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Best College Basketball Bets Today | NCAAB Picks January 17

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published January 17, 2024
8 min read
Best College Basketball Bets Today January 16

The college basketball slate on Wednesday, January 17, has two top-25 matchups, including a Big East battle between No. 18 Creighton and No. 1 UConn and a Big 12 showdown featuring No. 25 Texas Tech and No. 5 Houston. Find our best college basketball picks for these two enthralling games below!

No. 18 Creighton @ No. 1 UConn

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PICK: Creighton +5.5 (-110)

It has been another sensational season for the UConn Huskies, who have just taken over the spot as the No. 1 team in the nation from the Purdue Boilermakers. Despite losing three players (Andre Jackson Jr., Adama Sanogo, and Jordan Hawkins) to the NBA in this past draft, the Huskies have found a way to stay relevant in the form of both returners and newcomers.

UConn was able to bring back a three-headed monster of sorts, featuring sharpshooting forward Alex Karaban, 7-foot-2 interior force Donovan Clingan, and triple-double threat Tristen Newton. These three players alone would make up an elite basketball club, but head coach Dan Hurley did not stop there.

The Huskies also added former Rutgers star Cam Spencer in the transfer portal and signed five-star combo guard Stephon Castle, who will more than likely be a top ten pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. That is quickly becoming common territory for UConn players. Those five together form the best starting lineup in college basketball. 

UConn currently stands in seventh in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin and third in his adjusted offensive efficiency metric. The Huskies boast one of the best half-court offenses in the nation, utilizing complicated and well-spaced sets to get open looks for their various weapons. Despite being one of the slowest teams in the nation (322nd in adjusted tempo), the Huskies can pour on the points in a hurry.

On the other side, Creighton has had a roller coaster start to the 2023-24 regular season, holding a 13-4 record, with losses to Villanova, No. 17 Marquette, UNLV, and Colorado State. While Colorado State and Villanova were ranked at some point in the season, the Golden Eagles are the only remaining team that sits in the AP Top 25. Further, three of those four losses came in a four-game stretch.

Since then, the Bluejays have logged four consecutive wins, including against DePaul, Georgetown, Providence, and St. John’s; they aren’t the cream of the crop in the Big East, but St. John’s and Providence aren’t pushovers.

Even after its streaky start, Creighton ranks 15th in KenPom’s adjEM and is one of only nine teams that has a top 25 adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. The Bluejays are a top-heavy team, similar to last season; however, most programs would kill for a lineup that features Baylor Scheierman, Trey Alexander, Ryan Kalkbrenner, and Steven Ashworth.

Creighton actually matches up quite well with the Huskies. Ryan Kalkbrenner, a 7-foot-1 center, should be able to battle inside with 7-foot-2 Clingan, while Scheierman and Karaban provide similar play styles and size. 

UConn’s defense has been spotty recently, allowing two of its past three opponents to score over 75 points, which could potentially leave the door open for a talented Creighton team to fill it up. Further, the Huskies have been sloppy on the defensive glass, allowing the tenth-most offensive rebounds to opponents in their past three games.

Expect the Bluejays to keep this one close, even if they don’t win.

No. 25 Texas Tech @ No. 5 Houston

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PICK: Houston -12 (-110)

Many programs would fall face first after losing three of their top four players, with two being drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft and the other transferring to a different university; however, Houston is not “many programs.” 

The Cougars were able to return a handful of contributors from last season’s squad, all of whom have picked up the slack on the offensive end of the floor. Further, head coach Kelvin Sampson hit the transfer portal to scoop L.J. Cryer, a scoring guard from Baylor who has been phenomenal for the Cougars this season; he also grabbed Damian Dunn from Temple to fill in another rotation spot.

It has been another successful start to the season for the Cougars, who have a 14-2 record with wins over Texas A&M, Xavier, and No. 21 Dayton. Unfortunately, Houston has dropped its past two games, both of which were Big 12 conference games; it lost on the road to No. 24 Iowa State by four points and No. 19 TCU by one point. 

The past two games have represented a brutal stretch for one of the top teams in America, and the team that is first in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin, but there is still a ton of Big 12 games to be played and time before the start of the NCAA Tournament. 

Houston has been nothing short of spectacular defensively and on the glass, ranking first in opponent eFG% and second in offensive rebounding percentage. Further, the Cougars force the seventh-most turnovers defensively. There are two areas where Houston can improve before the end of the season: defending without fouling (267th in fouls per game) and three-point shooting (34.4%, 136th in the nation.)

Meanwhile, Texas Tech has put together an impressive season itself, ranking 25th in the nation with a 14-2 record. The Red Raiders have had a huge roster overhaul from last season to this one, with Pop Isaacs and Kerwin Walton being the only key returners. Isaacs was the third-leading scorer and now leads the team in scoring, while Walton is merely the seventh-leading scorer. It was going to be imperative for the Red Raiders to bring in talent from the outside if they wanted to compete in the Big 12, one of the toughest conferences in America.

So, Tech brought in Joe Toussaint (Iowa and most recently West Virginia), Devan Cambridge (Auburn and most recently Arizona State), Warren Washington (Nevada and most recently Arizona State), Darrion Williams (Nevada), and Chance McMillan (Grand Canyon) to make up for the huge amount of players it lost.

Now, the Red Raiders rank 30th in KenPom’s adjEM and have banded together quite well, winning nine consecutive games since losing to the Butler Bulldogs on the road on November 30th. 

Still, Texas Tech is in for a rough game. After dropping two road games by five combined points, the Cougars are going to be fired up and ready to inflict pain on the Red Raiders. Houston is a terrific team at home; it has not lost a game yet and ranks 18th in unadjusted offensive efficiency, while shooting just shy of 47% from the field and 35% from deep. Houston also pulls down just shy of half (45.1%) of its missed shots on the offensive end of the floor, an outrageous mark regardless of venue. 

Meanwhile, Texas Tech ranks 191st in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, which is deeply concerning for this matchup. The Cougars have the size, physicality, discipline, and coaching to come away with their tenth home win of the season in this one.

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Andrew Norton

117 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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