This article is part of our College Basketball Picks series.
With Saturday's college basketball slate featuring notable matchups across all the conferences, Steve Peralta sifts through the action and presents his best bets for the evening.
Iowa State at Kansas
Kansas enters Saturday with an impressive record, standing tall at 15-1 as we cross the midway point of the season. Its only blemish occurred in late November in the Bahamas, when Tennessee crushed them by a final score of 64-50. Following that loss, the Jayhawks rattled off nine straight victories, although it's important to note that they've already had two extremely close calls since conference season started. Kansas nearly lost at home to Oklahoma State, with the Cowboys jumping out to a 15-point halftime lead. Kansas rallied to win, but easily could've lost, as Oklahoma State had a 69 percent chance of winning with under two minutes left, per KenPom. In the following game, Kansas traveled to Lubbock and again nearly lost. At the end of the game, Texas Tech was down by one point and had the ball with 20 seconds remaining. Kansas' defense held up and escaped with a three-point victory, but again this was an outcome that easily could've gone the other way. Saturday's opponent shares one major thing in common with Tennessee and Oklahoma State: elite defense. These two opponents and Iowa State all rank in the top 10 of KenPom's defensive adjusted efficiency standings, so Kansas will likely have its hands full once again.
Iowa State also has a remarkable record at 13-1, including a perfect 4-0 record against the Big 12. Iowa State's only losses came against Connecticut and on the road to Iowa, so there's not too much to nitpick as far as its overall results at the season's midpoint. Its offense was lagging a bit behind its defense earlier in the season, but the Cyclones' have shown noticeable offensive improvement in recent games. During conference play, Iowa State has the third-highest offensive efficiency rating in the Big 12, ranked one spot ahead of Kansas. It's also worth noting that the Cyclones have the highest effective field goal percentage and highest offensive rebounding rate among Big 12 teams in the same span. If Iowa State's offense keeps humming along, it's going to be extremely dangerous come March. The Cyclones' defensive play was already among the best during the non-conference season, and that trend has continued into the New Year. Through four conference games, Iowa State currently ranks number one in the Big 12 in defensive efficiency, defensive turnover rate and three-point percentage allowed. For good measure, I should note that Iowa State also has the highest defensive turnover rate among all D1 teams for the entire season, so the Cyclones' defense is extremely aggressive and tenacious any way you slice it.
When looking at overall numbers from the start of the season, Kansas is understandably favored by a decent margin, but a closer look at recent performances suggests these two teams are not as far apart as they appear. When looking at the efficiency numbers during conference play, Iowa State ranks higher than Kansas on both ends of the court. Iowa State might not win, but I'm betting they keep it close and force Kansas to work hard for the victory. I'll take the points in this matchup.
College Basketball Best Bet: Iowa State +8
California at Washington
For most of the season, California has been abysmal offensively while doing its best to win games with its defense (without much success). Now that conference season has started, California has flipped the script, suddenly scoring tons of points as its defense struggles. During conference play, The Golden Bears rank sixth in offensive efficiency but 11th in defensive efficiency among all Pac-12 teams. Cal recently scored 80 points against Colorado and then followed up that game by dropping 92 points on Stanford, so Cal has shown it's now capable of racking up a ton of points, which didn't seem plausible back in November.
Washington, meanwhile, is coming off arguably its best offensive game of the season, scoring 86 points against Stanford. The Huskies haven't been the most efficient offensive team, but they can still put up plenty of points thanks to their style of play. Washington prefers playing at a fast tempo, currently ranked the second-quickest in the Pac-12 during conference play, per KenPom, so there's a good chance the scoring will escalate for both teams. Washington has allowed opponents to score at least 69 points in each of its last six games, and if Cal can keep up its recent offensive success then it has a decent chance of extending this streak to seven games.
Considering Washington's playing style, and the recent performances of both teams, I'm expecting a good amount of points in this matchup. The over/under number is just low enough to give it a shot, I'm on the over in this one.
College Basketball Best Bet: Over 130.5
Wake Forest at Boston College
Wake Forest has won four of six conference games, with its only losses coming at North Carolina and at Clemson. The latter is the only team in the ACC that still hasn't dropped a conference game, so that outcome doesn't look as bad as it did in early December. Wake Forest has already proven itself on a few occasions this season, winning a road game at Wisconsin against a stingy defense, and then more recently dominating Duke by double-digits. The Demon Deacons have been playing at a high level ever since conference season started, particularly on offense, recording the second-highest offensive efficiency rating among ACC teams. Additionally, against conference opponents, Wake Forest ranks number one in the ACC in effective field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage. Given these stats, it comes as no surprise that the Demon Deacons are scoring loads of points. Wake Forest has scored at least 75 points in its last five games, all against ACC teams. And considering the defense it's facing on Saturday, the Demon Deacons are likely to continue the streak.
Unlike its opponent on Saturday, Boston College has not played well on either end of the court. The Eagles rank among the bottom four teams in the ACC in both offensive and defensive efficiency against conference opponents, a foreboding sign as they go through the heart of the conference schedule. Boston College has already lost four of six conference games, with the only wins coming against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, both of which are currently sitting at 1-5 in the ACC standings. In total, the Eagles have had seven opportunities at earning a quality win, per KenPom, and they've lost all but one, the aforementioned overtime victory against Virginia Tech.
All things considered, the bottom line comes down to Wake Forest's offensive ceiling. The Demon Deacons have proven they can score as easily as any team in the conference, while the same cannot be said about the Eagles. And on top of its massive offensive advantage, Wake Forest also ranks higher than Boston College on the defensive end during conference season as well. Road games can sometimes be tougher than expected, but given a short line, I'll take the road team in this matchup.
College Basketball Best Bet: Wake Forest -2.5
Saturday College Basketball Best Bets:
Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Saturday:
- Iowa State +8
- California at Washington - Over 130.5
- Wake Forest -2.5
For up-to-date information on the latest college basketball odds and props from multiple sportsbooks, check out the College Basketball odds page on RotoWire.
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