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Best College Basketball Picks Today | NCAAB Picks February 19

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published February 19, 2024
8 min read
Texas guard Max Abmas moves the ball during a Big 12 men's basketball game between the Houston Cougars and the Texas Longhorns

Besides the No. 10 Iowa State Cyclones versus No. 3 Houston Cougars game, the Monday night college basketball lineup is not loaded with top teams. However, we will get another iteration of the classic rivalry between the Virginia Cavaliers and the Virginia Tech Hokies. The Cavaliers are ranked 21st in the nation and will be the only other ranked team, besides Iowa State and Houston, playing on Monday.

Meanwhile, there will be another solid game that we will be watching: Kansas State versus Texas. The Wildcats join the Virginia Tech Hokies as teams with much work to do (they are in “win-out” territory) if they want to squeeze into the NCAA Tournament field. Below, find out which of these two teams, if any, will secure crucial wins to keep their postseason hopes alive!

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No. 21 Virginia @ Virginia Tech

All odds are available via DraftKings Sportsbook but are subject to change.

PICK: Virginia Tech -2.5 (-120)

We love rivalry games, and we get another one between the Virginia Cavaliers and the Virginia Tech Hokies on Monday night. In their first matchup earlier this season, the Cavaliers squeaked out an eight-point home win against the Hokies by a final score of 65-57. Virginia Tech shot itself in the foot, committing 15 turnovers in the game. Further, the Hokies fell victim to a free throw differential of -12, which is not a recipe for winning against a ranked team on the road.

The Virginia Tech Hokies aren’t eliminated from NCAA Tournament contention, but they have a lot of work to do if they want to be on the right side of the bubble. Standing in 11th place in the ACC with an overall record of 14-11 and a conference record of 6-8, it will likely take the Hokies “winning out” (six straight games) or at least securing five of their next six, to feel like they have a solid shot at sneaking into the Big Dance through the backdoor. Even still, the Hokies might have to win one or two ACC Tournament games to feel genuinely comfortable!

Here’s the good news for Hokies fans: if they can sneak away with a significant win against the 21st-ranked Virginia Cavaliers on Monday night, they will have a reasonably light schedule the rest of the way in. Virginia Tech will have two more home games, which will be versus Wake Forest and Notre Dame, as well as three more road games, which are against Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Louisville.

Meanwhile, Virginia just had its home winning streak for this season smashed last week by the Pittsburgh Panthers, a red-hot bubble team that has played their best basketball lately. In fact, the Panthers have won seven of their past eight games, including road victories against No. 21 Virginia and No. 9 Duke.

The Cavaliers are still an imposing team on their home floor, but this game will be played on the road against a rival in Virginia Tech. Can Virginia sweep the Hokies in their two matchups this season, or will VA Tech stay alive in its quest for an NCAA Tournament appearance?

Like many teams in college basketball, the Hokies are entirely different at home than on the road; they boast a borderline pathetic 1-7 record away from Cassell Coliseum but have won 11 of their 13 games in front of their fans.

Virginia Tech is a relatively poor defensive team, regardless of venue, ranking 100th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric. However, the Cavaliers are 145th in adjusted offensive efficiency, with that ranking being heavily lifted from their strong shooting performances at home. The Hokies have a team shooting split of 49/37/83 and record fewer than ten turnovers at home, which will be vital in knocking off Virginia.

The biggest issue for the Cavaliers in this matchup is their horrendous rebounding on the road. In fact, they are the 23rd-worst team (out of 362 teams in Division I) in total rebounding rate in the nation. Virginia Tech isn’t a rebounding juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination, but until we can count on Virginia to step up and pull down rebounds on the road, the Cavaliers are an easy fade.

Kansas State @ Texas

All odds are available via DraftKings Sportsbook but are subject to change.

PICK: Texas -8 (-120)

It has been an underwhelming season for the Texas Longhorns and Kansas State Wildcats, yet each program still has a shot at sliding into the NCAA Tournament. The Longhorns are better positioned due to their four Quad 1 wins and the fact that they currently sit in 33rd in the NET rankings, but very few teams are “locks” to make the field right now. 

Conversely, Kansas State is 81st in the NET rankings and has a 6-9 record in Quads 1 and 2, which is not bad, but a below-.500 record in Big 12 play is concerning. This game could all but cement the Longhorns’ place in the NCAA Tournament field, while a win for the Wildcats would hopefully jump-start a solid finish to their 2023-24 campaign.

Kansas State is fresh off an Elite Eight run last year behind Keyontae Johnson and Markquis Nowell, who both went on to the NBA after the season’s conclusion. Johnson and Nowell’s absence (as well as Nae’Qwan Tomlin, who transferred to Memphis, and Desi Sills, who graduated) left a talent gap that was going to be tough to fill. Those players were the four leading scorers for that Elite Eight squad.

The Wildcats were still able to bring back Cam Carter and David N’Guessan, but they needed more to compete in the Big 12, arguably the best conference in the nation. Head coach Jerome Tang hit the transfer portal with urgency, bringing in highly-coveted transfers Arthur Kaluma, the former Creighton forward, Tylor Perry, the former North Texas standout, and Will McNair Jr., the big man from Mississippi State.

Obvious issues remain for the Kansas State Wildcats, including their three-point shooting; they rank 313th (out of 363 teams) in three-point percentage, which is a large part of the collegiate game today. The Wildcats also rank 237th in unadjusted offensive efficiency (per TeamRankings), which is not in the ballpark of a competitive team on that end of the floor. 

Defensive rebounding (287th in defensive rebounding percentage) and turnovers (350th in turnovers per possession) remain other evident problems that the Wildcats have yet to overcome. 

The Texas Longhorns have also had a disappointing Big 12 season thus far, winning just five of their 12 conference games. Texas beat No. 25 Oklahoma on the road and No. 12 Baylor at home but has little to brag about now. Still, this team has the talent to make a late-season push into the NCAA Tournament behind the core of Max Abmas, Dillon Mitchell, Tyrese Hunter, Dylan Disu, Ithiel Horton, and Kadin Shedrick. 

Texas has the 19th-highest three-point shooting percentage and can get hot at any moment, as evidenced by recent games against West Virginia, Oklahoma, and TCU. Further, the Longhorns rank 23rd in adjusted offensive efficiency, 37th in effective field goal percentage, and 36th in assists per game.

The Longhorns have the firepower to decimate Kansas State. Dylan Disu has posted 20 points per game on a 51/57/76 shooting split in his past eight games, while Max Abmas has averaged 18 points per game in his past ten outings. Texas can lean on these two offensive talents against a team with inefficient leading scorers (Carter and Perry have combined to shoot less than 40% from the field) and an offense that does not value the ball (350th in turnovers per possession.) 

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Andrew Norton

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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.

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