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Best College Basketball Bets Today | NCAAB Picks January 4

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published January 4, 2024
11 min read
Best College Basketball Bets Today January 4

Thursday night’s slate features two ranked teams with momentum in opposite directions: No. 15 Memphis is surging after securing a number of wins over then-ranked teams, while No. 10 Arizona is falling after dropping a road game to unranked Stanford by double-digits. Take a look below at our best college basketball picks today for No. 15 Memphis versus Tulsa and Colorado versus No. 10 Arizona!

No. 15 Memphis @ Tulsa

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PICK: Memphis -9 (-110)

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The 15th-ranked Memphis Tigers consist of a hodgepodge of experienced veteran players from programs nationwide. Head coach Penny Hardaway hit the transfer portal as hard as any coach did this past summer, and it has paid off in a huge way. The Memphis Tigers are currently 11-2, with a few key wins over teams like Virginia, No. 16 Clemson, Texas A&M, VCU, Michigan, Arkansas, and Missouri. The Tigers’ two losses were at the hands of Villanova (22nd in KenPom’s adjEM) and No. 22 Ole Miss (13-0) on the road.

Hardaway’s list of incoming transfers for this year included St. John’s forward David Jones, Alabama guard Jahvon Quinerly, Kansas State forward Nae’Qwan Tomlin, Florida State guard Caleb Mills, Temple forward Nick Jourdain, and Wichita State forward Jaykwon Walton. As far as a complete roster reconstruction from one season to the next, no coach did a better job than Hardaway.

David Jones has been the brightest light for the Tigers, averaging over 21 points per game on a 45/40/81 shooting split; he also is the leading rebounder for Memphis on the year with 6.4 per game. Jones is among the best isolation scorers and shooters in the nation. Additionally, Quinerly has been exceptional as a lead guard, using his crafty finishing, tight ball handling, and elite court vision to run the offense for Hardaway and the Tigers. 

The huge storylines for Memphis recently, besides its sputtering against Vandy and Austin Peay, which will be covered further below, have been the departure of Jordan Brown and the (official) arrival of Nae’Qwan Tomlin. Tomlin has already looked like an absolute force for the Tigers. He only played 15 minutes against Vanderbilt, but in the 23 minutes he was on the floor in his next game against Austin Peay, he posted 15 points and 15 rebounds.

The depth, talent, and experience of this Tigers team have “Final Four darkhorse” written all over them, but they have some issues they need to address. One such “red flag” for this Memphis team so far this season has been its tendency to play down to competition. 

For instance, the Tigers beat Vanderbilt by two points and Austin Peay by 11 points in their past two games. While both games resulted in wins, this is a concerning trend for a team that will be headed to play Tulsa on the road. Tulsa is not a great team by any stretch of the imagination. However, it is 9-3 and has a better standing than Austin Peay and Vanderbilt. The Golden Hurricane won’t be a pushover.

This line feels well-placed. It is hard to win conference games by double-digits on the road, especially against a team that has looked solid so far this season. However, Tulsa really struggles to protect the ball; it ranks 325th in the nation in turnovers per game (14.6), despite the fact that it has played the second-easiest schedule (361st in opponent adjEM) this season. Sure, some of that can be attributed to Tulsa’s pace, but that pace only further favors the Tigers, who are 17th in adjusted tempo.

Tulsa has been able to balance its turnover issue by forcing even more turnovers (15th in opponent turnovers) on the other end of the floor, but it won’t be able to do that against this veteran-led, experienced Memphis team that features Quinerly, Jones, and Mills as their primary ball handlers.

Colorado @ No. 10 Arizona

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.

PICK: Colorado +11 (-110)

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Since the Arizona Wildcats dropped a competitive game to now-No. 1 Purdue, they have plummeted a bit, dropping three of their past five, including that tough matchup against the Boilermakers. Arizona’s other two losses include a narrow one-point loss in double overtime to the Florida Atlantic Owls and a head-scratching 18-point loss to Stanford, a team with a 6-6 record.

Despite these struggles, Arizona still ranks fourth in adjEM (seventh in adjO and ninth in adjD.) To be fair, several championship teams have had rough patches throughout the year, including the UConn Huskies last season. In the 2022-23 season, UConn lost five of six games, spanning from December 31st to January 18th. 

However, the Huskies secured a National Championship, dominating every opponent they faced in the NCAA Tournament by double-digits. Could Arizona experience similar struggles in a similar time frame with a similar end result?

Arizona certainly has all the makings of a championship team. It has an electric offense, with several players who can get hot at any moment, and it also has a stifling defense that loves to jump passing lanes and pressure the ball. The Wildcats are also an elite rebounding team, ranking third in total rebounding rate in the nation!

Their core group of players features North Carolina transfer Caleb Love, Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley, San Diego State transfer Keshad Johnson, double-double machine Oumar Ballo, 7-foot-2 freshman center Motiejus Krivas, lead guard Kylan Boswell, and sharpshooting senior Pelle Larssen.

Meanwhile, Colorado has had a eyebrow-raising start to the 2023-24 regular season. It boasts an 11-2 record with a five-point loss on the road against No. 13 Colorado State and a neutral court loss (that was more like a road game) against Florida State. The Buffs have a three-headed monster offensively, between their two likely future first-round draft picks, Cody Williams and Tristan da Silva, and their leading scorer, K.J. Simpson. 

These three guys combine for close to 52 points per game, and Colorado also has three other players who average between nine and ten points (Eddie Lampkin Jr., Julian Hammond III, and J’Vonne Hadley.) Still, the Buffaloes aren’t a one-trick pony, as their top 30 offense is complemented by a top 30 defense (29th in both adjO and adjD.) 

Unfortunately, Williams will miss at least another week or two with a wrist injury and da Silva is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. Assuming da Silva can play, we still like the Buffaloes’ chances of keeping this game within 11 points simply because the Wildcats are in a slump and have been exploitable on the defensive end of the floor.

Arizona just gave up 100 points to Stanford in its last game and Colorado is leaps and bounds better at that end of the floor than the Cardinal, particularly from behind the arc, where it ranks seventh in the nation as a team (40.8%.) Further, the Wildcats have let their past three opponents shoot a combined 41.3% from deep, which ranks 328th (out of 362 teams) in the nation. 

Lastly, Colorado is not fearful of a faster pace, as it ranks 86th in adjusted tempo. The Wildcats’ play style won’t scare the Buffs. Consider giving the Over at 162 points a look, too, as both teams play fast and put up points in bunches.

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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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