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Almost half (12) of the Top 25 teams play on Tuesday night in what is going to be an enthralling slate for college basketball fans. Furthering the excitement is the fact that all of these games are conference matchups since it is January, meaning there is added incentive to win besides just building a resume or playing for pride. Check out our BYU versus Baylor and Purdue versus Nebraska best bets below!
Date: Tuesday, January 9
Time: 9:00 pm EST
Who would have thought that the Nebraska Cornhuskers would enter this home game against the No. 1 overall Purdue Boilermakers with a 12-3 overall record? Perhaps, head coach Fred Hoiberg and the rest of the Cornhuskers believed it, but certainly not many outside of that program were believers.
Nebraska is 2-2 in Big Ten conference play with home wins against Michigan State and Indiana and road losses to Minnesota (yikes) and No. 15 Wisconsin. Luckily for Nebraska, this is a home game, and it seems to perform much better there (10-1) than on the road (1-2).
As a matter of fact, the only home loss the Cornhuskers have had this season was against now-No. 22 Creighton, who was playing at a much higher level early in the season.
The Cornhuskers lost Derrick Walker, their leading scorer from last season, but were able to return Keisei Tominaga, Juwan Gary, C.J. Wilcher, Jamarques Lawrence, and Sam Hoiberg.
Tominaga and Gary have been huge assets offensively, with each averaging between 12 and 14 points. Nebraska also brought in Charlotte transfer Brice Williams, a crafty 6-foot-7 forward who is averaging close to 14 points and six rebounds, as well as Rienk Mast, a double-double machine who transferred in from Bradley.
Nebraska has four players averaging double-digits on solid splits, which is partly why it ranks 45th in the nation in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency and 52nd overall (adjEM). The Cornhuskers are not a pushover team, but they have a tough matchup against the No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers.
We have covered Purdue fairly extensively in these best bets articles, but it never hurts to recap. The Boilermakers returned six of their top seven players, including reigning Wooden Award winner Zach Edey, a dominant, physical 7-foot-4 center who averages close to 22 points and 11 rebounds per game. Fletcher Loyer, Braden Smith, Mason Gillis, Trey Kaufman-Renn, and Caleb Furst are the other key returners, with Loyer and Smith being the two major offensive contributors.
Purdue’s biggest weakness last season was a combination of a lack of offensive support and overall three-point shooting; however, those two issues have not only been resolved but have been turned into strengths. The Boilermakers shoot just shy of 40% from behind the arc, ranking 11th in the nation, which is leaps and bounds better than the 32.3% they shot last season.
Additionally, Loyer, Smith, and senior transfer Lance Jones, average between 11 and 13 points per game, which gives Purdue enough scoring diversification to keep teams guessing, and, thus, unable to constantly double-team Edey in the post.
Of course, our expectations for this game are that Purdue will win and extend its current winning streak to eight games; however, a 7.5-point spread is extremely sizable against a team that has proven they can play competitive basketball at home. Nebraska holds opponents to just 30.7% shooting from behind the arc, which could cause some issues for the Boilermakers throughout the game.
The Cornhuskers also have solid frontcourt size, with Rienk Mast (6-foot-10) and Josiah Allick (6-foot-8) able to throw their bodies around in the paint in an attempt to match Edey’s physicality.
The keys to this game will be whether or not Nebraska can keep Edey off of the offensive glass, and whether or not the Cornhuskers will knock down enough three-pointers to keep it close at the end. Luckily, Nebraska ranks 28th in defensive rebounds per game and has Tominaga, Williams, and C.J. Wilcher shooting at high clips so far this season; it should be a close game until the buzzer.
Date: Tuesday, January 9
Time: 9:00 pm EST
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook. Head over to DraftKings Sportsbook to place your bets.
It should come as no surprise that the 14th-ranked Baylor Bears are once again a sharpshooting team with an uber-efficient offense that can run almost any team off the floor with their scoring. After all, this is a Scott Drew-coached basketball team.
Despite losing their top three scorers (Adam Flagler, L.J. Cryer, and Keyonte George), the Bears were able to successfully reload with a bunch of scoring talent by signing five-star freshman guard Ja’Kobe Walter and four-star freshman Yves Missi, and bringing in transfer RayJ Dennis, who averaged close to 20 points, six assists, and four rebounds per game last season for Toledo.
Further, Baylor had two key returners in Langston Love and Jalen Bridges, which helped bridge the gap from last season to this one. Because of Drew’s impressive ability to mesh transfer portal recruiting with traditional recruiting, Baylor is again in prime position to make a deep NCAA Tournament run.
Still, there are weaknesses to this team. The Bears might rank fourth in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric, but they are also merely 70th in the nation on the defensive end of the floor (adjD). Championship teams never rank that low on defense, making Baylor’s battle an uphill one. Either way, this team is undeniably skilled and can win on any given night against great talent.
Speaking of great talent, this BYU team certainly comes to mind. The Cougars are 12-2 to start the 2023-24 campaign but, unfortunately, dropped their first Big 12 conference game to Cincinnati at home this past Saturday by double-digits. While Cincinnati (29th in adjEM) is a strong basketball team, it was discouraging to see the Cougars drop the bout, especially at home.
Regardless, BYU has an exceptional defense (sixth in adjD) that is 16th in opponent eFG% and fifth in opponent 3P%. The Cougars also shoot 37.1% as a team from deep, which is 40th in the nation. However, their absolute best talent as a team is their rebounding; they rank fourth in the nation in total rebounding rate behind Arizona, High Point, and (wouldn’t you know it) Cincinnati.
This game will boil down to a great offense versus a great defense. The Cougars have held their opponents to worse than 27% shooting from downtown, but Baylor fires at a 45% clip from deep, which is not even remotely within striking distance of the second-best shooting team (42%) in the nation. Additionally, Baylor’s three-point percentage skyrockets even higher to 48.2% when it is playing in front of its fans.
Another concerning aspect of this game is the fact that BYU is unproven on the road. The Cougars have only played one road game this season and they lost by four points to the Utah Utes. Utah is another top 50 KenPom team, but it isn’t nearly as explosive as Baylor.
BYU has been great so far this season due to its incredible rebounding prowess, but when it plays teams with a similar ability on the glass, it can be beaten. That’s where Baylor (fifth in total rebounding rate at home) comes into the picture.
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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