So incase you missed the big announcement (well, I don't know if "big" is the right word, but it was an announcement), yesterday I let you know that I will be doing college hoops betting previews every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday here at Aaron Torres Online.
After crushing it in college football and Austin Montgomery's NFL picks, it only seems fitting that we now transition to college hoops for the remainder of the season.
So yeah, the college hoops betting previews started on Tuesday and started with a bang, as my best bet (the Seton Hall-Villanova OVER) cashed, and three of my four "leans" also hit as well.
Now, let's get to today's picks, on what is actually a pretty quiet board.
And before we do, a quick reminder: The goal here isn't to promise a million winners, but instead, to make you a smarter gambler. If you're reading these articles looking for me to hand out winners and picks for every game, well you're in the wrong place. No gambler has a great feel for every single game on the board, and to pick a winner in every one would be just totally and completely dishonest of me. After all, if I wouldn't bet a game myself, why would I expect you to do the same? So yes, in these previews I will pick a "best bet" or two. But there are other games that I won't be betting, where instead, I'll give you a lean, to try and help you figure out which way to go.
And before we get started remember that these previews are brought to you by MyBookie. If you want to gamble tonight, use the promo code "TORRES" and anyone who signs up for the first time automatically doubles your deposit.
Now, to the picks:
Northwestern at Wisconsin (8:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
Spread: Wisconsin (-12)
I never thought I'd live in a world where a Northwestern-Wisconsin game became my best bet, yet here we are. I also never thought I'd live in a world where I'd confidently go into a game on the Northwestern side, especially after they've lost five straight, all by double-digits.
But hey, new year, new me, right?
Kidding. Well sort of.
In all seriousness though, this is the old saying "Play numbers, not teams," and although Northwestern hasn't been all that good these last few weeks, I actually think that this match-up favors them to keep things close. That's because, the one thing Northwestern doesn't really do well (rebound the ball) is something that Wisconsin doesn't do particularly well either.
Seriously, here are the stats on this. In their recent losses, Northwestern has been outrebounded by 13 against Iowa, 12 against Illinois and 14 against Michigan. When that happens, you aren't beating anyone, let alone good, Big Ten teams.
However, Wisconsin ranks just 190th nationally in rebounding margin, essentially getting the same number of boards as their opponents, a number that is only slightly better than Northwestern (they rank 205th in the same category). Instead, Wisconsin generally beats you by simply being smarter than you and limiting their mistakes - they rank third nationally in turnovers per game. The thing is though, Northwestern is right behind them at sixth in the country.
Add in the fact that Wisconsin really isn't built to cover big spreads (three of their last four wins were by single digits) and this is just a spot that I like Northwestern to keep things close.
Wisconsin will win outright. But my play is Northwestern and the points.
The Pick: Northwestern (+12)
Extended Thoughts and Leans:
As I said up top, when I do these articles I don't want to spend the whole time handing out winners in games that I don't feel comfortable on. Any real gambler (or even a fake one like me) knows that you can't possibly have a confident pick on every single game, and if you do, you're probably going to go broke pretty quickly.
Therefore, here are some thoughts on each of these games, as well as where I would lean if I was betting them.
Wake Forest at North Carolina (7:00 p.m. ET, ACC Network)
Spread: North Carolina (-11)
To be perfectly blunt, these two teams have such drastic, differing styles it's hard for me to figure out what to make of this game, or even how it will be played.
On the one hand, Wake Forest, which is small and fast and does a good job of mucking games up and turning people over. They're forcing over 15 turnovers per game, which is one of the top marks in the ACC. And in theory that should be advantage against a North Carolina team that turns the ball over at an alarming rate.
The issue is that Wake Forest is also one of the worst rebounding teams in the ACC, and are facing a UNC squad which is one of the best rebounding teams in college hoops. The Tar Heels rank No. 2 nationally in rebounding margin in all of college hoops, grabbing a staggering 44 per game. That is 12 rebounds more per game than their opponents.
Because of it, my lean here is North Carolina - I think they're going to kill Wake Forest on the glass. At the same time, betting North Carolina here would be going against everything they've done all year, since they literally haven't beaten a single ACC team by 11 or more points.
I'm also just not sure Wake Forest is explosive enough offensively for the OVER to be in play.
Again, just a big, fat stay away.
The Pick: Stay Away, Lean North Carolina (-11)
Kentucky at Georgia (7:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
Spread: Kentucky (-4.5)
Believe it or not (and many of you might not) I actually do like Kentucky in this spot.
That's because one, Georgia stinks.
And two, there have been plenty of games this season that Kentucky was literally a play or two away from actually winning. They could've (and probably should've) beaten Notre Dame, had a chance against Louisville and Kansas late, and even in Saturday's game against Auburn had a shot. They were up at halftime, and if it weren't for John Calipari's bizarre substitution patterns (the team's leading scorer in the first half, Dontaie Allen didn't play for the first seven minutes of the second half) probably would've won.
Yet that same argument is why I won't be betting this one. I just don't know how anyone, in good conscious can honestly have any idea what they're getting from the Wildcats - both players and coaching staff. That is especially true after Calipari vowed to shake up the starting lineup after the Auburn game.
So yeah, in the end, I think Kentucky wins. But I can also think of about a billion better ways to spend my money than by betting on them.
The Pick: Stay Away, Lean Kentucky (-4.5)
Providence at No. 11 Creighton (7:00 p.m. ET, FS1)
Spread: Creighton (-9)
These teams played just a few weeks ago, in a game where Creighton had a 13-point lead with just seven minutes to go, before Providence made a wild run to make things look respectable. Don't be fooled by the 67-65 final score, the Jays were the significantly better team.
The issue is that Creighton had All-American guard Marcus Zegarowski in that game, a player who has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. It's unclear if he'll play in this one and even if he does, it's clear he won't be at 100 percent.
With Zegarowski in the lineup I would like Creighton here, but now I lean more towards the UNDER. Creighton clearly isn't as explosive without their All-American guard, and it showed on Saturday when they only scored 66 points against Butler, and Providence isn't a dynamic offensive team as is.
Of course on the off chance that Zegarowski not only plays, but is relatively healthy, the Jays could put up 80 here no problem and the game could easily go OVER.
So yeah, unless you know the status of Zegarowski (which, if you do, shout out to you) I wouldn't touch this one.
The Pick: Stay Away, Lean UNDER 146
Auburn at Arkansas (9:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
Spread: Arkansas (-6)
I mean seriously, what a weird number, right? Arkansas is coming off back-to-back 20-point losses, and is favored against an Auburn team that just beat Kentucky by six?
Does Vegas know something we don't? It sure seems like it.
The only explanation I can think of is that Arkansas' 2-4 record in the SEC is a little bit misleading. Of their four losses, three have come on the road to arguably the three best teams in the SEC - Alabama, LSU and Tennessee. While the last two (Alabama and LSU) were alarming, Arkansas outplayed Tennessee for big stretches, even if they didn't get the win.
Still, even if you use that logic, it's hard to shake what we saw the last two times Arkansas played, where they not only lost to LSU and Alabama, but didn't put up much fight in the process.
If I had a lean, I guess it would be Auburn plus the points. But you're a lot braver than me if you decide to bet this one.
The Pick: Stay Away, Lean Auburn (+6)
OFFICIAL PICKS: Northwestern (+12) at Wisconsin