This article is part of our College Basketball Picks series.
Tuesday brings us another big college hoops slate, with tight conference clashes all across the country. Steve Peralta returns to preview some of the action and share his best bets of the day.
Creighton at Providence
Creighton is riding high, entering Tuesday with an eight-game winning streak. The Bluejays endured a brutal stretch in early-December, losing six straight games, but have since returned to form, winning 11 of 13 since December 22. This is obviously a phenomenal winning percentage, but a closer look reveals a rather favorable schedule. Since going through its six-game losing streak, Creighton has played in just five total road games, losing two of them to UConn and Xavier. Furthermore, Creighton is 3-4 in true road games this season, with two of the wins coming against Georgetown and Butler, two teams that rank last and third-to-last in the conference standings, respectively. Creighton's only other road win came at Seton Hall, undoubtedly a great victory for a resume, although it's also the only great road victory on there.
Providence, meanwhile, has yet to lose at home this season, sporting a perfect 13-0 record. This is hardly a new trend, however, as the Friars are 29-1 (.967) at home overall since the start of last season, and 37-4 (.902) if we go back to the start of the 2020-2021 season. Putting its record aside, the scoring stats further emphasize the Friars' performance boost when playing at home. On the road against Big East opponents this season, Providence is averaging 73 points per game, but the number jumps up to 81 points per game when playing at home. Its defense is actually holding steady, allowing conference opponents to score 70 points per game in both home and away games. The defense is noteworthy because it was a bit softer early against the non-conference opponents, but it has since tightened up, now ranked third-best in efficiency among Big East teams since the conference season tipped off. Either way, playing at home or on the road, Providence has continually proven to exceed expectations for the past couple of months. Since the start of January, Providence is 13-4 against the spread
Overall, these two teams aren't so far apart from each other. Creighton might be ranked a bit higher when looking at overall efficiency rankings, but Providence has played great basketball over the past couple of months now, especially at home, a factor we cannot overlook. All things considered, I'll take the points with the home team in what figures to be a close game.
College Basketball Best Bet: Providence +2
Illinois at Penn State
Illinois has only lost three games all season by 15-plus points, and one of those games happened when hosting Penn State back on December 10. Illinois has since won 10 of 14 games, playing much better than it did against the Nittany Lions in their first matchup, although further analysis suggests this is simply a bad matchup for the Illini.
Illinois is among the best defensive teams in all of college basketball, ranking 17th in KenPom's efficiency standings, although it hasn't been quite as effective on the perimeter. During conference play, Illinois ranks first in the Big Ten in two-point field goal percentage allowed, but it's allowing Big Ten opponents to make 34 percent of shots from behind the arc, ranked eighth in the conference. This weakness, relatively speaking, is important when facing the Nittany Lions because they are extremely reliant on three-point shooting. Penn State is currently making 39 percent of its three-point shots while shooting three-pointers at the sixth-highest rate in the country, yielding the highest three-pointer point distribution among all D1 teams. Given these stats and matchup notes, it's no surprise that Penn State made 12-of-24 three-pointers in its previous game at Illinois back in December.
The Nittany Lions have racked up quite a few losses in recent weeks, although it's worth pointing out they've been on the road for most of the time, playing at University Park in just four of the last 11 games. In its seven games away from camps during that stretch, Penn State matched up against teams like Purdue (twice), Rutgers and Maryland. The Nittany Lions have already defeated the likes of Indiana, Iowa and Michigan, so they've proven to be a potent offensive team despite the current four-game losing streak.
There's always a chance Penn State won't hit its long-range shots, but ultimately I'm betting the team that's desperate for a win will find a way to knock them down at home. I'll take the points.
College Basketball Best Bet: Penn State +3.5
Kansas at Oklahoma State
These two teams are among the best defensive squads in the country. Oklahoma State is currently ranked fifth in KenPom's defensive efficiency standings, with Kansas not far behind at No. 11.
Oklahoma State needs to stay sharp defensively because it's not playing at the same level on the other end of the floor, ranking No. 119 in the country in offensive efficiency and third-worst in the Big 12 during league competition. And Kansas, although it's playing much better offensively throughout the whole season, has had its own share of scoring droughts when facing conference opponents. The Jayhawks have been held to under 70 points in five of 12 conference games, including a 69-point performance against Oklahoma State back on New Year's Eve.
The home and away scoring splits for each team also point toward a lower-scoring game. Oklahoma State conference games are averaging 134 combined points per game when the Cowboys are on the road, but the number drops to 128 points per game when playing at Stillwater. Similarly, Kansas conference games are averaging 149 points per game at Allen Fieldhouse, but the number plummets to 141 points per game when playing on the road.
Add everything up, and we have all the makings of a defensive grinder. I'm on the under in this one.
College Basketball Best Bet: Under 139
Tuesday College Basketball Best Bets:
Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Tuesday:
- Providence +2
- Penn State +3.5
- Kansas at Oklahoma State - Under 139
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