This article is part of our College Basketball Picks series.
Important power conference matchups once again line the Tuesday college basketball slate. Steve Peralta previews a few marquee games and offers his best bets of the day.
Ohio State at Illinois
Ohio State recently snapped a five-game losing streak with a 16-point win over Iowa, looking more like itself prior to enduring a tough string of losses. The streak sounds bad, which it was, but it's important to note that Ohio State was competitive in every game. Three of the games were decided by three points or less, a fourth game went into overtime, and the Buckeyes blew a five-point halftime lead in the fifth one. The record isn't pretty, but Ohio State is still a good time with a dynamic offensive attack.
Illinois, on the other hand, recently got crushed at home by Indiana in a 15-point loss, snapping the Illini's four-game winning streak. Illinois was seemingly back on track after several disappointing games during December, although its most recent game is a good reminder that college basketball teams are often fickle, and prone to highs and lows.
In any event, the matchup between Ohio State and Illinois is extremely even on paper. Both teams rank in the top 30 of KenPom's overall adjusted efficiency standings, with Ohio State coming in at No. 19 and Illinois at No. 29. Similarly, both are also ranked dead-even when looking at KenPom's data from conference games. Ohio State ranks sixth in the Big Ten on offense, as Illinois ranks sixth on defense, and then the story is the same at the other end of the court, with both teams ranked seventh among Big Ten teams. Given the even matchup and the better offensive team, it's hard to pass on the points. I'll take the Buckeyes.
College Basketball Best Bet: Ohio State +4
North Carolina at Syracuse
North Carolina was in rough shape in early December but has since gone on a nice run, winning nine of 11 games. The Tar Heels have mostly won with their potent offense, averaging 80 points per game while ranking No. 16 in KenPom's offensive efficiency standings -- an elite scoring team any way you look at it. North Carolina's point totals are also bolstered by its style of play, preferring to push the pace as much as possible. During conference play, North Carolina is currently playing at the second-quickest tempo on offense among ACC teams, per KenPom, which is not surprising at all considering this has been its style for over 20 years now.
Syracuse has a similar formula for success, averaging 81 points per game through 12 home games this season, a high mark. It's nearly just as high when looking at conference games, as the Orange are averaging 80 points per game in the four times they have hosted an ACC opponent. Syracuse scored at least 78 points in each of the four, further underscoring its consistency when playing at home. Much like the Tar Heels, the Orange are also pushing the pace this year, currently with the fourth-quickest tempo in the ACC since conference season started. Syracuse might lose Tuesday's game, but it should still put up a good amount of points either way. The Orange have lost just three games to conference foes and it scored 78-plus points in two of the losses.
All in all, both teams enter Tuesday's game playing great basketball since early-December. For most of the season, both have relied on their offense to win games, and it appears that will once again be the case. A high-scoring shootout seems like the most probable outcome. I'm taking the over in this one.
College Basketball Best Bet: Over 150
Kansas State at Iowa State
Kansas State is having an incredible season, riding high with a 17-2 record and winning six of seven conference games. The Wildcats have no doubt proven themselves to be a very capable team with victories over Texas, Baylor and Kansas, although, at the same time, they have a penchant for testing their luck. Kansas State has already played in four overtime games this season and has won all four, including three against conference opponents. A win is a win, but playing so many close games inevitably comes back to bite a team. In its two losses this season, both on the road, Kansas State didn't play well at all, losing by double digits in both, first to Butler in late-November and then more recently at TCU. Based on these road performances, Kansas State is liable to get blown out if it can't keep the game close.
Iowa State, meanwhile, has a similarly impressive resume, already defeating North Carolina, Baylor, TCU and Texas over the past two months. The Cyclones have just four losses and all four came away from home. They are effectively unbeatable at home this season, dominating every opponent they've hosted. In fact, Iowa State has won every home game by double-digits, averaging a 24-point margin of victory. The stats for Iowa State are just as impressive when looking at its Big 12 home games, as it averaged a 20-point margin in defeating Baylor, Texas Tech and Texas.
Looking at Tuesday's matchup, Iowa State has a couple of key advantages. First, the Cyclones have the highest defensive turnover rate among all D1 teams, and the Wildcats haven't been very careful with the ball, recording the second-worst offensive steal rate among Big 12 teams during conference play. Second, Iowa State has a noticeable rebounding advantage over Kansas State. Since conference season started, Iowa State has had the highest defensive rebounding rate in the Big 12 and also has the second-highest offensive rebounding rate. In the same time frame, Kansas State has logged the worst defensive rebounding rate in the Big 12 and has been close to the conference average on the offensive end. Add it all up, and Iowa State has a great shot at winning by several possessions. I'll take the home team in this matchup.
College Basketball Best Bet: Iowa State -5
Tuesday College Basketball Best Bets:
Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Tuesday:
- Ohio State +4
- North Carolina at Syracuse - Over 150
- Iowa State -5
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