This article is part of our College Basketball Picks series.
Following his third straight profitable week to open the season, Steve Peralta returns to preview a pair of notable matchups on Tuesday's college hoops slate. Here are his best bets of the day.
LSU at Syracuse
Both teams enter Tuesday with identical 4-2 records, but a closer look reveals one team has a significant advantage over the other.
LSU welcomed several new faces on the team this season, a positive development for the Tigers considering last season was a disaster. LSU lost 16 of 18 regular season conference games last year, easily the Tigers' worst season in over a decade. Thankfully for LSU, the 2023-24 season is off to a solid start, as the Tigers already have a pair of quality wins over North Texas and Wake Forest. And perhaps more encouragingly, the Tigers rank 72nd in overall efficiency per KenPom, a significant improvement compared to where they were last season.
Syracuse, meanwhile, welcomed a new head coach for the first time in several decades, as Jim Boeheim retired and now Adrian Autry is tasked with leading the program. The Orange have looked sharp in their four victories, although in their two losses, they couldn't keep up with national title contenders Tennessee and Gonzaga, losing by 17-plus points in both games. Outside of facing those two juggernauts, Syracuse scored over 78 points against its other four opponents, so the Orange are capable of scoring a ton of points against lesser defensive teams.
When comparing how these two teams stack up against each other LSU has a notable edge in several categories. First, the Tigers are strong on the offensive glass, ranking 104th in offensive rebounding percentage, a skill that should pay off on Tuesday because Syracuse has struggled to secure rebounds. The Orange rank 334th in defensive rebounding percentage, and 274th on the offensive side, likely leading to additional second-chance points for LSU on Tuesday. Another problem for Syracuse is its lack of long-range shooting. The Orange are making under 26 percent from behind the arc, which means they'll need to rely on inside scoring for their best chance at winning. The only problem is -- LSU is extremely stout in the paint. The Tigers are holding opponents to 42 percent on two-point shots, the 16th-lowest percentage allowed among all D1 teams. Additionally, LSU is also blocking shots at the 11th-highest rate in the nation, so Syracuse is going to have a hard time scoring in this one. Given LSU's matchup advantages, I'm taking the Tigers to win, points or no points.
And one more note, both teams prefer playing at an incredibly fast pace. Syracuse ranks 35th in overall adjusted tempo, while LSU ranks 97th in offensive pace, giving us a good chance at a high-scoring game. The number is on the higher side, but I'm betting Syracuse will shoot a little better now that it is back at home and not playing against national championship-caliber teams. Ultimately, I still believe LSU will pull away by the end of the game, as detailed above, but I like our odds of seeing a ton of points scored, one way or another. I'm also on the over in this one.
College Basketball Best Bet: LSU +1.5 and Over 151
Miami at Kentucky
Miami had quite a bit of steam entering the new season, and it hasn't disappointed. The Hurricanes made the Elite Eight two seasons ago before making the Final Four last season, and they brought back a substantial portion of last year's roster, ranking 87th in roster continuity, per KenPom. Miami is still perfect at 5-0 and its schedule ranks 180th in difficulty, so this team is well-tested and we know exactly what we're getting -- an exceptionally skilled offensive team that can outscore anyone on any given night, as we witnessed in the past two NCAA tournaments. Miami has already scored over 78 points on three teams that rank in the top 50 of defensive efficiency, so it clearly hasn't skipped a beat.
Kentucky, in contrast, effectively has a brand new team, loaded with young, elite talent. This newest group of Wildcats have posted outstanding scoring numbers, but it's also worth noting that they've played one of the easiest schedules in the country, ranking 309th in difficulty. Kentucky did play one noteworthy opponent when it faced off against Kansas at the United Center in Chicago, but the Wildcats only played one good half and lost, 89-84.
Overall, both teams have a similar blueprint for winning games. Both are among the best-scoring teams in the nation and neither can truly rely upon its defense to get the job done. Ultimately, it comes down to a question of trust. Would you rather take a core group of players that has already proven their capable of outscoring some of the best teams in the nation? Or would you rather go with a still unproven group of young, but extremely talented players? With everything else being equal, I'm going with the former. I'm taking the Hurricanes and the points in this one.
College Basketball Best Bet: Miami +5.5
Tuesday College Basketball Best Bets:
Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Tuesday:
- LSU +1.5
- LSU at Syracuse - Over 151
- Miami +5.5
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