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Football season is over and college basketball now becomes the main area of focus for bettors and sports fans alike!
For Wednesday’s rock-solid college basketball slate, we are gifted three key matchups, featuring the SEC, Big East, and Big Ten, three conferences that have a legitimate shot of putting teams in this year’s Final Four! Check out our best bets below from these three games: Alabama versus Tennessee, Indiana versus Northwestern, and Xavier versus Marquette!
When: 7:00 PM EST
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After Purdue dropped back-to-back Big Ten games, the Alabama Crimson Tide ascended to the new No. 1 in the latest AP Poll rankings. The first task that the Crimson Tide have as the new No. 1 team in the country is heading to face the Tennessee Volunteers, the best defensive team, on the road. In short, there are few challenges tougher than this one for ‘Bama.
Alabama is winners of four-straight games and 13 of its past 14, a truly impressive mark in a tough SEC. Its only loss came against the Oklahoma Sooners in what can only be described as an outlier game, as the Sooners are fairly average this season.
The Crimson Tide have been led all season by freshman sensation Brandon Miller, an elite 6-foot-9 scorer, and shooter who is bound to be a Top 5 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Miller also is a spectacular rebounder (8.2 rebounds per game), along with another freshman stud, Noah Clowney. Clowney is a bit taller (6-foot-10) and pulls down eight rebounds while chipping in ten points. Junior guard Mark Sears is also a key contributor, and terrific secondary scorer for the Crimson Tide.
Meanwhile, Tennessee has been a menace on the defensive end of the floor all season long, ranking first in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency. Until recently, its ranking was by a wide margin, too. The Volunteers are still the No. 10 team in the nation, despite dropping two-straight games on buzzer-beaters. Further, they have dropped three of their past four games; it has been a rough patch for an otherwise phenomenal season.
As mentioned above, the Volunteers have the best defense in the nation; they also have a balanced attack featuring six players who average between nine and 12 points per game. Still, that end of the floor has let them down at times this season.
Their offense heavily depends on offensive rebounding, where they rank third in the nation. If they aren’t getting offensive rebounds, they can struggle on that end of the floor, as evidenced by their three-point percentage (229th in the nation) and effective field goal percentage (216th in the country.)
So, can the Crimson Tide retain their No. 1 ranking and steal a key road win against Tennessee, which should solidify a regular season conference title for them? The short answer is no. However, there is not much value on the spread here, especially considering this game will likely end in a one-possession game, and Tennessee will be fighting hard for the bounce-back win it deserves after two hard-fought losses at the buzzer.
The value is actually in the point total at 144.5 points. Tennessee has only played in four games that have eclipsed this point total. While Alabama (second in adjusted tempo per KenPom) will try to get out in transition and push the pace, the Volunteers will slow the game down to a much more reasonable speed. Tennessee is desperate for a win right now to shake this losing streak off, and its defense will be at an elite level for this game. It is not every day you get an opportunity to knock off the AP No. 1 on your floor.
When: 9:00 PM EST
After trailing for most of the game, the Indiana Hoosiers were able to come away with a critical road victory against a tough Michigan Wolverines squad that had been playing better basketball since dropping a home game to Central Michigan.
Now, the Hoosiers are winners of three-straight games and eight of their past nine; they are arguably the hottest team in the Big Ten. One of those games included a huge upset win at home against the then No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers, a dangerous team featuring the likely National Player of the Year, Zach Edey.
Indiana was able to do all of this despite having its second-best player, and floor general, Xavier Johnson, available to play. Johnson broke his foot in December against the Kansas Jayhawks and had to have surgery; however, there are reports that he could come back at some point during the Big Ten regular season. We are not banking on him returning for this game, but it is noteworthy that he could be available soon!
The question then, of course, is “how?” The answer: Trayce Jackson-Davis. If it weren’t for the surprising success of the Purdue Boilermakers and the incredible emergence of the aforementioned 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey, Jackson-Davis would most likely win the National Player of the Year.
In his past eight games, he has averaged 25 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks on 55% shooting from the floor. He has been simply outrageous. What has allowed Trayce to take this huge step forward from previous seasons has been his playmaking, which has elevated Indiana’s offense to new heights. Last year, offense was a weakness for the Hoosiers, while this year, it is a strength.
The tremendous ascension of five-star freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino and the three-point shooting of Trey Galloway (50%), Miller Kopp (45.5%), and Tamar Bates (41.6%) have also been massive during Indiana’s season, especially after such a slow start in conference play.
Meanwhile, the Northwestern Wildcats have outperformed everyone’s expectations, currently sitting at third in the Big Ten with a 9-5 conference record. As a matter of fact, CBS Sports had an expert that picked the Wildcats to finish 12th out of 14 teams in the Big Ten. No one saw this coming.
The dynamic duo of senior guard Boo Buie and Chase Audige has taken Northwestern from the widely-predicted bottom-dwellers of the Big Ten to third place, and potentially solo second place with a win at home over Indiana. Scarcely have we seen teams outperform to this level!
Buie and Audige combine for roughly 32 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists, providing the majority of offense for Northwestern. However, it is on the defensive end of the floor that has made the Wildcats a problem for other Big Ten teams.
Northwestern ranks 26th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency and just held the Purdue Boilermakers to just 58 points! Edey posted 24 points, but everyone else on Purdue struggled to put points on the board.
Can the Wildcats do the same to Trayce Jackson-Davis and the Indiana Hoosiers? I would expect a letdown game from Northwestern. This is a very good basketball team, but Indiana is fresh off a huge road win and has all the momentum. Take the Hoosiers against the spread here.
When: 7:00 PM EST
As far as best bets go, our final game of the night features two top-five offenses in the nation: Marquette (third in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency) and Xavier (fifth.) These two teams have already faced off once this season, with Xavier sneaking away with a four-point victory at home. Marquette certainly did not forget this.
This game is of the utmost importance, as there are merely a handful of games left in the Big East Conference regular season, and Marquette (12-3) and Xavier (11-3) are neck and neck. A win for the Golden Eagles could create enough separation to give them the Big East title, while a victory for the Musketeers could catapult them into first place with just a handful of games left to play! So, who will control their destiny in the final weeks of conference play? Let’s get into it.
Marquette has been nearly perfect at home this season, boasting a 13-2 record in front of its fans. The Golden Eagles’ last home loss came in early December against Wisconsin; they had not reached the quality of play that they now boast.
Since then, Marquette has won every home game by at least six points, a promising trend for backing the Golden Eagles in this one! Meanwhile, Xavier has been decent on the road this season but has dropped back-to-back games against Butler and Creighton.
I will back the Golden Eagles in this game for many reasons. For one, they are so good on their home floor, and they are exceptionally well-coached. Shaka Smart has turned this program around quickly, and I trust his in-game adjustments and motivational ability to rally the troops in massive games, especially at Fiserv Forum.
Secondly, I don’t trust Xavier’s defense, which ranks outside KenPom’s top 100 in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Musketeers have gifted close games to opponents this year due to a lack of connectedness on that end of the floor. Marquette’s defense is nothing to call home about; however, it has executed in crunch time far more than Xavier.
Lastly, this will be a revenge game for the Golden Eagles, who have a chance at widening the gap of their Big East Conference regular season lead. These teams faced off earlier in the season, and Xavier bested them; however, that loss pushed Marquette to win six of its next seven games, with the only loss coming on the road against Connecticut.
The Golden Eagles are playing their best ball of the season, and this is a great spot to back them!
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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