Best Bets: Previewing Baylor-Kansas, Myles Powell-Markus Howard

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The Vegas lines for Saturday’s games were not released at the time of this publishing. Score projections from KenPomTorvik and Haslametrics were used in their stead. 

No. 4 BAYLOR at No. 3 KANSAS, Sat. 1:00 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM: Kansas 69, Baylor 61
  • TORVIK: Kansas 72, Baylor 62
  • HASLAM: Kansas 74, Baylor 57
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: Kansas 69, Baylor 61.5

My thoughts on this game really are no different than what I thought about Kansas facing off with West Virginia last week with the notable exception that Baylor just so happens to be a better team that West Virginia.

These are two of the nation’s top ten defenses. Baylor has been playing primarily man defense this season, but as they showed against Texas Tech, they can flip between man and zone easily. They have the size inside to be able to deal with Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack, especially if Tristan Clark is able to give them 15 minutes on Saturday, but with the versatile Mark Vital on the floor, they can keep playing big while matching up with Kansas when they go to their four-guard lineup.

The Jayhawks, on the other hand, currently sit as the second-best defense in college hoops, according to KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, and their best perimeter defenders should be able to matchup with Baylor’s talented guards.

Put another way, I have a hard time seeing how this game gets away from Baylor. I know that they have never won in Phog Allen Fieldhouse, but they do tend to play the Jayhawks tough on the road. They’ve lost by eight, three and five points in their last three trips to Lawrence, and none of those teams were as good as this team.

BEST BET: In a battle between legitimate top five teams, eight (or ten, or 17) points are just too many points, and that’s before you factor in how well these teams matchup with each other defensively. I’ll take Baylor and the points as long as it is (+7.5) and above.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: So the line opened up at Baylor (+7.5), which is the floor of where I feel comfortable betting the Bears. That’s where I’m leaning, and that’s probably what I am going to bet, but I’m not going to feel great about it.

No. 22 TEXAS TECH at No. 17 WEST VIRGINIA, Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • KENPOM: West Virginia 67, Texas Tech 60
  • TORVIK: West Virginia 67, Texas Tech 58
  • HASLAM: West Virginia 67, Texas Tech 58

On Friday’s podcast, we talked about some of the issues that Texas Tech has in the Big 12 this season, namely they they just do not have the size inside to be able to handle the best teams in the Big 12.

West Virginia is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, and I don’t think that is going to change against a team that is going to roll out T.J. Holyfield and Chris Clarke to try and deal with Big Sheeb and Derek Culver.

That said, the Mountaineers turn the ball over on nearly 21 percent of their possessions on the season — and over 27 percent during Big 12 play — while Texas Tech just forced 20 turnovers on 62 possessions (32.3%) against Baylor.

BEST BET: I think that if this total opens at 128 or above, the under is most definitely in play. I also think that the Red Raiders are going to be able to keep this thing fairly close. The more turnovers they force, the fewer possessions West Virginia is going to be able to get to the offensive glass, which is where I think their best offense is going to come from.

I don’t know where Tech’s offense is going to come from (which is why the under is the more intriguing bet here), but if you need to take a side, the Red Raiders at (+7.5) or higher has value.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: This line opened up at West Virginia (-5) and immediately dropped to (-4.5). The value is on West Virginia at that number, especially when playing at home; keep in mind that we have not seen Texas Tech have to play a road game in league play yet.

MARQUETTE at SETON HALL, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (CBSSN)

  • KENPOM: Seton Hall 76, Marquette 69
  • TORVIK: Seton Hall 77, Marquette 70
  • HASLAM: Seton Hall 78, Marquette 69

As this season has gone on, the Golden Eagles have gotten more and more reliant on Markus Howard’s game-changing ability to win them games. In three games against Seton Hall last season, Howard averaged 17.7 points while shooting 10-for-46 (21.7%) from the floor and 6-for-28 (21.4%) from three. In the game at the Prudential Center, he shot 2-for-11 from the floor and finished with just six points in 28 foul-plagued minutes in a 73-64 loss.

(As an aside, Howard actually scored 21 points in a game where he shot 1-for-15 against Seton Hall in the Big East tournament; he took 24 free throws in that game.)

Anyway, I fully expect Quincy McKnight to spend Saturday afternoon covering Howard like a wet blanket.

BEST BETS: I like Seton Hall up to (-7.5).

*SATURDAY UPDATE: The line here opened up at Seton Hall (-6) and it has yet to move away from Seton Hall (-6). This is my favorite bet of the day.

No. 12 MARYLAND at IOWA, Fri. 7:00 p.m. (FS1)

  • KENPOM: Maryland 74, Iowa 73
  • TORVIK: Iowa 74, Maryland 72
  • HASLAM: Iowa 72, Maryland 71
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: Maryland 74, Iowa 72

On the one hand, Iowa is 10-5 this season, they’ve been better but still something of a mess on the defensive side of the ball and losing Jordan Bohannon certainly didn’t help matters. At the same time, Maryland has looked like a team that is starting to put things together. They are coming off of back-to-back impressive wins over Indiana and Ohio State at home, and we know that they have enough talent to be a serious problem if they do find a way to put it all together.

Having said that, Iowa — who is not ranked but who is a top 25 team according to all of the metrics I use — has played their last two games on the road, where Big Ten teams are 4-26 this season. This game is, of course, going to be played in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in a spot where it feels like we’d be buying on Iowa low in a must-win game (they’re currently 1-3 in the Big Ten) while fading a Maryland team that is 0-2 on the road this season at a high point.

BEST BET: Iowa is getting points at home right now, but instead of betting the Hawkeyes at (+1.5) or (+2), I will be taking the money line at +110.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: Cha-ching.

No. 11 OHIO STATE at INDIANA, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (FOX)

  • KENPOM: Ohio State 69, Indiana 66
  • TORVIK: Ohio State 69, Indiana 66
  • HASLAM: Ohio State 71, Indiana 64

Unlike Iowa-Maryland, I do not feel comfortable betting on Indiana in this situation.

After getting blown out by the Terps in College Park last week, Indiana returned home and needed to erase a late 10-point deficit to avoid a loss to Northwestern in Assembly Hall.

At the same, I don’t feel comfortable betting on an Ohio State team that has been good defensively while struggling to find a way to score outside of Kaleb Wesson, and I definitely don’t want to make that bet when the Buckeyes are facing a team that plays the Pack-Line.

BEST BET: I think the under is the play here. I fully expect Ohio State to make life difficult for the Hoosiers, and I have not felt good about what the Buckeyes are doing offensively for a while. If the total is 135 or above, let’s get on that under.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: This is a gross spot. The line opened at Ohio State (-2) and has since dropped to (-1.5). I don’t think there is enough juice on Indiana’s ML (+110) to make it intriguing, but taking a Big Ten team on the road is just as uncomfortable.

Then there is the total, which opened at 133 and has since moved 135, which is the floor for where I would feel comfortable betting the under. If you’re asking me where I’m leaning, it’s Ohio State (-1.5) and the under, but I certainly do not feel good about it.