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Best College Basketball Bets Today | NCAAB Picks January 22

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

Two college basketball “blue bloods” have games on Monday night! The No. 4 North Carolina Tar Heels host Wake Forest for an in-state affair, while the No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks will welcome the Cincinnati Bearcats to Allen Fieldhouse in hopes of advancing to 10 on their home floor this season. Find our best college basketball picks today for these two games below!

Wake Forest @ No. 4 North Carolina

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook. Bet $5 and get $200 in Bonus Bets at DraftKings!

PICK: Over 154.5 (-110)

It has been a roller coaster the past few seasons for the North Carolina Tar Heels. In the 2021-22 season, North Carolina secured a berth to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 8 seed and made an incredibly improbable run all the way to the championship game, where it blew a huge lead to Kansas and wound up losing. 

Nonetheless, it was an impressive run for a program that had just seen Roy Williams retire. They chose Hubert Davis as the successor, and he made the title game as a first-year head coach. 

Even more exceptional was the fact that the Tar Heels nearly returned every player from their championship runner-up team for the 2022-23 season, except for Brady Manek. Manek was a huge contributor to the unlikely run, but UNC had locked down a key transfer to fill his spot with Pete Nance, the former Northwestern star.

As a result, the North Carolina Tar Heels entered the 2022-23 regular season as the No. 1 team in the country; however, they proceeded to have arguably their most disappointing season in their program’s history, missing the NCAA Tournament altogether.

After the end of the 2022-23 season, the Tar Heels’ leading scorer, Caleb Love, opted to hit the transfer portal, ultimately ending up with the Arizona Wildcats. However, UNC was still able to bring back two essential pieces of its offense in R.J. Davis and Armando Bacot, while Jalen Washington and Seth Trimble also returned. After being non-factors last year, Washington and Trimble are two rotational players this season.

The transfer portal has also been exceptionally kind to the Tar Heels, as they brought over Cormac Ryan from Notre Dame, Jae’Lyn Withers from Louisville, and Harrison Ingram from Stanford. Reclassified five-star point guard Elliot Cadeau has also been a massive addition to a team that lost its starting lead guard for the past two seasons.

North Carolina entered this year as the No. 19 team in the nation and has now climbed to fourth behind Kansas, UConn, and Purdue. The Tar Heels are seventh in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin and are one of only four teams that rank in the top 15 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies. 

North Carolina’s three losses have come to Villanova, No. 8 Kentucky, and No. 1 UConn. It has won over Clemson, No. 6 Tennessee, and No. 15 Oklahoma. Another interesting note about the Tar Heels is that they haven’t lost at home or on the road (12-0.) Games at neutral sites have been an Achilles heel for the Tar Heels, which could be something to watch when the NCAA Tournament rolls around but could be an advantage for bettors in this spot.

Meanwhile, Wake Forest is hovering on the right side of the March Madness “bubble,” currently listed as one of the last four teams in the NCAA Tournament. The Demon Deacons’ are 13-5 this season overall and 12-3 in their past 15 games; they rank 36th in KenPom’s adjEM behind the 28th-ranked offense (adjusted offensive efficiency.)

The Demon Deacons are an impressive team on their home floor, with wins over Virginia, Miami (FL), Virginia Tech, Florida, and Rutgers, but they have dropped two consecutive road games to N.C. State and Florida State. 

At home, North Carolina ranks eighth in points per game, 21st in unadjusted offensive efficiency, and 20th in offensive rebounding percentage. The Tar Heels also rank 17th in average scoring margin at the Dean Smith Center, winning by 22 points per game on their home floor.

However, Wake Forest has the kind of momentum right now that can keep it close in this game, even though it has struggled in its past two road games. The Demon Deacons returned 6-foot-6 wing Damari Monsanto to the lineup. He scored 12 points against Louisville in his first game back! Monsanto adds even more scoring to an already impressive offensive attack. 

Further, Jao Ituka was also cleared to return to the court, giving the Demon Deacons another talented veteran guard who can alleviate some of the responsibility from Hunter Sallis, Kevin Miller, and Cameron Hildreth. Here’s the other thing: Ituka shoots just shy of 41% from three-point land in his collegiate career, while Monsanto is a 39% career shooter from deep. 

Those are two dangerous additions to a team that already ranks 12th in the nation in 3P% and shoots at a high clip on the road, too. North Carolina has a great defense but still allows opponents to shoot roughly 35% from deep on its home floor. Wake Forest is a different type of high-octane shooting team than UNC has faced at home, too. This point total should be closer to 160 points. We will take the Over.

Cincinnati @ No. 3 Kansas

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook. Head over to DraftKings Sportsbook to place your bets.

PICK: Cincinnati +9 (-108)

Kansas, the No. 3 team in the country, looks to close the gap on Kansas State and Texas Tech, the two leaders in the Big 12, as they play through the first five conference games on Monday night against Cincinnati. 

While the Kansas Jayhawks might be ranked No. 3 in the country by the A.P. Poll, they have had some suspect losses recently. At least, if they really are the third-ranked team in the country.

Kansas has dropped recent games to UCF (72nd in KenPom’s adjEM) and West Virginia (132nd in adjEM.) Their only other loss this season was to the No. 17 Marquette Golden Eagles on a neutral court. Still, the Jayhawks have typically played up to their competition and have some strong wins this season, including against No. 6 Tennessee, No. 8 Kentucky, and No. 1 UConn.

The problem with Kansas isn’t that it is an unworthy or overrated basketball team but that it is elite but plays down to its competition too often. That is the only real way you can describe the fact that the Jayhawks beat No. 6 Tennessee by nine points but then only beat Eastern Illinois (314th in adjEM!) by eight points at home.

The Big 12 conference is not a conference where you can “play with your food” and still squeak out a victory. For example, West Virginia is the second-worst team in the Big 12, boasting a horrendous (relative to the program’s history) 7-11 record, and it still dropped a monstrous 91 points on the Jayhawks in a six-point win. 

Cincinnati is a strong basketball team, ranking 33rd in adjEM behind the 22nd-lowest (best) adjusted defensive efficiency in the nation. The Bearcats only returned their third and seventh-leading scorers (they are now the first and second-leading scorers), as well as John Newman III (injured) from the 2022-23 unit. 

However, they brought in a lot of supporting talent, including Day Day Thomas (JUCO transfer), Simas Lukosius (Butler transfer), Aziz Bandaogo (Utah Valley transfer), and C.J. Fredrick (Kentucky transfer.) Unfortunately, Fredrick will continue to miss game action due to a hamstring injury, but the Bearcats still have plenty of talent to deploy.

So, can Cincinnati keep the game close against a Kansas team that has sputtered as of late? 

The Bearcats seem to have an affinity recently for keeping games close when they are on the road; they lost by five points to Xavier, three points to No. 9 Baylor, and beat No. 20 BYU by 11 points in their past three road games. 

On the road, Cincinnati could hardly be shooting worse from behind the arc, knocking down roughly 23% of its attempts; however, its elite rebounding as a team (sixth in total rebounding rate and 18th in offensive rebounding percentage in the nation) can keep it in games that it otherwise wouldn’t belong in. 

We believe that this will be one of those games, as the Jayhawks have been susceptible in their past three games on the defensive glass (only a 72.9% defensive rebounding percentage in that stretch.)

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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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