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Wednesday night’s slate features the top two teams in the nation: Purdue and UConn. However, we will be taking a closer look at the Huskies in their home game against Providence, as well as the SEC bout between the Florida Gators and the No. 10 Kentucky Wildcats. See our best college basketball picks today for the January 31st slate below!
Date: Wednesday, January 31
Time: 8:30 pm EST
Moneyline: Providence N/A | UConn N/A
Outside of the Kentucky Boilermakers, no team is as deserving of the title of the No. 1 team in the nation as the UConn Huskies. UConn has found a way to be equally impressive this season as last season to this point, despite losing three players to the NBA after its title run.
Andre Jackson Jr., Adama Sanogo, and Jordan Hawkins all left for the NBA and are currently rostered, which is a magnificent accomplishment given the fact that two of them were upperclassmen while the other was a sophomore (the NBA has become a league that values youth too much.)
Nonetheless, the Huskies still had some talent from that championship team they could bring back to the program, but their status as back-to-back title contenders was pending. That is until they signed five-star freshman Stephon Castle, who will likely be a lottery pick in the upcoming 2024 NBA Draft, and snagged Cam Spencer, the former Rutgers sharpshooting two-guard, in the transfer portal.
With Spencer and Castle joining Alex Karaban, Donovan Clingan, and Tristen Newton, the trio of talented returners, this team successfully replenished much of the talent that they lost at the end of the 2022-23 season. However, there is still no telling how well these players would mesh together, as a lot had changed from one season to the next. Luckily, the Huskies have maintained their championship play, ranking third in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin and his adjusted offensive efficiency metric.
The Huskies have had occasional lapses on the defensive end of the floor throughout the season but have mitigated that impact by being one of the most efficient teams offensively; their half-court sets (and the execution of those sets) are elite. Head coach Dan Hurley has created an airtight offensive attack that balances three-point shooting with penetration and shots at and around the rim.
On the other hand, Providence relies heavily on its defense to win games against seemingly superior opponents; although it ranks 49th in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin, it has the tenth-best defense (adjusted defensive efficiency) in the nation.
The Friars are a drastically top-heavy basketball team, with only five players averaging more than 3.7 points per game. Providence was led by a three-headed offensive monster of Devin Carter (18.6 ppg), Bryce Hopkins (15.5 ppg), and Josh Oduro (14.8 ppg) before Hopkins tore his ACL. Hopkins was the team’s leading scorer last season and was well on his way to doing it again before the injury. Since Hopkins has been out, it has been up to Jayden Pierre and Davonte Gaines to pick up the offensive slack.
Providence is legitimately only six deep as a team; if the Friars deploy any players beyond that, they risk digging themselves a massive hole. Can Devin Carter follow up on his outrageous 29-point outing against Georgetown in the Friars’ last game in this spot versus the No. 1 team in the nation?
While UConn has been susceptible to giving up clean looks on the perimeter from time to time throughout this season, it has been much improved in its past three games, allowing opponents to shoot merely 28.4% from deep, which ranks 79th in the nation during that stretch. That includes games against No. 13 Creighton, Villanova, and Xavier. Further, Providence only ranks 234th in the nation in 3P%, so the Huskies don’t have much to be concerned about, especially since they are bordering on elite as an interior defensive team.
Providence simply has no chance to score on the Huskies defense with its current talent level. And despite its own impressive defense, Connecticut can slice and dice any defense in the half-court, no matter how much effort is put forth.
The other concern for backing Providence is the disparity in size and rebounding. Connecticut ranks seventh in the nation in total rebounding rate and that number shoots up to fourth when it is on its home floor. The Friars are 250th in offensive rebounding rate, effectively guaranteeing that they won’t get second-chance points in this spot.
Date: Wednesday, January 31
Time: 8:00 pm EST
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook. Head over to DraftKings Sportsbook to place your bets.
Even with an underwhelming 14-6 record, the Florida Gators are still a problem; they rank 36th in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin, with the 14th-ranked offense behind the 18th-highest adjusted tempo in the nation.
There is no better indication of how fast Florida plays than to look at the point total, which is hanging around 171.5 points for this bout. The Gators are led by Walter Clayton Jr., Zyon Pullin, Tyrese Samuel, Will Richard, and Riley Kugel, five players who average double-digit points for this high-scoring UF squad.
On the other side, the No. 10 Kentucky Wildcats have a lot to be excited about for the rest of the season. The recent excitement has come from 7-foot-2 freshman center Zvonimir Ivisic finally getting to see the floor. Ivisic waited what had to have felt like forever for the NCAA to rule him eligible. Coach Cal wasted no time getting “Big Z” on the floor for a few minutes in the team’s past three games.
Big Z has already proven to NBA scouts in just a matter of three games that he will belong at the next level sooner versus later; he could be a lottery pick in the upcoming 2024 NBA Draft despite playing only an average of 9.3 minutes in those three games.
Ivisic isn’t the only Wildcats player who missed some time this season. Aaron Bradshaw and Adou Thiero have missed seven and eight games, respectively. Luckily, the Wildcats are healthy (and eligible) now, and they are extremely lethal at full strength. Kentucky has won nine of its past 11 games, with road losses to South Carolina (18-3) and Texas A&M (overtime) being the only blemishes.
The Wildcats’ defense still has a ways to go if this team wants to truly be a championship contender, but their ninth-ranked (adjEM) offense, led by Rob Dillingham D.J. Wagner, Reed Sheppard, Aaron Bradshaw, Antonio Reeves, Tre Mitchell, and Justin Edwards, is a force to be reckoned with.
Like Florida, the Wildcats are an exceptionally up-tempo basketball squad, ranking 12th in adjusted tempo. As alluded to above, there is a reason why the point total for this game is as high as it is. And that is the bet that we will target for this matchup.
These two teams faced off earlier in January, and the point total (172) barely eclipsed the Over on this line (171.5); however, a few interesting notes factor into our play here. For one, the Kentucky Wildcats shot merely 5-for-20 (25%) from behind the arc, while the Gators weren’t much better, hitting only nine of their 31 (29%) three-point attempts.
Kentucky ranks fourth in the nation in 3P% this season, knocking down over 40% of its attempts from deep. We expect some positive regression in this spot against a Florida defense that ranks 96th in adjusted defensive efficiency thus far in the 2023-24 campaign. Unsurprisingly, the Wildcats shoot it two percent better on their home floor, too, which is another plus for Over bettors.
Further, they shot five fewer three-pointers in that game than they have averaged on the season. Increasing threes can only help us for such an impressive shooting team. While Florida isn’t a great three-point shooting team by any stretch of the imagination, it shot below its season average in the last game. Florida might lack three-point shooting, but it more than makes up for it with second-chance opportunities. The Gators rank second in the nation in offensive rebounds and offensive rebounding percentage.
This game could easily finish in the 180s by the time it ends. There is too much talent on the court and too little defense for a low-scoring affair.
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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