It's Tuesday, and as promised: For the rest of the college hoops season I'm going to give you a college hoops gambling primer a few times a week, to get you through the long lull that is "life without football." They will run every Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday on the Aaron Torres Online page for the remainder of the season.
Before we get to today's preview, a few quick things: Remember, this isn't, nor will ever be a place where I hand out "a bunch of locks." Some days I will have official plays (as I had last week) but there are other days where I just won't feel great about any line. Today, for example is one of those days. I have official picks.
Still, that isn't the goal of these articles. Instead, what this is designed to do is make you a smarter gambler, to give you good information and let you decide for yourself. Essentially, I'm leading you to the water - and it's up to you whether you want to drink or not.
Anyway, let's get to today's board, and before we do, a quick reminder: If you do decide to gamble today, go ahead and use MyBookie. Use promo code "TORRES" at checkout and all first time users double your deposit. So you want to bet $50 on North Carolina to cover, they'll give you $100 to play with.
Now, let's get to the picks and where I lean on each game.
Mississippi State at No. 18 Tennessee (7:00 p.m., SEC Network)
A few weeks ago, I thought Tennessee might be the third best team in the country. Now, they are coming off two straight losses and as I tweeted on Saturday night, they just aren't very good. They haven't been defending at the same level, they turned the ball over too much and haven't played with much energy of late.
Worst of all though, they really don't have anyone who can create his own offense with Jaden Springer banged up and out with an ankle injury. Considering that he isn't expected back for this game and Santiago Vescovi is dealing with a hip injury, I don't see the offense getting substantially better today.
Given Tennessee's injury problems and the fact that the over/under essentially places this game in the 60's, I just don't see how you can justify taking Tennessee here. I don't love either side, but the obvious lean to me is Mississippi State plus the points.
Lean: Mississippi State (+9)
Kentucky at No. 9 Alabama (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Spread: Alabama (-6.5)
This line started as high as eight points in the morning and is down to 6.5 - but I just can't see how anyone in good conscious can bet Kentucky here.
Look, for as good as the Wildcats looked on Saturday against LSU, remember, it was less than a week ago that they went to Georgia - GEORGIA!! - and put up 62 points in a loss. I just can't get excited about placing money on them in this spot, even getting nearly seven points.
The reason I don't necessarily love taking Alabama either though is pretty simple: Mississippi State kind of showed the way to keep things competitive against them last Saturday. Since I was probably the only person on the planet watching that game, what I can tell you is, Mississippi State essentially slowed the tempo, got physical, didn't try to go shot for shot with Bama and tried to muck things up and make it ugly. It wasn't a tactic that worked - Alabama still won, but this was the closest Crimson Tide game in weeks.
Well, Kentucky has better players and better athletes than Mississippi State, so I could see them attempting the same tactic this evening.
Still, I think Bama is too explosive offensively, making my lean the Crimson Tide. I don't love it enough to bet it though.
Lean: Alabama (-6.5)
No. 24 Oklahoma at No. 5 Texas (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Spread: Texas (-4.5)
Put simply, there are way too many diverging factors here for me to feel great on either side.
On the plus side for Texas, they are way more athletic than Oklahoma. On the negative, Shaka Smart won't be in the building after testing positive for Covid. Oklahoma is also coming off a massive win against Kansas, which could work for or against them depending on how you look at it.
With Oklahoma playing a slow tempo and Texas maybe not quite able to get into a groove without Smart in the building I'd lean the UNDER more than anything
Lean: UNDER 143.5
North Carolina at Pitt (7:00 p.m. ET, ACC Network)
Spread: North Carolina (-3.5)
If I did have to put my hard earned money on one game tonight, it would probably be this one. I like North Carolina. A lot, actually.
The Tar Heels are quietly playing their best basketball of the season, have won five of six and Caleb Love is quietly figuring it out at the point guard position. He has averaged 16 points in his last three games. I also think that Pitt's biggest strength - the play of Justin Champagnie - will be somewhat neutralized by all the big bodies that UNC can throw at them.
I do of course worry about North Carolina's turnover woes and lack of shooting (mitigated somewhat by Pitt's own lack of shooting) but if I had something I'd call a "favorite play" for today, this would be it.
Lean: North Carolina (-3.5)
Butler at UConn (8:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
Spread: UConn (-5.5)
I love my UConn Huskies, everyone knows that. But this game is going to be brutal to watch.
UConn has struggled to score the ball since James Bouknight went out with injury, but they are also playing a Butler team that is averaging just 63.9 points per game, which is (almost incredibly) 308th nationally in scoring.
Because Butler plays good defense, my lean would be Bulldogs plus the points, but do yourself a favor and stay away from this one. It's going to be a rock fight.
Lean: Butler (+5.5)
No. 12 Missouri at Auburn (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Spread: Auburn (-2.5)
This line just makes absolutely no sense.
Missouri is the better team. And stylistically, they're a team that can give Auburn all sorts of fits, with a group of veteran, experienced guards that are going to put pressure on Sharife Cooper and try to make him give up the ball and have someone else beat them.
I get that Cooper is awesome, and I get that Missouri is coming off an emotional win, but this line is just too bizarre to me. Total stayaway.
Lean: Missouri (+2.5)
LSU at Texas A&M
Spread: LSU (-5.5)
There is no nice way to put this: Texas A&M is one of the worst offensive major college basketball teams I can ever remember (Butler is pretty bad too though). How about this: In their six SEC games so far this season, they have only broken the 60 point total once, and that was against Auburn, pre-Sharife Cooper. In their other games, here are their point totals: 54, 54, 54, 56, 52.
I could break down a lot of stats, but off two straight losses LSU needs a win and they get it here. LSU and the points is the obvious play, but probably the right one as well. If LSU didn't have the capability of being so explosive offensively (even if they haven't showed it in a few games) I would like the UNDER here as well.
Lean: LSU (-5.5)
Georgia Tech at Duke (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Spread: Duke (-6)
Another line that just really doesn't make sense.
I know that Duke is due for a bounce-back at some point, but to be giving six points here just feels like way too much. For all the flack Josh Pastner takes, Georgia Tech is legitimately good. Since starting 0-2 (after Pastner ran "contactless practices all fall), the Yellow Jackets are 7-2, with their only losses at Florida State and Virginia. Those are the two best teams in the ACC, and for what it's worth, the Yellow Jackets should've beaten Virginia this past weekend.
This line is so absurd it scares me - but the strong lean here would obviously be Tech plus the points.
Lean: Georgia Tech (+6)