This article is part of our College Basketball Picks series.
With another jam-packed Saturday full of college hoops action, Steve Peralta examines some select matchups and offers his best bets of the day.
Alabama at LSU
Alabama suffered a jarring, high-profile loss to Oklahoma a week ago, and it rebounded with a vengeance rarely seen. In the following game on Jan. 31, Alabama utterly thrashed Vanderbilt, 101-44, effectively avenging its loss to Oklahoma and dispelling any doubt about its capabilities. The Crimson Tide's performance against Oklahoma was disappointing, obviously, but it was just one game, and Alabama has played substantially better throughout the entire season. In road games alone, Alabama has defeated Houston by six points, Mississippi State by 11 points, Arkansas by 15 points and Missouri by 21 points — all of which are night and day better than Saturday's opponent, LSU. Looking at how these two teams match up against each other, it looks as bad as one might expect given their overall efficiency rankings. During conference play, Alabama leads the SEC in offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, two-point field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage, and it also leads the conference in the exact same categories on the defensive end. The opposite is nearly true for LSU. During league competition, the Tigers rank last in offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage allowed, and two-point field goal percentage allowed, and the Tigers rank 12th in the SEC in the exact same categories on the defensive end. Unlike the other three teams that have already beaten Alabama, LSU doesn't do anything well. It actually does everything quite poorly compared to other teams in the SEC.
We're now into early February, and LSU still hasn't won a game in 2023. The Tigers won their only conference game of the season way back on Dec. 28, and they've lost every game since, riding a nine-game losing streak into Saturday's matchup. Though nine conference games this season, LSU is averaging a minus-15 scoring margin and has lost by double-digits in seven of the nine games. It's easy to think perhaps LSU might play better at home, but it hasn't really mattered where they've played. In four home games against league competition, LSU is averaging a minus-12 scoring margin and has lost by at least 11 points in all three of its losses. The other red flag is that LSU hasn't shown any signs of improvement. In fact, LSU has failed to cover the spread in its last eight games, further underscoring its tailspin during the past month.
Taking sizeable favorites on the road isn't always advisable, but there are inevitably exceptions to every rule. This, I believe, is one of those cases. Alabama is playing like a freight train, dominating nearly every opponent in sight. The Crimson Tide has covered the spread in eight of its last 10 games, and, given Saturday's matchup, has a great chance at doing so once again. Alabama already played LSU a few weeks ago on Jan. 14 and won by a final score of 106-66. I'm not sure they'll win by 40 points again, but a 12-point margin seems like a good bet. I'm backing the Crimson Tide in this one.
College Basketball Best Bet: Alabama -11.5
Washington State at UCLA
Washington State enters Saturday having lost four of its last five games, but it's actually playing much better than its win-loss record indicates. A couple of weeks ago on Jan. 22, the Cougars lost at Colorado on a last-second three-point shot, a tough-luck loss to be sure. In the next game, Washington State fought hard against Arizona before ultimately falling, 63-58. The Cougars then rebounded with a resounding 17-point victory over Arizona State. This brings us to Thursday night's game against USC. Washington State was down by three points with under a minute left but then unraveled at the very end. All this to say, Washington State might not have the wins to show for it, but the Cougars are a feisty bunch that doesn't back down. They already defeated Arizona on the road by 13 points and came within a single shot of defeating UCLA the first time they played each other.
UCLA is still undefeated at home this season, but it's not playing as well as you might think. The Bruins have played five home conference games and have yet to score more than 70 points against any Pac-12 opponent at home. And overall, UCLA's offense isn't as sharp as it was in the early part of the season. Since the conference season started, UCLA ranks fourth in offensive efficiency among Pac-12 teams and ranks 10th in effective field goal percentage. The latter is perhaps more noteworthy, as it reflects the Bruins' weakness with inside scoring. UCLA is making under 46 percent of its shot attempts inside the arc against league competition, the fourth-lowest percentage in the Pac-12.
One other note for this matchup, both teams prefer a slower-paced game, ranking ninth and tenth in the conference in offensive adjusted tempo, per KenPom. This will likely lead to a lower-scoring game with fewer possessions, something that should help the Cougars' odds of covering a double-digit spread. Either way, Washington State had UCLA on the ropes the last time they played. I'm taking the points.
College Basketball Best Bet: Washington State +12
Mayland at Minnesota
Maryland has played well at home, excluding a 27-point loss to UCLA, but it's struggled significantly on the road. The Terrapins have lost their last six games away from home, and their only true road win of the season came way back on Nov. 29 at Louisville, a result that doesn't carry much weight at all considering Louisville is 3-19 on the season. Maryland's problems on the road make more sense when looking deeper into its numbers. During conference play, Maryland ranks 10th in offensive efficiency while ranking dead last in the Big Ten in effective field goal percentage. On the other end of the court, Maryland's defense ranks eighth in efficiency in the Big Ten, but the real issue is that it's weak on the inside, allowing conference foes to make over 50 percent of shots inside the arc, the fourth-highest percentage allowed in the league. This is the ideal matchup for Minnesota, a team that relies on inside scoring for most of its success.
Minnesota might be at the bottom of the Big Ten standings, but it's still shown some fight at various points of the season. Back on Jan. 3 at Wisconsin, the Gophers had an opportunity to send the game into overtime with a game-tying shot at the end of regulation but no luck. The following week, Minnesota traveled to Columbus and knocked off Ohio State. And then more recently, Minnesota hosted Indiana and had a shot at winning the game. The Gophers led with under a minute left, but they couldn't close the deal and lost by four points. Minnesota has played ugly at times, but overall it's playing above expectations over the past month, going 5-4 against the spread in its last nine games.
There's always a chance Minnesota lets this one slip away, but ultimately I'm betting that Maryland's road issues will continue, allowing Minnesota to stay in the game. I'm taking the points with the home team in this one.
College Basketball Best Bet: Minnesota +9.5
Saturday College Basketball Best Bets:
Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Saturday:
- Alabama -11.5
- Washington St. +12
- Minnesota +9.5
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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