +5.5)
South Alabama Jaguars at Southern Miss Golden Eagles
What, did you think I was going to leave you without a mid-major game on this fine Saturday? Not with conference tournaments going on. I placed a future on South Alabama to win the Sun Belt Championship prior to the beginning of the tournament, and I love what I saw in their win over Appalachian State.
We keep it rolling here with a Jaguars team that ranks 3rd in Haslametrics’ momentum ratings by virtue of winning six of their last seven games and nine of their last eleven. The Jaguars ranked just 346th in continuity entering this season per KenPom, and it took them some time to put everything together.
However, they’ve played their best ball when it matters most. Guard Isaiah Moore has been a huge part of that with three straight 20 point games all with 50+% shooting. He paced South Alabama in an 85-56 drubbing of Southern Miss last month.
Southern Miss is due for a ton of regression as they are ranked tenth-worst in ShotQuality’s record luck rating. The Golden Eagles should have a record of 16-12 rather than 22-6 according to the site. Southern Miss is also the 23rd-luckiest team in the country per KenPom compared to South Alabama, who is the fourth-most unlucky.
With South Alabama on the right side of the regression line here, I’ll happily back the much hotter team playing its best ball as of late. The Jaguars opened up as the underdog here, but ShotQuality makes them a favorite of 3.3 points, and I’d play them to -1.5.
Best Bet: South Alabama +2 (play to -1.5)
Kentucky Wildcats at Arkansas Razorbacks
As the SEC regular season comes to a close, Kentucky, currently ranked 23rd in the AP Poll, travels to face Arkansas in a rematch of an earlier game this season. The Razorbacks won that prior matchup by 15 in Lexington, but that result was somewhat misleading.
In that matchup, there were 11 lead changes in the first half before Arkansas shot 72% in the second half and pulled away. Ricky Council and Anthony Black combined for 25 points after halftime. Despite that lopsided final number, ShotQuality graded it as a razor-thin margin and an expected Arkansas win by 0.1 points.
The Razorbacks shot above expectation in that game on both free throws and three-pointers. They hit 83.3% of their free throws in that game despite ranking just 275th in the country at a 69.2% rate this season. Meanwhile, they hit 44.4% of their threes, which is way above their normal 32.1% clip which ranks just 290th.
Kentucky has closed the year strong after midseason lull as they’ve won four of six games with all six being graded as ShotQuality wins. Meanwhile, Arkansas has lost two straight including a 75-57 drubbing at the hands of Tennessee. With the help of some negative shooting regression for the Hogs, I expect this to be a much closer result.
Best Bet: Kentucky +5 (play to +3.5)
Kansas State Wildcats at West Virginia Mountaineers
On a day absolutely filled to the brim with epic college basketball matchups, don’t overlook this Big 12 rematch with an early tipoff. Kansas State beat West Virginia at home in the first matchup 82-76 in a peculiar game. According to ShotQuality data, the expected final score was 100-92 – that’s a significant 34-point gap.
Overall, ShotQuality expected 14 more points to be scored on three-pointers between the two teams. They combined to shoot 7 of 34 from deep (20.5%) which was significantly below their normal rates as they both shoot above 34% from deep this season.
The Wildcats’ stout defense hasn’t been as good on the road as they have allowed 83.5 points per game across their eight conference road games. As a result, they have gone 7-3 to the over on the road this season. Meanwhile, West Virginia is 12-6 to the over at home.
Both of these teams also do a great job of getting to the free throw line – they both rank top 40 in free throw rate and are outside the top 290 in defensive free throw rate. They combined for a whopping 72 free throw attempts in that first matchup but hit just 56.9% of them. For two teams shooting over 73% from the line, positive regression should be expected here.
I lean towards West Virginia to get the win at home, and I imagine they’ll be a popular team to back in a revenge narrative. However, I see the most value on the over in this game as I expect both offenses to be shooting at higher clips from the three-point and free throw lines than they did in the first matchup.
Best Bet: Over 150 (play to 152)
Kansas Jayhawks at Texas Longhorns
Kansas has been one of the best teams in the country this year by all accounts. Currently ranked third in the AP poll, KenPom has them as one of three teams inside the top 21 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Jalen Wilson has played like the best player in the country at points this season and averages 19.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
However, I believe this is a great spot to fade the Jayhawks. Kansas won nine of their final eleven conference games to clinch the Big 12 regular season title, and they have nothing much left to play for on Saturday save for further bolstering their resume as a potential #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Meanwhile, Texas has a lot at stake. They still have a chance to claim the #2 seed ahead of the Big 12 tournament. They will also be eager to redeem themselves after a road loss to TCU on Wednesday, especially with the opportunity to get revenge for a loss to Kansas earlier this season.
While Kansas has been excellent, they are due for a bit of regression. According to ShotQuality, they have a record luck rating of -23.04, which is the sixth-lowest in the country. They’re also ranked 18th in KenPom’s luck ratings.
That regression could become a factor against this Texas team that is ranked top 30 by ShotQuality in forcing defensive turnovers, attacking the rim, and passing. Ranked tenth by KenPom, the Longhorns have had an excellent season behind the duo of Marcus Carr and Sir’Jabari Rice and will be a force in the tournament.
I love having the opportunity to begin fading this overperforming Kansas team against an elite outfit on the road. With much more at stake and an expected raucous home crowd, Texas roars to a statement win.
Best Bet: Texas -2.5 (play to -3.5)
Stanford Cardinal at Oregon Ducks
Oregon has a big game on Saturday. Not only is it their senior night, but they are playing for an opportunity to earn a top four seed in the Pac 12 tournament. With that comes an all important bye in the conference tourney.
To get that bye, they’ll need to beat Stanford and have Arizona State lose to USC. However, this Cardinal team beat Oregon earlier in the season, and won’t make things easy on them here.
Stanford is a potent shooting team ranked in the top 100 in 3-point percentage. Oregon is second-to-last in the Pac 12 in 3-point percentage allowed, and Stanford’s shooters should find space to operate as they hit 39.1% of their threes against the Ducks earlier this year.
Now finally healthy, Oregon center N’Faly Dante has become the lifeblood of the team as he leads the group with 13.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Stanford represents a challenge for him, though, as they rank seventh in KenPom’s height metric.
With that height, they rank outside the top 300 in frequency of shots allowed at the rim per ShotQuality. Oregon is ranked sixth in near-proximity field goal percentage, but Stanford’s size forces them to play on the perimeter more than they’re comfortable with.
The 6’11”, 250-pound Dante was held to just nine points on 44.4% from the field, which is significantly lower than his season shooting of 61.8%. Jermaine Couisnard stepped up with 18 points in that game, but it came at a very inefficient 33% clip.
Stanford is due for plenty of positive regression as they’ve been the third-most unlucky team in the country per KenPom. ShotQuality’s metrics show that they should have four more wins than they currently do.
While Oregon has the higher stakes in this game, we often see that lead to an overinflated spread, and I believe that’s the case here. Stanford’s size will create problems for Oregon’s interior-oriented offense, and that will make it difficult for the Ducks to pull away.
Best Bet: Stanford +7.5 (play to +5.5)