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Two games will be exciting in an otherwise underwhelming Monday night slate: Miami versus Virginia and No. 8 Kansas versus Kansas State. The former is a pivotal ACC matchup, which could have NCAA Tournament implications as both teams are on the bubble, while the latter is an in-state rivalry game that will be must-watch TV!
Find our best college basketball picks below for the Miami Hurricanes versus the Virginia Cavaliers and the No. 8 Kansas Jayhawks versus the Kansas State Wildcats!
Date: Monday, February 5
Time: 7:00 pm EST
It has been a somewhat underwhelming season for both the Miami Hurricanes and the Virginia Cavaliers through January of the 2023-24 regular season. Both teams are currently on the 2024 NCAA Tournament bubble and need to log some impressive wins on their resumes if they want to change that fact. Luckily, this is the kind of game that could change the fortunes of the Hurricanes or Cavaliers.
At the moment, Virginia is in a more favorable spot than Miami. It boasts an 8-3 record in ACC play and is second in the conference standings, ahead of the Duke Blue Devils. If the 2024 NCAA Tournament field were announced today, there would be a strong likelihood that the Cavaliers would be in; however, there are still a lot of conference games to be played, and anything can happen.
Virginia has won six games in a row against Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Louisville, Georgia Tech, N.C. State, and Clemson. While it is great that the Cavaliers have taken care of business in these games, the win against the Wolfpack is the only one that carries much weight, as they are the only team with an above .500 record in ACC play through 10-11 (depending on the team) conference games.
As has been the case since the 2020-21 season, the Virginia Cavaliers are again a mediocre offensive team, ranking merely 144th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric; they rank 324th in points per game and 180th in unadjusted offensive efficiency. Further, Virginia shoots just 44.5% from the field and hardly ever pulls down offensive rebounds (234th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage.
If there is one thing that the Cavaliers do exceptionally well on that end of the floor, it is protecting the ball; they rank second in the nation in turnovers per game, behind only UNC-Wilmington. Virginia’s ball protection allows it also to play the game at its pace and not give up easy transition buckets. That style of play is typical for the Cavaliers, as they rank 361st (second-to-last in the country) in adjusted tempo.
Offensive draughts have been this team’s undoing at times throughout the season. While Virginia has only dropped five games, some of its offensive outings in those bouts were deeply concerning; it scored 47 points against Wake Forest, 54 points against Notre Dame, 54 points against Memphis, and 41 points against Wisconsin.
The struggles on that end of the floor can be attributed to the personnel (not offensively oriented) and the fact that Virginia only returned its fourth, sixth, and eighth-leading scorers (Reece Beekman, Isaac McKneely, and Ryan Dunn) from last year’s team. Head coach Tony Bennett also didn’t make massive efforts to bring in outside players, leaving them shorthanded in terms of offensive talent.
Besides Beekman, McKneely, and Dunn, the Cavaliers have no players they can rely on for offensive output, making them an easier team to defend than most.
The Miami Hurricanes haven’t been all that consistent this season, either. After making the Final Four last year, Miami has taken a step back, holding a 15-7 record with some terrible losses, including Louisville and Florida State at home.
Miami returned several key contributors from last season’s Final Four team, including Norchad Omier, Nijel Pack, Wooga Poplar, and Bensley Joseph. Florida State transfer Matthew Cleveland has also been a massive addition to the Hurricanes squad, especially after they lost Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller, their top two scorers, at the end of the 2022-23 season.
Much like last year, the Hurricanes are not proficient on the defensive end of the floor, ranking outside the top 100 in adjusted defensive efficiency; however, they are not quite as talented of an offensive team this season, which has contributed to their inconsistency. Still, Miami can get hot at any moment, particularly from behind the arc, where it ranks 20th in the nation (38.1%).
Unfortunately, Miami’s shooting takes a fairly sizable dip when it is on the road. The Hurricanes also have shot merely 32% from deep in their past three games, which is a concerning trend, especially when they have to take on a Virginia team that evolves at home in every facet of the game: shooting, defense, and rebounding.
An important note for the Cavaliers is that they are 12-0 at home, and their offensive output is substantially better and more consistent on their floor. Virginia shoots 6% higher from the field and 6.4% higher from behind the arc at home, which is a huge difference. The Cavaliers also play much better defensively, allowing an eFG% to opponents that is 9% lower than when they are on the road. Opponents shoot just over 27% from deep against them!
Lastly, Virginia’s only defensive weakness at times this season has been its ability to grab rebounds off of opponents’ missed shots; however, the Cavaliers have nearly an 11% improvement on the defensive glass at home. Virginia is just a different beast on its home floor; the Hurricanes are in for a storm in this one.
Date: Monday, February 5
Time: 9:00 pm EST
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook. Head over to DraftKings Sportsbook to place your bets.
The Kansas Jayhawks and Kansas State Wildcats add another chapter to a storied, heated rivalry that has spanned more than one century on Monday night. These two teams do not like each other, to put it kindly. During a game in 2020, a brawl ensued between both teams, which was one of the more chaotic events in this rivalry. There is no love lost.
Despite recent success in its basketball program, including two Elite Eights in the past handful of years (2018 and 2023), the Kansas State Wildcats have struggled to beat the Kansas Jayhawks, dropping 16 of their 18 games against Kansas.
Kansas State lost its top four scorers from last year’s Elite Eight squad, bringing only Cam Carter back as a significant contributor. The Wildcats were able to snag former Creighton forward Arthur Kaluma and former North Texas point guard Tylor Perry in the transfer portal, which helped them a bit in filling in offensive talent gaps left by the departed players; however, this team cannot shoot to save its life. As a matter of fact, Kansas State ranks 291st in 3P% and 224th in field goal percentage.
Further, Kansas State has only averaged 59 points per game in its past three games, which ranks 347th (out of 362 teams) in the nation in that span. The Wildcats are only a competitive team due to their defense, which is 26th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric and holds teams to the 27th-lowest eFG% on their home floor.
Meanwhile, Kansas has yet another championship-caliber squad this season, holding an 18-4 record overall and a 6-3 record in Big 12 play. The Jayhawks are fresh off a near-perfect 13-point home win against the No. 4 Houston Cougars; they hung 78 points on a 69/46/67 shooting split on the best defense in the nation! Kansas is one of only seven teams with a top 20 adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency per KenPom.
Head coach Bill Self and the Jayhawks perfectly balanced bringing back returning players, securing portal talent, and bringing in highly touted freshmen. Kevin McCullar Jr., K.J. Adams Jr., and Dajuan Harris Jr. are the three key returners, with two of them (Harris Jr. and Adams Jr.) boasting championship pedigree (2021-22 National Champions.) Self also locked in Hunter Dickinson from the portal; he was arguably the best player in the portal this past off-season.
Elmarko Jackson and Johnny Furphy were key freshmen additions to this immensely talented Jayhawks squad. Furphy, in particular, has been exceptional recently, averaging 16 points and eight rebounds per game in his past six games on an efficient 65/55/70 shooting split. With Furphy playing at this level, Kansas has evolved from a really good team to a legitimate contender.
However, there are a few potential concerns for the Jayhawks in this spot. First, they are only two days removed from a near-perfect performance against the Houston Cougars; it was magnificent and could likely not have been replicated if those two teams faced off 100 more times. It is a tricky spot for them mentally because they jump from an emotional high on Saturday to a hostile environment with little time to prepare against an in-state rival on Monday.
Additionally, Kansas has had some issues on the road recently, dropping three of its past four games away from Allen Fieldhouse. Making matters worse, two of those three losses were bad losses for Kansas, as West Virginia (136th in KenPom’s adjEM) and UCF (69th in adjEM) have no business competing with the Jayhawks’ talent, no matter the venue.
Five points is a massive amount to lay in a Big 12 road game featuring two rivals. Expect a letdown game for the Jayhawks after an emotionally intense top-ten matchup on Saturday, just over 48 hours ago.
Andrew has always been an avid sports fan and followed his hoop dreams all the way to college. He’s well-versed in everything betting with multiple years of experience and is qualitatively and quantitatively knowledgeable in sports statistics and analytics.More info on Andrew Norton
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