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Best College Basketball Bets Today | NCAAB Picks January 3

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published January 3, 2024
11 min read
Best College Basketball Bets Today January 3

While there are only two Top 25 teams playing on Wednesday’s slate, and both of those games are somewhat underwhelming, there are still a barrage of meaningful conference matchups, including the Indiana Hoosiers versus the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Xavier Musketeers versus the Villanova Wildcats. Take a look at our best college basketball picks today for these two matchups below!

Indiana @ Nebraska

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PICK: Indiana +5 (-110)

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With so many question marks ahead of Wednesday night’s matchup against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, we will have to wait before making an official play. The Indiana Hoosiers have been missing their starting point guard and leader Xavier Johnson since their non-conference game against the Harvard Crimson on November 26th. Unfortunately, Indiana was without starting center and two-way interior force, Kel’el Ware in its last game against Kennesaw State, too.

Ware’s absence was reportedly due to an illness, which hopefully allowed him to get adequate rest, especially when staring down the gauntlet that is conference season. Until Ware and Johnson’s availability is determined, we will proceed as if Ware will play and Johnson will miss another game; there has not been any timetable given for Johnson’s return, so it is challenging to see the Hoosiers bringing him back unexpectedly, even if he is listed as questionable.

It has been awhile since the Nebraska Cornhuskers have been a competitive team in the Big Ten, a conference that is notorious for having a number of powerhouse college basketball programs, but they have looked solid so far this season. Nebraska ranks 52nd in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin metric, with an 11-2 record and wins over Kansas State and Michigan State; its two losses came against Creighton at home and Minnesota on the road, both of which were by double-digits. Still, despite the Cornhuskers’ solid record, they have played one of the easiest schedules in the nation up to this point, with their opponents collectively ranking 298th in adjusted efficiency margin. For reference, the Hoosiers’ opponents thus far rank 122nd collectively.

Nebraska returned Juwan Gary, Keisei Tominaga, C.J. Wilcher, Jamarques Lawrence, and Sam Hoiberg from last season’s team; it also brought in Charlotte transfer Brice Williams and Bradley transfer Rienk Mast to fill in gaps left from other departures. Their arrival has been particularly helpful on the offensive side of the floor, where the Cornhuskers rank 49th in adjusted offensive efficiency. 

Even so, this is not a three-point shooting team (194th in 3P%), a turnover-prone team (91st in turnovers per game), or an effective paint-finishing team (134th in eFG%.) The Cornhuskers do a solid job on the offensive glass, but Indiana’s size (assuming Ware plays) trumps their size, as the Hoosiers roll out one of the tallest frontcourts in the Big Ten.

The most impressive aspect of Nebraska’s team this season has been its perimeter defense; it ranks 15th in opponent 3P%, allowing just 28.1% shooting from behind the arc to opponents. Unfortunately for the Cornhuskers, Indiana shoots the third-fewest three-point attempts of any team in the nation at the Division I level.

Additionally, Nebraska has virtually no rim protection; it ranks 267th in block percentage, despite the fact that is has had one of the easiest schedules in the nation. This Indiana team gets most of its points in the painted area, which could pose a problem for Nebraska. The Hoosiers get a lean from us against the spread in this one. Of course, that is contingent on Ware playing.

Xavier @ Villanova

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.

PICK: Villanova -8 (-110)

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It has been a real “tale of two seasons” for the Xavier Musketeers through their first 13 games of the 2023-24 campaign. Last season, Xavier finished 27-10 and earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but so far this year, its head is barely above .500 water (7-6.) To be fair, the Musketeers have had a challenging schedule, playing Saint Mary’s, No. 1 Purdue, Washington, No. 3 Houston, Seton Hall, Cincinnati, and St. John’s. A number of those teams should make the NCAA Tournament this year. 

Further, Xavier lost Souley Boum, Colby Jones, Jack Nunge, and Adam Kunkel, while Zach Freemantle, Kam Craft, and Jerome Hunter are sadly out for the remainder of the year due to season-ending injuries. That means that seven of the top eight scorers from last season’s squad are not on the floor, with four departing and three suffering significant injuries. Perhaps, this record is justified. Still, losses to Delaware and Oakland at home are mind-boggling, especially for a team that did bring in some talent.

Xavier secured commitments from Dayvion McKnight, Abou Ousmane, and Quincy Olivari, who have instantly stepped in to the lineup and provided offense alongside the only healthy returner, Desmond Claude. Perhaps, this team just needs a bit more time to mesh since they are all playing together for the first time this year.

On the other hand, Villanova has already put together some impressive wins, including against Maryland, Texas Tech, No. 8 North Carolina, No. 15 Memphis, UCLA, and Creighton. The Wildcats did have a three-game slide, where they dropped bouts to Saint Joseph’s, Drexel, and Kansas State, but they have since snapped out of it.

The major difference between Villanova and Xavier is that the Wildcats simply don’t have an excuse for poor play; they returned two of their top three scorers from last season, Eric Dixon and Justin Moore, as well as Mark Armstrong, Jordan Longino, Brendan Hausen, and Chris Arcidiacano. They also got an exceptionally talented transfer in the portal in 

Tyler Burton. Between Dixon, Burton, and Moore, few teams in the Big East have as talented of an offensive trio.

Both Villanova and Xavier have proven to be highly volatile teams through the first half of the season. Which team will be more solid and consistent in this Big East matchup?

Despite the occasional struggles in strange spots this season, the Wildcats are an obvious team to back here, if Justin Moore plays; he has been out since the Kansas State game in early December. 

Villanova has the 17th-ranked defense, per KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency, and Xavier barely ranks in the top 100 offensively. The Musketeers have lost both the road games that they have played this season, with their most recent road loss coming by 15 points to St. John’s. If Moore plays, we play. Otherwise, back the Under, as this will be a bloodbath between two teams desperate to kick off the Big East season with a win.

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AUTHOR

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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