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In an otherwise underwhelming slate of college basketball, two huge games save us! A battle of two ranked opponents, the No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks and No. 22 TCU Horned Frogs, is our marquee matchup, while the Duke Blue Devils continue to fight for NCAA Tournament positioning in a battle with the struggling Louisville Cardinals.
For both of these games, we have provided our best bets below, along with an in-depth analysis of each team’s season, and the matchup itself. Check it out!
When: 9:00 PM EST
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In hopes of claiming solo first place in an ever-challenging Big 12 Conference, the Kansas Jayhawks will fly south to face the TCU Horned Frogs. TCU had dropped four straight bouts and five of its past six (including losses to Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State) before righting the ship with a 25-point home win against the Cowboys.
The Horned Frogs ranked as high as No. 11 in the nation before dropping five of six games prior to their win on Saturday. So, what was the common denominator? Junior guard Mike Miles Jr was not available for any of those games (except for four minutes against Mississippi State in what turned into an overtime loss.)
Miles has paced the Horned Frogs this season with roughly 18 points, three rebounds, and three assists per game on 53% shooting from the field. His importance to this team cannot be overstated, especially given their otherwise below-average offense (59th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency.) With Miles back in the lineup against Oklahoma State, TCU played like a completely different team.
The Horned Frogs have been riddled with injuries all year long; they have been forced to take on a “next man up” mentality, as merely four players have appeared in all 27 games this season. Their top three scorers, Miles (19 games), Damion Baugh (21 games), and Emanuel Miller (24 games), have not been fortunate enough to be a part of the healthy group mentioned above.
In short, head coach Jamie Dixon has been forced to turn to his bench more often than most coaches this season. However, Dixon seems to believe in his bench, playing ten players for roughly 15 or more minutes per game when they are available.
Meanwhile, Kansas has been on a roll since getting drubbed by the Horned Frogs on their own floor on January 21st, winning six of its past eight games. That streak also includes four-straight wins, all of which were against Big 12 opponents.
The Jayhawks rank top 20 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency metrics, making them one of only four teams (including Kansas) in the nation to do so, as of February 19th.
Kansas is led by All-American Jalen Wilson, freshman phenom Gradey Dick, and a handful of phenomenal role players, including K.J. Adams Jr, Dajuan Harris Jr, Kevin McCullar Jr, Ernest Udeh Jr, Bobby Pettiford Jr, and Joseph Yesufu. Conversely, for Kansas, the Jayhawks have been remarkably healthy all season long, with their starting five only missing one combined game!
Now, let’s look at this game, specifically. What happened in the first matchup that allowed TCU to put together a massive 23-point beatdown on the road? For one, the Horned Frogs shot incredibly well from the floor, but especially from deep (53.3%.) This was an outlier game for TCU, as it ranks 354th (out of 363 teams) in the nation in 3P%!
Even with Miles back, don’t expect the Horned Frogs to get that hot again; it won’t happen against this Jayhawks defense that has been playing quite well recently. Further, Kansas has held opponents to merely 32% from deep this season.
Take the points and back Kansas, who can come one game closer to another Big 12 Conference championship with a win here. Every game from this point on is of the utmost importance for the Jayhawks!
When: 7:00 PM EST
It’s difficult to choose the more shocking story. Is it the mediocre season for Duke, despite bringing in a handful of five-star phenoms, or the horrendous 4-23 season for Louisville? I suppose I would say Louisville is the bigger shock.
The Cardinals’ four-win season has been an atrocity; it is so rare that a program that has won a national title in the past decade, and has a good history, is at the bottom of the barrel. Literally.
Louisville is dead-last in the ACC, even behind Notre Dame, who has also had a downright miserable season. Sure, it has been a “down” season for the ACC in general, but this is borderline unfathomable. Wins over Western Kentucky, Florida A&M (359th out of 363 in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin), Georgia Tech, and Clemson are likely the only moments it has to enjoy by the end of the season.
So, surely we should back the Blue Devils in this spot, right? The Cardinals are inexplicably bad and will be on the road! Well, therein lies the potential rub: the Cardinals’ win over Clemson (11-5 in the ACC, 19-8 overall) was their last game, meaning they had played winning basketball just a few days ago.
El Ellis, the Cardinals’ leading scorer, went nuclear against Clemson, scoring 28 points. Meanwhile, fifth-leading scorer, J.J. Traynor, dropped in 16 points and pulled down nine boards for by far his best game of the year.
Still, that game was at home, with a crowd that was incredibly supportive. This game, however, will be played at Cameron Indoor Stadium, one of the most difficult arenas to play at, as an opponent, in the nation. Duke has not lost at home this season.
I’m going to back the Blue Devils in this spot for a few reasons. First, Louisville’s most recent home win against Clemson was an outlier; this is not something we should expect to continue into their road trip versus Duke. Second, the Blue Devils have been getting better play from their freshmen as the season has continued.
While Kyle Filipowski (15 points and nine rebounds) and Jeremy Roach (13 points and three assists) have been fairly consistent this year, the rest of Duke’s squad has not been. Recently, Dariq Whitehead, Dereck Lively II, and Tyrese Proctor have stepped up and played better ball.
Whitehead has averaged 11 points and shot 47% from three on five attempts per game in his past 11 games, while only playing 25 minutes per game. Further, Proctor has reached double-digit points in seven of his past 11 games, and Lively has shown explosive rim-protecting and rebounding abilities.
Speaking of rebounding ability, that is where the massive disparity lies between these two teams. Duke ranks fourth in the nation in total rebounding percentage, while Louisville sits at 220th.
Duke is the type of team that could blossom in the next few weeks, especially due to the legitimate possibility of winning out in the regular season (three of its four final games are at home) and grabbing a solid seed in the NCAA Tournament. It has plenty of talent, size, strength, and scoring to do so.
I expect the Blue Devils to lead this game wire-to-wire and blow out Louisville, who will be suffering from a massive emotional hangover.
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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