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A boatload of ranked teams are playing (nine) on Tuesday, January 22nd, including the Houston Cougars, BYU Cougars, and Purdue Boilermakers. Find our best college basketball picks today for the No. 4 Houston Cougars versus the No. 21 BYU Cougars and the Michigan Wolverines versus the No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers below!
Date: Tuesday, January 23
Time: 9:00 pm EST
Moneyline: Houston N/A | BYU N/A
KenPom’s No. 1 team (adjusted efficiency margin), Houston, has a pivotal road matchup against the No. 21 BYU Cougars. Which Cougars team will win this matchup? Let’s break it down.
Houston lost three of its top four offensive weapons from last season’s team but replaced, replenished, and returned enough talent to remain a top dog in college basketball. The Cougars had two players depart for the 2023 NBA Draft (Marcus Sasser and Jarace Walker) and lost Tramon Mark to the transfer portal but were able to return Jamal Shead, Ja’Vier Francis, J’Wan Roberts, Terrance Arceneaux, and Emanuel Sharp.
Sharp has taken on a much more significant role, while Francis, Roberts, and Shead have also stepped up. Sampson also brought in two considerable additions from the transfer portal, including talented scoring guard L.J. Cryer, who is averaging 15.2 points per game.
In typical Kelvin Sampson fashion, the Houston Cougars are again one of the best offensive rebounding teams (second in offensive rebounding percentage) and defensive teams (first in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom.) Ironically, the other Cougars team (BYU) is the best defensive rebounding team in the nation (first in defensive rebounding percentage).
BYU has had an exceptional start to the 2023-24 campaign, holding a 14-4 record and in tenth place in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin. The Cougars did not have lofty expectations for this season. In fact, coaches in the conference predicted they would finish 13th (out of 14 teams) in the Big 12 behind teams like West Virginia, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas, and a handful of others.
Still, BYU needs to log some wins in conference play to avoid dropping too far; it isn’t a shoo-in for the NCAA Tournament yet. The Cougars are 2-3 in Big 12 play and are tied for second-to-last in the conference; however, road losses to No. 15 Baylor and No. 20 Texas Tech are entirely justifiable.
BYU is one of only seven teams that rank in the top 20 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Houston is one of the other teams on that shortlist. However, our biggest concern with this matchup is Houston’s substantial drop in second-chance scoring opportunities when it is on the road.
Houston averages 18 second-chance scoring opportunities at home, which is first in the country by a wide margin (Texas A&M gets an average of 14 on its home floor.) Unfortunately, on the road, the Houston Cougars only log roughly 6.1 second-chance scoring opportunities per game.
BYU also ranks eighth in eFG% on the offensive end of the floor and 13th in opponent 3P%, giving it a considerable advantage, especially since Houston won’t get many second-chance opportunities. We will back the Cougars (BYU) in this spot as home dogs!
Date: Tuesday, January 23
Time: 9:00 pm EST
Moneyline: Michigan N/A | Purdue N/A
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook. Head over to DraftKings Sportsbook to place your bets.
Since their 16-point road loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Purdue Boilermakers have been steamrolling Big Ten opponents, winning by an average margin of roughly 17.3 points despite two of those games coming on the road.
The Boilermakers decimated arch-rival Indiana by 21 points behind an absurd outing from reigning Wooden Award winner Zach Edey; he posted 33 points and 14 rebounds against the physical Hoosiers frontcourt. Edey has been a menace in the past three games, averaging 31 points and 17 rebounds per game on 62% shooting from the field.
The box scores might not show a massive difference in Edey’s progression from the 2022-23 regular season to this one, but his conditioning, quickness, and passing vision have all improved substantially.
That, along with the progression of its guards, has allowed Purdue to be a dynamic offensive threat, evidenced by its ranking (second) in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric. The only team that ranks ahead of the Boilermakers in that metric is Alabama; however, the Crimson Tide might have a slight advantage there due to their pace of play (27th in adjT), as the Boilers shoot better from behind the arc and rebound better on the offensive glass.
Besides Edey’s evident improvements, several other Boilermakers have stepped up their game, including Fletcher Loyer, Lance Jones, Trey Kaufman-Renn, Mason Gillis, and Braden Smith.
Smith is the most notable case of drastic progression from last season to the 2023-24 campaign, though, as he has shot the lights out of the ball (41.8% from behind the arc); he is averaging close to 12 points, seven assists, and five rebounds per game. Further, Loyer has stepped up in a big way, shooting 43% from behind the arc for Purdue, which is substantially better than the percentage he shot last year (32.6%).
Once you add Lance Jones (11.9 ppg) into the mix, it becomes evident that the Boilermakers are not only Big Ten regular season and conference tournament frontrunners for the second consecutive season but also a clear favorite to win the NCAA Tournament in March.
Look at the quality of their wins; they have beaten No. 10 Illinois, Xavier, Gonzaga, No. 5 Tennessee, No. 14 Marquette, Alabama, No. 9 Arizona, and Iowa (twice.) Purdue has played in 13 Quad 1 and Quad 2 games and has won 11. Few teams in recent history have had the resume that this team has.
Still, Purdue has to take every Big Ten game with the utmost seriousness, especially since it is one-half of a game behind Wisconsin for the best record in the conference. Further, the Boilermakers have already dropped two road games to teams (Nebraska and Northwestern) that are far inferior.
On the other side, Michigan has had a nightmarish season thus far, boasting a 7-11 overall record and a 2-5 record in the Big Ten, which is tied for last place. It was bound to be a tough season for the Wolverines after they struggled in the 2022-23 campaign (18-16 overall), despite having Hunter Dickinson (third-best odds for Wooden Award this season), Jett Howard (2023 NBA Draft pick), Kobe Bufkin (2023 NBA Draft pick), and Dug McDaniel (this season’s leading scorer for Michigan) on the team.
There are only a few explanations for that team not being a legitimate contender: coaching, chemistry, and culture. Unfortunately, none of those factors have improved and the Wolverines have significantly less talent this season versus last season. The relative strength that the Wolverines do have is three-point shooting; they rank 28th in 3P%, shooting just shy of 38% as a team.
The bottom line for this Michigan team is that its only strength will be mitigated, as the Boilers allow opponents to shoot just 26.5% from behind the arc this season. However, the main issue in this game is the Wolverines don’t have the size or rebounding prowess to keep Purdue off the offensive glass.
At home, the Boilermakers pull down 36.4% of their misses on the offensive glass, which ranks 26th in the nation. This fact is only going to be accentuated further when they play against a Wolverines frontcourt that has been a poor defensive rebounding team; they rank 250th in DREB% and 346th in DREB% in their last game against Illinois, a similarly talented rebounding team.
We hate laying 17.5 points in a Big Ten game, but Edey will obliterate this Michigan frontcourt.
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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