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Best College Basketball Bets Today | NCAAB Picks February 21

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published February 21, 2024
8 min read
Colorado Buffaloes guard K.J. Simpson makes a move with the basketball against the USC Trojans

There are more than a few captivating games on Wednesday night, with eight ranked teams taking the floor! The two matchups we want to focus on are a Mountain West showdown between the No. 22 Colorado State Rams and the New Mexico Lobos and an SEC battle, featuring the No. 24 Florida Gators and the No. 13 Alabama Crimson Tide. 

Find our best college basketball picks for these two games below, including an in-depth breakdown of each team, their respective seasons thus far, and which squad has an advantage against the spread!

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No. 22 Colorado State @ New Mexico

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

PICK: New Mexico -7 (-110)

Colorado State and New Mexico have both had marvelous seasons through late February and are projected to receive at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament. However, with college basketball being as chaotic as it is, both programs could help themselves lock in their spot with a win here. 

The Rams have a 4-5 record in Quad 1 and a 4-0 record in Quad 2, but a win on the road against a lightning-fast New Mexico squad would wrap up their tournament resume nicely. After that, any other wins would just help with their seeding! 

Similarly, the New Mexico Lobos have positioned themselves quite nicely ahead of March Madness, securing three wins out of six Quad 1 games. They have lost two of their three Quad 2 games, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem for them given their standing in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin (25th) and the NET ratings (24th.) Further, New Mexico has a rock-solid 20-6 overall record and an 8-5 record in Mountain West play. 

Besides the noticeable boost to their NCAA Tournament resume, a win in this game would help keep one of these teams in the hunt for a Mountain West regular season championship, as they would still be within striking distance of the Utah State Aggies. 

New Mexico is a particularly tough team to play against due to its rapid pace. It ranks sixth in adjusted tempo per KenPom. Further, the Lobos have the 31st-highest adjusted offensive efficiency and 30th-lowest (best) adjusted defensive efficiency (KenPom.) 

The Lobos don’t shoot that well from the perimeter, but they can get into the paint and mid-range and score at will. They rank 48th nationally in team field goal percentage (47%) despite only shooting 34.7% from behind the arc. The pace New Mexico plays at is blur-like. The Lobos will push the ball in transition off of missed shots and made ones, too. 

This team scarcely takes the entire, or even half, of the shot clock to get a shot up, either. The Lobos believe that the first clean look is sometimes the best. And that makes sense with their trio of guards, Jamal Mashburn Jr., Donovan Dent, and Jaelen House. Jemari Baker Jr. and Tru Washington are also terrific guards to come off the bench. They certainly have a “green light” to be aggressive offensively. 

On the defensive end, the Lobos swarm opponents, especially on the perimeter, throwing double-teams at players and rotating at a fiery pace. New Mexico wants opponents to try and challenge it in the paint, where it has the size, length, athleticism, timing, and defensive IQ to challenge at an exceptionally high rate. In fact, the Lobos rank 36th in block percentage due to the rim-protecting abilities of Nelly Junior Joseph and J.T. Toppin. Even more notably, they rank third in block percentage on their home floor, which could play a factor in this game!

Meanwhile, Colorado State has been fantastic, too. The Rams are led by Isaiah Stevens, who averages 16.2 points and 7.4 assists per game on fantastic efficiency (48/47/81 shooting split.) Stevens is arguably the most effective player in college basketball, especially given that he has a target on his back every game as the Rams’ best player. If it weren’t for Jaedon LeDee and Great Osobor, he would be a no-brainer for Mountain West Conference Player of the Year.

Colorado State logged a couple of early-season road wins but has since gone ice cold on the road, dropping five of its past six games away from Moby Arena. The Mountain West has become an extremely competitive conference, with KenPom ranking it as the seventh-best conference this season behind only the ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, and Pac-12

However, the Rams’ road play is still concerning, especially since their only win in that span was against Fresno State (4-9 in MWC.) Colorado State doesn’t just rely on Stevens, though, as it has three other players who average double-digit points per game. 

Unfortunately, the Rams are also experiencing some negative shooting regression, which was to be expected after the absurd efficiency with which they were shooting for the first half of the season. CSU actually had a 53/39/77 shooting split through the first 13 games, but those percentages have plummeted in the past 13 games, shooting just 46% from the field and 32% from behind the arc. The common denominator in these two data groupings is that the first 13 games were mostly non-conference, while the second 13 games were in MWC play.

New Mexico’s three-point defense has been spectacular all season, especially at home, where opponents hit just 25.5% of their attempts from deep. That mark ranks seventh in the nation. Colorado State doesn’t lean too heavily on knocking down threes to stay in games, but it doesn’t have the size to finish over Nelly Junior Joseph and J.T. Toppin consistently. The Rams’ frontcourt is 6-foot-6, 6–foot-7, and 6-foot-8, while NJJ and Toppin are 6-foot-9 and long. 

We love the Lobos in this spot.

No. 24 Florida @ No. 13 Alabama

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

PICK: Alabama -8(-115)

There is no other way to put it: the 13th-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide is one of the most dangerous teams in the country. Thus far in the 2023-24 campaign, Alabama has merely suffered seven losses despite having the fifth-hardest schedule (per KenPom’s Strength of Schedule Rating) nationally. 

And the craziest part about it is that the Crimson Tide started the season off slowly, with losses to Ohio State and Clemson in November. Since then, they have not had a single “bad loss.” Here are the teams that have beaten Alabama from the beginning of December until now: No. 3 Purdue, No. 15 Creighton, No. 14 Auburn, No. 4 Arizona, and No. 5 Tennessee. 

Yes, three of those teams are currently ranked in the top five, and two more are ranked in the top 15. The only loss not on the road or in a neutral court came against Clemson. Purdue and Arizona (they played at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, which was filled with ‘Zona fans) were on a neutral floor, while Creighton, Auburn, and Tennessee were road games.

In fact, the only knock on Alabama is that it hasn’t won many of those ranked games. The Crimson Tide decimated the now-No. 20 South Carolina Gamecocks on their home floor (74-47) and squeaked by No. 14 Auburn at home by four points, but that’s about it as far as impressive wins go. In Quad 1 games, the Tide are merely 2-6, but they are 16-1 in all other games. 

Alabama lost quite a bit of talent (Brandon Miller, Noah Clowney, Jahvon Quinerly, Charles Bediako, and Jaden Bradley) from last year’s squad, and it isn’t as good of a defensive team this season. However, the Tide did bring back Rylen Griffen and Mark Sears and they snagged Grant Nelson and Aaron Estrada in the transfer portal. 

The array of talented offensive weapons that Alabama possesses has led to it being (unsurprisingly) the No. 1 ranked offense per KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency (and sixth overall in his adjEM metric.)

Alabama matches its efficient offensive attack with a “blink and you’ll miss it” pace (11th in adjusted tempo.) This combination of shooting efficiency and up-tempo play makes it an extremely tough opponent.

Unless, of course, the opponent is Florida, in which case, the Gators shouldn’t be too phased by the pace. They rank 36th in adjusted tempo and tenth in adjusted offensive efficiency. Florida was yet another team that was significantly underrated entering the season, as it was projected to finish eighth in the SEC preseason media poll. The Gators are currently in sixth place with the same SEC record as Kentucky (8-4) and are only one-half of a game outside of being tied for third place.

If a list were being made about the hottest teams in America over the past four weeks, the Florida Gators would undoubtedly be towards the top. They have won seven of their past eight games, including a road win against No. 17 Kentucky and a double-digit home win versus No. 14 Auburn. The only game that Florida lost in that span was on the road against Texas A&M by one point. 

Five players (Walter Clayton Jr., Tyrese Samuel, Zyon Pullin, Will Richard, and Riley Kugel) average double-digit points for the Gators, but their two most consistent offensive weapons are Pullin and Clayton Jr, who combine to post 32 points per game. 

Defensively, the Gators are pretty mediocre (90th in adjD), but they have held opponents to merely 32.4% shooting from behind the arc in their past eight games, which could be helpful against a Crimson Tide team that knocks down 38.5% of their attempts.

Still, this is a spot to fade the Gators. They are a tournament-caliber team, but Alabama is a force on its home floor, hitting just shy of 43% of its 31.2 (second-most 3PAs nationally at home) three-point attempts. 

The Crimson Tide have the fifth-highest average scoring margin and score the most points in the nation at home. The game might be close for a bit, but expect the Crimson Tide to blow the doors open on this game and receive very little resistance from Florida, whose defense will fall apart in the second half.

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Andrew Norton

148 Articles

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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