This article is part of our College Basketball Picks series.
As we close out February, Tuesday's college hoops slate features several teams making one final push to boost their March prospects. Steve Peralta returns to preview the matchups and offer his best bets.
Arkansas at Tennessee
Nick Smith is officially back. The projected lottery pick returned to the starting lineup on February 18, and Arkansas promptly dominated Florida by 19 points before beating Georgia by 32 points in the following game. Arkansas then met its match this past Saturday when it traveled to Tuscaloosa, ultimately falling to Alabama by three points. In the loss, Smith played all 40 minutes and Arkansas kept itself in the game until the very end, clearly a positive performance despite the outcome. Even before Smith returned, Arkansas was an elite defensive team. The Razorbacks rank tenth in the country in KenPom's defensive efficiency standings, so once you combine their defense with Smith's talent, their ceiling rises considerably.
Tennessee let out some frustration in its most recent game, defeating South Carolina by 40 points, although the Volunteers still have a lot to make up for over the past month. Since February 1, Tennessee has lost five of eight games, including losses to Florida, Vanderbilt and Missouri. The Volunteers did collect a notable home victory against Alabama in that span, but that game has looked more like an outlier compared to the rest of its more recent performances. Tennessee's biggest weakness is its inconsistent scoring, failing to score more than 70 points in six of its last eight games.
There's always a chance that Tennnessee's suffocating defense will prove me wrong, but I'm betting that Arkansas will keep this one close. The Razorbacks are playing with a new edge now that Nick Smith is back in the fold, and his potential can't be overlooked. I'm taking the points in this matchup.
College Basketball Best Bet: Arkansas +6.5
Texas A&M at Mississippi
Even though it suffered a road loss in its recent game, Texas A&M is one of the hottest teams in the country, winning 15 of its last 18 games. Looking at how they play on both ends of the court, it's not a surprise the Aggies have had so much success. During conference play, Texas A&M ranks top-four in the SEC in both offensive and defensive efficiency, making it nearly the best and most balanced team in the SEC, second only to Alabama. This is in stark contrast to Tuesday's opponent, which ranks in the bottom six of the conference in both categories during league competition.
Mississippi's season has been a disaster. The Rebels were 10-18 and 2-13 in the SEC before former head coach Kermit Davis agreed to leave the team prior to their most recent game, which they managed to win, snapping a four-game losing streak. The win isn't bad, but it also came against LSU, the only team in the SEC with more conference losses than Mississippi. One would normally expect a team to play better at home, but that hasn't really been the case with Ole Miss. The Rebels were 0-7 at home against the SEC prior to its game against LSU, and factoring in its win, its average scoring margin through all eight conference home games is now at minus-five points per game.
Looking at the bottom line, these two teams are nowhere close to being on the same level. Texas A&M ranks substantially higher than Ole Miss in nearly every category, and it still has a lot riding on the outcome. The Aggies are competing for seed positioning in the Big Dance, while the Rebels likely only have three games left in its season with an interim coach at the helm. The line isn't exactly short, but I'm trusting Texas A&M won't have too much trouble covering it as long as it plays up to its standards. I'm backing the Aggies in this one.
College Basketball Best Bet: Texas A&M -5
San Diego State at Boise State
San Diego State survived a thrilling road game in its previous outing this past Saturday, although its performance follows a familiar pattern. The Aztecs have now won each of their past three road games by exactly two points, with each outcome hanging in the balance on the final possession. Tuesday's matchup will be their toughest road test of the season, so San Diego State can no longer afford to test its luck. The Aztecs are undoubtedly having a great season, although they're far from perfect. San Diego State has the fourth-worst offensive turnover percentage in the Mountain West during league competition, while also making under 50 percent of its two-point field goal attempts, the third-lowest percentage in the conference.
The Aztecs are a tough opponent, but Boise State has been nearly perfect at home this season. The Broncos enter Tuesday with a 13-game home winning streak, with its only home loss occurring on the opening night of the season when they suffered a gut-wrenching loss on a go-ahead basket at the end of the game. During conference play, not only are the Broncos undefeated at home, 8-0, but they're also winning by an average margin of 12 points per game. Boise State has done this mostly with an elite defense, ranking No. 11 in efficiency among all D1 teams and ranking first in the Mountain West during conference play. Furthermore, Boise State's offense has improved throughout the conference season, now ranking fifth in efficiency in the Mountain West.
Overall, these two teams rank incredibly close to each other when looking at the numbers. That being said, Boise State's utter dominance at home this season appears to give them an upper hand in Tuesday's matchup. Given a short line, I'm taking the home team.
College Basketball Best Bet: Boise State -1.5
Tuesday College Basketball Best Bets:
Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Tuesday:
- Arkansas +6.5
- TexasA&M -5
- Boise State -1.5
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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