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From now until the end of the 2023-24 regular season, every Saturday slate will be electric. This one features a barrage of ranked games between conference foes and rivalry games! The two games that we are going to focus in on for our best college basketball picks today are No. 13 Baylor versus No. 4 Kansas and No. 10 Illinois versus Michigan State. Find our best betting picks and the analysis for them below!
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Date: Saturday, February 10
Time: 6:00 pm EST
All odds are available via DraftKings Sportsbook but are subject to change.
Right now, there are four teams in the Big 12 that have a realistic chance of winning the regular season conference title: Kansas, Baylor, Iowa State, and Houston. The former two teams are playing each other in this game, which could have huge implications over the next few weeks.
It has been another terrific season for the Kansas Jayhawks, who are ranked No. 4 in the nation after beating No. 5 Houston at home by double-digits. Few teams have given the Cougars problems this season, but the Jayhawks did just that, finishing the game with 78 points on 69% shooting from the field and 46% shooting from behind the arc.
Unfortunately, Kansas lost the next game to its rival, Kansas State, which has again put it behind the eight ball. The Jayhawks boast a 6-4 Big 12 conference record, but Houston is at 7-3 and Baylor is 6-3. We don’t expect either team to lose too many more games, narrowing the gap for Kansas to squeeze back into the picture.
This game has turned into somewhat of a must-win game for Kansas if it wants to secure the regular season title, as the Jayhawks still have to play on the road against Baylor and Houston, as well as No. 23 Texas Tech and Oklahoma.
Head coach Bill Self did a fantastic job this last off-season in retaining talent in the form of Dajuan Harris Jr., Kevin McCullar Jr., and K.J. Adams Jr. while also grabbing the most coveted transfer in the portal, Hunter Dickinson.
Dickinson is a 7-foot-2 center who has elite footwork, strength, and touch in the post and can shoot the ball from behind the arc; he has averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds per game this season. His scoring efficiency at home, in particular, is absolutely outrageous, though, as he shoots 60% from the field and 45% from three.
Between Dickinson, the trio of key veteran returners, and high-impact freshmen Johnny Furphy and Elmarko Jackson, the Jayhawks again have a squad that could contend for a national title.
Furphy has especially come into his own recently, averaging 14 points and seven rebounds on 60% shooting from the floor, 49% from long range, and 70% from the charity stripe in his past seven games. His size at 6-foot-9 is also quite advantageous for Kansas as he can rebound well and stretch the floor to clear space for Dickinson to go to work in the paint, especially with mismatches.
Similarly to Kansas, the Baylor Bears (behind head coach Scott Drew) have done a fabulous job at replenishing talent when it transfers or goes to the NBA Draft. The latter has occurred frequently in the past handful of years.
Baylor lost its three-headed monster of talented scoring guards from last season, which featured Adam Flagler, L.J. Cryer, and Keyonte George. The Bears were able to bring back Langston Love and Jalen Bridges, but that was not going to be enough. Coach Drew hit the transfer portal to bring in point guard RayJ Dennis and signed two vitally important freshmen, Yves MIssi and Ja’Kobe Walter.
As usual, the Bears have an electric offensive attack, which ranks fourth in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric, first in three-point percentage, 14th in points per game, and 13th in effective field goal percentage.
The key to beating the Bears is running them off the three-point line (Kansas allows opponents to shoot 31.9% from deep at home) and having a talented big who can protect the rim (Dickinson). The Jayhawks rank 13th in KenPom’s strength of schedule rating, so their three-point defense is naturally discredited, too.
Lastly, Baylor only ranks 77th nationally in two-point percentage (Kansas allows 12th-lowest two-point percentage), which is substantially propped up by better shooting on its home floor (+9%.) Expect the Jayhawks to run this Baylor team off the line and force it to knock down twos in the mid-range or floaters over Dickinson. Good luck to them, but we will back Kansas here.
Date: Saturday, February 10
Time: 2:00 pm EST
All odds are available via DraftKings Sportsbook but are subject to change.
The No. 10 Illinois Fighting Illini are in the midst of a dominant conference run, winning five of their past six games; however, it has been a relatively easy (nothing is actually easy in Big Ten play) stretch for Illinois, as they have logged wins over Michigan (road), Rutgers (home), Ohio State (road), Indiana (home), and Nebraska (home.) You could hardly draw up a cleaner six-game span than that one.
It is hardly a coincidence that the Fighting Illini got Terrence Shannon Jr., their leading scorer, back from suspension five games ago. While it has taken a bit for Shannon Jr. to get back up to speed, he has posted 18 points and 23 points in his past two games, respectively.
Shannon’s return to the court is suspect, at best, but we have to adjust accordingly. With Shannon, the Fighting Illini are undoubtedly one of the top offensive teams in the country, as they currently rank seventh in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency.
However, it isn’t their shooting percentages that help them rank that favorably. Illinois sits at 170th in 3P% and 88th in effective field goal percentage. What the team does extremely well, though, is crash the offensive glass, sitting in 18th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. Their defense isn’t too shabby either (32nd in adjD), considering they rank 75th in adjusted tempo.
If we were to rank the most underwhelming seasons for teams that we believed would be much better than they currently are, the Michigan State Spartans and their 2023-24 campaign would certainly be towards the top of that list.
Michigan State had a solid 2022-23 season and returned virtually every key player from that team except for Joey Hauser, a stretch forward who could shoot the lights out of the ball. Still, the Spartans have Tyson Walker, A.J. Hoggard, Jaden Akins, Malik Hall, Mady Sissoko, Jaxon Kohler, Carson Cooper, and Tre Hollomon back for this season, yet they are a bubble team for the 2024 NCAA Tournament.
However, we cannot ever count head coach Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans out of the equation. In fact, this is exactly the time of the season when Izzo gets his guys playing their hardest and most crisp, buying into gameplans on both ends and leaving it all out there on the floor.
Michigan State has steadily improved since the beginning of the year, when all seemed lost; the Spartans rank 17th in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin and have won five of their past seven games, with the only blips coming on the road against a surprisingly tough Minnesota team (6-5 in Big Ten play) and the No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers.
Now, the Spartans are 14-9 with eight Big Ten conference games left; they need to string at least five together and then win one or two games in the conference tournament. It all starts with this game at home against the tenth-ranked Fighting Illini, which would be a huge resume boost and move them closer to the Big Dance. Can they get it done?
Yes, the Spartans are built to play their best basketball in February and March; it has been this way under Coach Izzo since the dawn of time. The Spartans are 12-2 on their home floor and have the 27th-highest average scoring margin at the Breslin Center. Michigan State is a better three-point shooting team and can control the tempo of the game on its home floor to play at a slower speed (308th in adjusted tempo), which can make Illinois vulnerable, as it thrives playing faster.
Additionally, the Spartans hold opponents to roughly 29% shooting from deep at home, and the Fighting Illini have only hit 31% of their threes in the past three games. Illinois will likely attack the paint hard, but Michigan State is a physical team, even if it lacks height. This will be a barnburner, but we expect MSU to pull out a vital win. The Spartans’ season could depend on it.
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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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