Welcome to 2022. We have our first big Tuesday slate of the New Year. It looks glorious. After a slow start we have hit eight out of our last 10 college basketball picks. Hoping that late run takes us into the New Year steaming. We got big matchups in the SEC with Kentucky at LSU, Providence at Marquette, Kansas at Oklahoma State, and more. Without further ado let’s get back to breaking down the games.
All lines are presented by DraftKings Sportsbook:
Oklahoma at Baylor
Spread: Baylor -12
This is kind of a bad spot for both teams. Oklahoma is coming off a long Covid-pause and has to prepare for the best defensive team in college basketball on short notice. The Sooners did not look great on New Year's Day against Kansas State. Good news for the Sooners, they get Tanner Groves back in this one. Baylor is coming off a major high after a top 10 road win against Iowa State. They will be playing a home game without students in the stands. Oklahoma ranks in the top five in efficient field goal percentage and second in two-point offense. I worry about Baylor’s ability to switch everything on defense. It’s a reason they rank fourth in defensive efficiency. Oklahoma is pretty gritty defensively and trusts Moser to be able to scheme against Baylor’s elite athleticism. It just seems 12 points is too much in this spot. Give me the Sooners to stay within the number.
The pick: Oklahoma +12
Ohio at Akron
Spread: Akron (-2)
We got a matchup between the two best teams in the MAC. Akron is coming off six straight wins including a double digit beatdown against conference preseason favorite Buffalo. Remember too that Akron took Ohio State to the final buzzer in their opening game. The Zips have one of the best front court duos with Enrique Freeman and Ali Ali. Both are averaging double figures and do a great job forcing fouls. However, the Zips shoot less than 70 percent from the line as a team. The Zips may not have an answer for Ohio’s Mark Sears. Bryan Trimble missed the last game for Akron, and he provides very important spacing. Carter's three-point ability will move Freeman away from the rim where he is most efficient. If Ohio can rebound and hold up inside, they should be able to run away this one. Home court crowds will be limited with students being away from break. Give me Ohio here.
The pick: Ohio +2
Kentucky at LSU
Spread: LSU (-2)
I have been going back and forth on this game since last night. On one hand, I thought there may be some overreaction to LSU’s loss against Auburn. LSU fell into a 18-1 deficit early, but they more or less played even with Auburn the rest of the way- one could argue they were the better team in the second half. Also LSU quietly has the No. 1 defense in the country per Ken Pom. Kentucky hasn’t really seen the type of ball pressure LSU is going to bring. It seems like the entire world is on Kentucky.
But while LSU is great defensively, they simply cannot shoot the ball. The Tigers rank eighth in the country in near proximity rate, (points scored via dunks/lay-ups). However, the Tigers rank 284th in three-point percentage. Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe will be a menace on the offensive boards and in the defensive interior. Unlike Kentucky teams of the past, this squad can shoot the basketball. LSU’s Brandon Murray is a game time decision, and he is the best ball screen and perimeter defender on the team. Kentucky may get down a little bit early, there will be live betting opportunities. I see Kentucky grinding this game out for a win when it is all said and done.
The pick: Kentucky +2
Providence at Marquette
Spread: Marquette (-1)
While our last pick was square, this one is quite contrarian. The whole world is on the Friars. The way they are playing, can anyone blame them. They are off to a 13-1 start to the season and have a 7-1 record against top 100 teams. They have been a bettors' dream covering 70 percent of their games this season, and borrowing some words from Book it With Trent - they are a wagon. But I learned from playing on the Oregon trail that even the sturdiest wagons don’t successfully cross every river. While the Friars are feeling good about themselves, the Golden Eagles are desperate for a win after dropping five out of their last six. During this stretch both of Marquette top scorers have gone cold at the same time. Darryl Morsell has shot 35 percent from the floor and leading scorer Justin Lewis is shooting 32 percent.
While Providence has been good, they have been quite lucky all year. They rank in the top 20 in the “luck” metric per Ken Pom. Their best wins against Wisconsin happened when the Badgers were missing Jonathon Davis, and Seton Hall’s depth was essentially depleted when Providence won at home. Regression is due for both teams and the Friars luck is due to run out while Shaka Smart is destined to have something break his way. Give me the Golden Eagles at home.
The pick: Marquette ML up to (-130)
Kansas at Oklahoma State
Spread: Kansas (-6.5)
My favorite bet of the night. Oklahoma State is coming off a long Covid pause and are playing their first game since December 18th. The big news is that Bill Self will start Mitch Lightfoot over David McCormack at center. Oklahoma State doesn’t have insane length, not sure it matters a lot. If McCormack does end up getting run, he may be extra motivated.
Last year, OSU was able to give Kansas some problems pressuring the ball and scoring in transition. Cade Cunningham is no longer in the building. With a shortened break along with Covid legs, I don’t know how much pressure Oklahoma State brings here. But with Remy Martin at point guard, I expect Kansas to kill them when they do. Oklahoma State will have avenues to score with Avery Anderson. But I just don’t see them slowing down this Kansas offense. Bill Self is running a more up-tempo style ranking 37th nationally in pace. The Cowboys rank 23rd in adjusted offensive possession length. Kaleb Boone will be able to get drives to the rim without McCormack in the middle.
So with that being said we are going to take over here. OSU has hit the over in six of their last eight games while Kansas is 8-2-2 to the over this season. The books have not adjusted to the tempo Kansas has played with offensively. We are going to take advantage of it again here.
The pick: Over 144
Follow Austin Montgomery on Twitter @AMontgomeryLive
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