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Best College Basketball Bets Today | NCAAB Picks February 27

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published February 27, 2024
8 min read
Best College Basketball Picks Today February 27

The Houston Cougars have overtaken UConn for the No. 1 spot in the A.P. Poll after the Huskies were pummeled on the road last week. Houston has continued to flex its dominance, boasting a one-game lead over eighth-ranked Iowa State; the Cougars recently beat the Cyclones by eight points at home.

Now, Houston will continue to try to hold off Iowa State for the Big 12 regular season title. A home matchup versus the Cincinnati Bearcats stands between the Cougars and the next step on their journey toward a conference championship.

Meanwhile, the No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats hope to ride the momentum from their last outing against No. 14 Alabama, where they posted 117 points on roughly 63% shooting from the field and 54% from behind the arc. 

Will the Wildcats have a letdown game after an exceptional offensive display against Alabama? Will Houston take care of business at home against the Bearcats? Check out our best college basketball picks for these two bouts below to find out!

Cincinnati @ No. 1 Houston

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

PICK: Houston -13.5 (-105)

Newly appointed No. 1 Houston is just a few weeks away from securing its first Big 12 championship in its first year in the conference. For the Cougars to accomplish this feat, which is exceptional, considering that the Big 12 has been the best conference in college basketball for several seasons, they will need to take care of business against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Hofheinz Pavilion. 

Houston’s program under Kelvin Sampson has had a resurgence. Besides Sampson’s first year, the Cougars have not had a losing season with him at the helm. Further, the Cougars have won at least 27 games every season since the 2017-18 campaign (the 2019-20 season was cut short due to COVID-19) and have finished the year in the A.P. Top 25 in all those seasons, too. In short, Sampson has built this program into a powerhouse again, like in the late 60s through the early 70s and in the early 80s. 

Sampson’s approach has been simple: find exceptional rebounders and defenders and build the program from within, not relying on an abundance of massive five-star prospects or portal transfers. That said, the Cougars did have to lean on the portal a bit this season to fill in the talent gap left by Marcus Sasser, Tramon Mark, and Jarace Walker’s departures.

And it should come as no surprise that Houston is a top-tier rebounding and defensive team once again, ranking second in offensive rebounding percentage, first in adjusted defensive efficiency (per KenPom), and second in opponent effective field goal percentage. The Cougars also have a solid overall offensive attack, sitting at 16th in adjusted offensive efficiency. While they don’t have an elite shooting split, especially from the free throw line, where they struggle mightily, the Cougars don’t turn the ball over. 

Meanwhile, Cincinnati has not had the type of season it was hoping for, as it is currently tied for the second-worst record in the Big 12 with UCF. Despite ranking 46th in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin and 45th in the NET, the Bearcats will likely get boxed out of the NCAA Tournament, barring a heroic finish to their conference season, including some wins during the Big 12 conference tournament tournament in March.

This season’s Cincinnati Bearcats team perfectly exemplifies the pros and cons of playing in a tough conference: a pro is that more teams from the conference make the “Big Dance,” while a con is that it is much more challenging to be one of “those teams.” Plus, every single game in conference play is a dogfight.

Cincinnati is a firm “bubble” team right now after dropping four of its past five games, including three games at home versus No. 1 Houston, No. 8 Iowa State, and Oklahoma State. The loss against the Cowboys was atrocious, while the committee would have probably liked to see the Bearcats split the home games against the Cougs and Cyclones; however, what is done is done. They need to string together some wins.

As mentioned above, these two teams faced off close to two and a half weeks ago, with the top-ranked Cougars snagging a narrow, five-point win behind a 20-point, eight-rebound game from J’Wan Roberts. 

Houston shot merely 39% from the field and 18% from behind the arc as a team, converting only three of those 16 attempts. L.J. Cryer only played 17 minutes, too. However, the Cougars knock down just shy of 36% of their threes at home, meaning they could have an opportunity to build a much bigger lead in this one. Additionally, Kelvin Sampson’s squad pulled down 17 offensive rebounds, which is a monstrous amount of boards, but again, the Cougs could have even more, considering they have an OREB% that is 6% higher on their home floor.

Cincinnati has lost four of its past five games and narrowly escaped with a two-point victory over UCF, the third-worst team in the Big 12. The Bearcats are not playing the kind of basketball that can keep them within remote striking distance of the No. 1 team in the nation on their home floor.

No. 16 Kentucky @ Mississippi State

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

PICK: Mississippi State -3.5 (-115)

Good luck predicting which Kentucky Wildcats squad you will see on any night. There are moments when the Wildcats look like a legitimate title-contending squad, like when they beat now-No. 11 Auburn by double-digits on the road or when they skated by No. 9 North Carolina by four points on a neutral court.

However, too many losses should not have happened, especially on their home floor, where they are 12-4 overall. That is not an excellent record at home for a top-25 team—a home loss to No. 4 Tennessee is not unforgivable, as it is a legitimate Final Four team, but it can’t drop games at Rupp Arena to a “down” Gonzaga team, UNC-Wilmington, or Florida.

Two of the Wildcats’ past three games were against ranked opponents (Alabama and Auburn), and they won those two games by a combined 33 points, but they lost the other game to LSU, a team barely above .500 this season.

This UK squad’s talent is not even remotely in question, as it just dropped 117 points in an SEC game against a ranked opponent. Further, they rank third in points per game, first in three-point shooting percentage, ninth in effective field goal percentage, 12th in assists per game, and eighth in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency.

The Wildcats also have two likely 2024 NBA Draft lottery picks (Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard), another few potential selections (D.J. Wagner, Zvonimir Ivisic, Justin Edwards, Aaron Bradshaw, and Adou Theiro), and eight or nine total players (everyone listed before, plus Tre Mitchell and Antonio Reeves) who have more than a good shot at stepping on an NBA floor at some point in their careers.

Kentucky’s issues are certainly not on the offensive end of the floor, as it might have the most talented top-to-bottom roster in the nation. The problems occur on the other end of the floor, where the Wildcats rank 77th in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing opponents to shoot an effective field goal percentage of 48.7% (87th in the nation.) 

Meanwhile, the Mississippi State Bulldogs have stepped up in this recent stretch, as they are riding a five-game winning streak, including victories over LSU, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Georgia, and Missouri. While their competition level has not been superb, it is still impressive to rattle off five consecutive wins in a conference like the SEC.

Mississippi State now ranks 28th in KenPom’s adjEM and 11th in adjD, holding opponents to just 67.5 points per game on the 23rd-lowest eFG% in the country! However, part of this can be attributed to missing its All-American-caliber senior Tolu Smith due to a foot injury; he didn’t play his first game this season until New Year’s Eve. 

Smith has averaged close to 17 points and eight rebounds per game for the Bulldogs, and they are 7-3 in their past ten conference games with him available. Mississippi State has a dynamic, two-way frontcourt of Smith and Cameron Matthews; add Josh Hubbard’s volume scoring into the mix, and the Bulldogs have a trio of reliable players.

This matchup is tricky for Kentucky since the Bulldogs allow opponents to knock down the fourth-lowest three-point percentage on any team in the nation. The three teams that rank ahead of them are mid-major programs that play in inferior conferences. So, this game will effectively be the best three-point shooting team versus one of the best perimeter defensive teams. 

While “great offense beats great defense” is often an accurate motto and exists for a reason, the Wildcats are due to have a letdown game in this spot after posting 117 points against Alabama in their last matchup. Finally, this is a revenge game spot for the Bulldogs, who are at home and playing against a horrendous defensive unit.

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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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