This article is part of our College Basketball Picks series.
Some of the top teams in the land face off on Wednesday's college hoops slate. Steve Peralta previews a few marquee matchups and shares his best bets of the day.
Alabama at Tennessee
By now, most college hoops fans are well aware of Alabama and the extremely high level at which it has played all season. The Crimson Tide rank second in KenPom's overall adjusted efficiency standings and have one of the most talented rosters to back it up. Alabama remains undefeated against conference foes and has lost just a single true road game all year. Furthermore, since the conference season tipped off, Alabama ranks first among SEC teams in offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, two-point field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, defensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage allowed, two-point field goal percentage allowed and three-point field goal percentage allowed. In short, Alabama has played the best out of any team in the SEC, and it's not really close.
Tennessee, on the other hand, has put together an excellent resume, but it's lost quite a bit of luster over the past couple of weeks. Tennessee has lost three of its last four games and, although the last two games were decided by a single point, the Vols put themselves in a vulnerable spot at the end of games against two opponents they should've buried. Moreover, all three of its recent losses came against SEC teams that already have six conference losses. Tennessee's biggest issue is its lack of scoring. The Vols rank fifth in offensive efficiency during conference play — not horrible but clearly the weaker side of the court.
These two teams appear even when looking at overall efficiency numbers from the start of the season, but when focusing on the most recent data, particularly during the conference season, Alabama is clearly outperforming Tennessee on both ends of the court. The game might be on the road, but Alabama has been unfazed by hostile environments for most of the season. I'm taking the better team. I'm taking the points. I'm taking Alabama.
College Basketball Best Bet: Alabama +3
Xavier at Marquette
Despite a surprising loss to Butler in its most recent game, Xavier has still played great basketball over the past couple of months, winning 15 of its last 18 games, including a four-point win over Marquette on January 15. The Musketeers have found most of their success with an explosive offensive attack. Xavier ranks seventh in the country in offensive adjusted efficiency and has made over 40 percent of its shots from behind the arc, the second-highest percentage among D1 teams. The Musketeers also rank fifth in the nation in effective field goal percentage, so they simply know how to find the best shot opportunities. This is further exemplified by the fact that Xavier has the third-highest assist rate among all D1 teams, giving us a team that won't stop passing until it finds a quality shot attempt.
Marquette, meanwhile, has also turned out to be an offensive juggernaut. The Golden Eagles are the only team in the Big East that have a better offensive efficiency rating than Xavier, which helps explain how Marquette has put itself into position to win a regular season Big East conference title. Much like Xavier, Marquette isn't nearly as strong on the defensive end of the court. The Golden Eagles aren't great on defense when it comes to efficiency, but they usually make up for it by generating an extremely high amount of turnovers, recording the highest defensive turnover rate in the Big East during conference play. This is normally a very valuable trait, although it doesn't play the same against a team like Xavier, one that seldom commits turnovers. The Musketeers have the second-best offensive turnover percentage among Big East teams, so Marquette is much less likely to see its typical turnover advantage.
Marquette does have one notable weakness -- rebounding. During conference play, Marquette ranks in the bottom four of the Big East in both offensive and defensive rebounding rates, which is far from ideal against Xavier because the Musketeers rank in the top four of the conference in offensive and defensive rebounding over the same time frame.
All in all, these two teams are quite similar on paper. Both are extremely effective at scoring but much less effective at stopping opponents from scoring. Considering this game will likely be a shoot-out between two teams that are evenly matched, I'll take the points in this one.
College Basketball Best Bet: Xavier +5.5
Oregon at Washington
Oregon is once again having another winning season, hardly a surprise considering head coach Dana Altman is still leading the charge. As long as coach Altman is on the sideline, it's hard to count out Oregon in any given season. Save for UCLA, the Ducks have beaten all of the top teams in the Pac-12 over the past few weeks: Arizona, Utah, Arizona State and USC. The Ducks had a halftime lead against UCLA in their most recent game, but they couldn't hang on to it, ultimately blowing the game in the second half. Despite the loss, Oregon still has a shot at hearing its name called on Selection Sunday, so motivation and effort will still be at a hundred percent. The key for Oregon recently has been its offense. The Ducks have the second-highest offensive efficiency in the Pac-12 since the conference season started, and they also rank first in the Pac in effective field goal percentage and two-point field goal percentage. Unless they're playing against an elite defense like UCLA, they're extremely difficult to stop.
Washington, in contrast, is in the middle of a free fall. The Huskies are currently on a four-game skid and have lost five of their last six. The more concerning note, however, is that they've been sliding for a while now. Since December 21, Washington has lost 10 of its last 14 games, and it needed overtime to secure two of its wins during the span. Looking deeper into the numbers, we don't have much reason to think anything will change. During conference play, Washington ranks in the bottom four of the Pac-12 in offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency, offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding. The Huskies don't appear to do anything particularly well.
Looking at the bottom line, these two teams have been trending in opposite directions for a while now. One team is fighting for a chance to compete in late March, while the other team is just a few weeks away from packing it in for the season. It's possible Washington keeps this close, but ultimately I'm betting that Oregon will pull away in the second half thanks to its strong offensive attack. I'm taking Oregon in this one.
College Basketball Best Bet: Oregon -5.5
Wednesday College Basketball Best Bets:
Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Wednesday:
- Alabama +3
- Xavier +5.5
- Oregon -5.5
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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