Here is everything you need to know when betting the biggest games this weekend.
As always, this is coming out before the Vegas lines for Saturday’s games, so we are using projections from KenPom, Torvik and Haslametrics to walk through how the game will play out.
No. 16 TEXAS TECH at No. 11 KANSAS, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (CBS)
- KENPOM: Kansas 66, Texas Tech 63
- HASLAMETRICS: Kansas 67, Texas Tech 64
- TORVIK: Kansas 67, Texas Tech 64
This matchup is a tough one to parse.
On the one hand, Kansas has been in a funk offensively that centers around the fact that they don’t have enough perimeter shooting, Marcus Garrett has been a non-factor offensively and teams can throw two bodies at Dedric Lawson with reckless abandon. But the crux of the issue stems from KU’s size. They’ve been forced to play small without Udoka Azubuike and they’ve struggled on the defensive end of the floor without being able to matchup with the size of teams that go big while being unable to take advantage of the mismatch offensively.
Texas Tech is the third-best defense nationally, according to KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, so that does not bode well for Kansas. But the Red Raiders really struggle to score at times, and they — like Kansas — tend to play four guards with Jarrett Culver at the four.
The result is a fascinating matchup between a potential top five pick in Culver and one of the best defensive players in the country in Garrett. We’ll also get to see Tariq Owens, an athletic marvel and one of college basketball’s best shot-blockers, going head-to-head with the all-american Lawson.
PICKS: If the line is Kansas (-3), I think that I would probably lean Kansas, although I don’t love it. The Jayhawks have struggled this season, but they are still undefeated at home and on neutral courts. Their real struggles have come on the road, where they are just 1-5 this season. I know Texas Tech won in the Phog last year, and I firmly believe that the Red Raiders are a top 15 team with a top ten coach in the sport, but I can’t pick against Bill Self in this spot, not when he has a team that’s lost two in a row and three of four.
that said, I think the under might be the best that I like more here, depending on where the line opens. If it is in the low-to-mid 130s, hammer the under.
No. 9 NORTH CAROLINA at No. 15 LOUISVILLE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN)
- KENPOM: Louisville 79, North Carolina 77
- HASLAMETRICS: Louisville 82, North Carolina 80
- TORVIK: Louisville 81, North Carolina 78
The game of the weekend, in large part due to the fact that just three weeks ago, Louisville went into Chapel Hill and beat down the Tar Heels, handing Roy Williams the worst loss that he’s ever suffered at home as the head coach at UNC.
Neither team has lost since then, meaning that this is now a matchup between the two teams in the ACC that have been keeping pace with Duke and Virginia at the top of the league. The question I have heading into this game is how North Carolina decides to lineup. Louisville’s preferred lineup features Malik Williams at the five with Dwayne Sutton and Jordan Nwora — a pair of athletic, versatile combo-forwards — flanking him on the frontline. This will be a problem for the Tar Heels if they opt to roll out their typical, two-big look. Sutton, in particular, was sensational in the first meeting, finishing with 17 points, nine boards, seven assists and four steals in his breakout game.
If I was coaching North Carolina, I would play Luke Maye at the five with Cam Johnson and Nassir Little joining him, matching up with the versatility Louisville will have on display. But I also would have been doing this since the first day of the season, so the assumption of rational coaching probably shouldn’t come into play here.
North Carolina tends to go as Coby White goes. Roy Williams’ offense is heavily reliant on point guard play, and as a volume scorer that is A) a freshman and B) not all that adept at making teammates better at this point in his career, it makes sense. He can be somewhat streaky, and when he’s bad, UNC is beatable.
Louisville does have some really good on-ball defenders, specifically Khwan Fore and Darius Perry, so if they can once again do a job on White — he had four points, four turnovers, and three fouls in 19 minutes in the first meeting — I think Louisville wins.
PICKS: I do think that this game will be close. If the line opens at Louisville (-1) I would lean the Cardinals here. If it opens at Louisville (-5), then I’d probably want to be on UNC’s side, although I would feel less good about that bet.
No. 7 KENTUCKY at FLORIDA, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (ESPN)
- KENPOM: Kentucky 64, Florida 62
- HASLAMETRICS: Kentucky 62, Florida 61
- TORVIK: Kentucky 63, Florida 62
I might be a bad person to speak on this, but I am just not sold on Florida this year. The metrics love them because they’ve lost a lot of close games, but they’ve still lost those games. And now they are playing without Keith Stone while Jalen Hudson has been about as effective as Henry Hudson this season.
Kentucky, on the other hand, is absolutely rolling. Tyler Herro and Ashton Hagans have emerged, Reid Travis is starting to understand what his role is and P.J. Washington has been arguably the best player in college basketball over the course of the last ten days.
PICKS: I have no idea what this line is going to look like when it opens. The metrics are all projecting a close, low-scoring game, but this is also Kentucky. I thought they would open up as three or four point favorites against Kansas and the line opened at six.
I do think Kentucky wins this game, but I don’t expect it to be a blowout. Florida may start three freshmen, but they are tough and competitive and the O-Dome is never an easy place to play. I’d take Kentucky up to about (-4), but given that these are two of the top ten defenses in American and that neither of them are playing all that fast this year, the better bet may end up being the under if the total opens in the 130s.
No. 21 MARYLAND at No. 24 WISCONSIN, Fri. 9:00 p.m. (FS1)
- KENPOM: Wisconsin 68, Maryland 62
- HASLAMETRICS: Wisconsin 67, Maryland 62
- TORVIK: Wisconsin 67, Maryland 62
I think Wisconsin wins this game. They are playing at home, the Kohl Center has historically been one of the toughest places in the country to win and, frankly, the Badgers are just the better basketball team. I don’t think Bruno Fernando gets the best of Ethan Happ (but it’ll be fun to see him try) and Brad Davison strikes me as precisely the kind of pest that will keep Anthony Cowan from getting into a rhythm.
PICKS: This is a Friday night game, so the lines are already out. It makes sense that Wisconsin would be favored by five since that is more or less what all the metrics are projecting. They are also projecting that this game ends up under 130, and the total opened at 133.5 The Badgers are very, very slow. Maryland is just very slow. Throw in the fact that Wisconsin has a top five defense and that they have failed to reached 16 points in the first half twice in league play — including at Maryland — and the under seems like the best bet you can get.
No. 12 VIRGINIA TECH at No. 23 N.C. STATE, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (ACCNET)
- KENPOM: Virginia Tech 78, N.C. State 77
- HASLAMETRICS: Virginia Tech 79, N.C. State 76
- TORVIK: Virginia Tech 79, N.C. State 78
This is a fascinating game matchup. N.C. State loves to press, loves to run and is as good at forcing turnovers as anyone in college basketball. That works against some teams. I don’t think it will work against a Virginia Tech team that essentially starts three point guards — Justin Robinson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Wabissa Bede — and is the second-best three-point shooting team in college basketball.
PICKS: I know they’re on the road and I know the Wolfpack just took Virginia to overtime, but if this ends up as a pick-em or with the Hokies getting points I will be all over that line.
TEXAS at No. 20 IOWA STATE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
- KENPOM: Iowa State 74, Texas 66
- HASLAMETRICS: Iowa State 75, Texas 65
- TORVIK: Iowa State 75, Texas 67
Texas, coming off of an impressive win at home against Kansas, now heads on the road to take on the Cyclones in Hilton Coliseum.
Isn’t life in the Big 12 fun?
Texas will grind you down defensively, but they’ve actually shown to be pretty capable of playing small this season even it their win over Kansas came because they played big. And while this group is now just 1-4 on the road with the one win coming against a Dean Wade-less Kansas State team, their three Big 12 road losses were by an average of three points. That includes a loss at Kansas.
PICKS: Iowa State is might just be the best team in the Big 12, and I do think that they win this game, but if the line creeps up towards the Cyclones (-10), then I would probably lean the Longhorns. Their record doesn’t quite show how good they have been against a monstrous schedule.
No. 22 MISSISSIPPI STATE at OLE MISS, Sat. 3:30 p.m. (SECNET)
- KENPOM: Ole Miss 76, Mississippi State 75
- HASLAMETRICS: Mississippi State 77, Ole Miss 77
- TORVIK: Ole Miss 77, Mississippi State 74
I felt like I had to mention this game in a weekend preview because it is a rivalry game between two good teams in the SEC, but I honestly want no part of betting it. I do not think Ole Miss is all that good, and while I feel a little bit better about the Bulldogs, Mississippi State also lost at home to this Ole Miss team in January.
PICKS: If this game ends up a pick-em, I would lean towards the home team, but I will have my action elsewhere this weekend.
ST. JOHN’S at No. 2 DUKE, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (ESPN)
- KENPOM: Duke 90, St. John’s 71
- HASLAMETRICS: Duke 96, St. John’s 71
- TORVIK: Duke 93, St. John’s 73
The thing about this St. John’s team is that they are not all that well-coached and they have not been all that good in the Big East this year. Think about it like this: The Big East has just two teams that are above .500 in league play and the Johnnies are not one of them. They are well and truly on the bubble right now.
PICKS: 20 points is a lot of points to cover, but I just cannot see this St. John’s team finding a way to hang with Duke. They basically do the same thing that Duke does — create mismatches, play with versatile athletes, win on talent — but they’re just not as good as the Blue Devils.
Throw in the fact that Shamorie Ponds is going to have to deal with Tre Jones, and I’ll ride Duke to cover.
INDIANA at No. 6 MICHIGAN STATE, Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPN)
- KENPOM: Michigan State 79, Indiana 62
- HASLAMETRICS: Michigan State 82, Indiana 62
- TORVIK: Michigan State 80, Indiana 63
Indiana is an absolute train wreck this season. The Hoosiers have lost seven straight games, their star player looks like he has checked out and the lack of confidence with this group is palpable. Michigan State, on the other hand, has been rolling. They are now rated above Michigan on KenPom and look like they are hitting their stride.
PICKS: I love the Spartans. For starters, they are actually a better team without Josh Langford. As good as Langford is, he does not fit the role that he is asked to play as well as Aaron Henry and Kyle Ahrens. The latter two are better athletes and better defenders that can shoot but that don’t see the ball stick in their hands. Langford was ruled out for the year on Wednesday.
The Spartans are also coming off of a mollywhopping at Purdue in a game that was played on an island on big CBS on a Sunday afternoon with no football. Everyone watched it, which means that hopefully public money will move the line in our favor.