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Best College Basketball Bets Today | NCAAB Picks February 22

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published February 22, 2024
8 min read
Best College Basketball Picks Today

Only three top-25 teams play on Thursday night, but two of those three play each other (No. 21 Washington State and No. 4 Arizona), and the other (No. 3 Purdue) is hoping for a bounce-back game against a new-look Rutgers team.

We have a full write-up of the Rutgers vs. No. 3 Purdue game that you can find in the "More NCAAB Stories" section of this article, but we do have our other two best bets for the No. 21 Washington State vs. No. 4 Arizona game below!

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No. 21 Washington State @ No. 4 Arizona

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

PICK: Washington State +12.5 (-115) & Under 151 (-112)

It should go without saying, but this game is of the utmost importance for both teams. 

The No. 4 Arizona Wildcats have a narrow one-half game lead on the No. 21 Washington State Cougars for first place in the Pac-12. If Arizona wins, it will be up 1.5 games on the Cougars for a Pac-12 regular season championship. However, if the Cougars win, they will own the tiebreaker and have a one-half game lead with just five conference games remaining in the season. 

Washington State has come out of nowhere in the past few weeks. It has won seven straight games and ten of its past 11, including a narrow three-point home win against Arizona! The Cougars weren’t projected to finish first, second, or third in the Pac-12 at the beginning of the season. Instead, the Pac-12 preseason media poll had them finishing tenth out of 12 teams in the conference.

Washington State is a slow, methodical team (310th in adjusted tempo, per KenPom) that prioritizes its defense (27th in adjusted defensive efficiency.) The most incredible aspect of this Cougars team is their length. Their starters are Myles Rice (6-foot-3), Jaylen Wells (6-foot-8), Isaac Jones (6-foot-9), Andrej Jakimovski (6-foot-8), and Oscar Cluff (6-foot-11). Good luck finding a lineup that is as long and tall as the Cougars are across the board.

Unsurprisingly, the Cougars rebound the ball extraordinarily well, ranking 24th in total rebounding rate and seventh in defensive rebounding percentage in the nation. While Washington State is much more aggressive and physical on the offensive glass at home, it prioritizes limiting transition baskets and grabbing every missed shot from opponents when it is away from home (it ranks first nationally in defensive rebounding percentage on the road.)

Meanwhile, Arizona has been a force on both ends of the floor, meshing an up-tempo pace (15th in adjusted tempo) with fantastic efficiency offensively (sixth in adjO) and defensively (11th in adjD.) Even though the Wildcats lost Azuolas Tubelis, their leading scorer and rebounder from last season (19.8 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game), and Courtney Ramey and Kerr Kriisa, they have hardly skipped a beat.

The additions of Caleb Love (North Carolina), Keshad Johnson (San Diego State), and Jaden Bradley (Alabama) to the transfer portal have been massive in replacing the output on both ends from Tubelis, Ramey, and Kriisa. Bringing those three in to join the core of Oumar Ballo, Pelle Larsson, and Kylan Boswell has been precisely what the Wildcats needed to be an NCAA title-contending team!

So, what can we expect from this explosive top-25 matchup?

For one, we should expect the Cougars to slow the game down substantially, which will favor the Under. Washington State knows it will not win a shootout with the Wildcats because only two or three teams in the nation can, and the Cougars are not one of them.

Like Washington State has done all season when playing on the road, expect it to emphasize crashing the defensive glass (first in DREB% on the road in the nation) and leaving its own second-chance opportunities alone at the other end. The Cougars are not going to outrebound Arizona on the “O-Glass.” 

Once a shot goes up for the Cougars, they will get back on defense and eliminate fastbreak opportunities for Arizona (also favors the Under) to try and keep the Wildcats’ offensive explosions to a minimum. By slowing the pace down, Washington State can keep the game within striking distance, giving it a chance to make a run in the final minutes to squeak by the Wildcats. The Cougars have done it once before, winning by three points at home and holding Arizona to 70 points, which has been its lowest point total this entire season. 

This game could decide who wins the Pac-12 regular season title, so expect the defensive effort to be ramped up for both teams. Scoring will be harder to come by, which benefits the Cougars as 12.5-point dogs and the Under.

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AUTHOR

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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