College Basketball Betting Preview: Big 12 Midweek Edition
Wednesday night features two ranked Big 12 teams on the road in hostile environments. West Virginia takes on Texas Tech in Lubbock, while the top-ranked Baylor Bears travel to Ames to take on Iowa State. Let’s take a look at these two key conference battles, and what we might expect in action tonight.
West Virginia Mountaineers at Texas Tech Red Raiders
The first of these two games tips off at 8 pm EST, as Bob Huggins and the West Virginia Mountaineers square off against Chris Beard and the Texas Tech Red Raiders. These are two of the best defensive coaches in all the land, and once again, these two teams are among the very best in college basketball on that end of the floor. West Virginia is the top-ranked team in KenPom’s defensive efficiency rating, while Texas Tech comes in at a solid fifth spot. As of writing, the total for the game sits at 132, well below the 120 points scored in the teams’ January 11 meeting in Morgantown, in which the West Virginia prevailed 66-54. It is difficult to know exactly what to take away from this recent encounter, as Texas Tech in particular, had a shockingly bad night shooting the basketball. The Red Raiders shot 28.4% from the field. On the one hand, this is something of an outlier. Texas Tech are not a great offensive team, but have shot 44.1% from the field for the season. On the other, it’s often the case when two great defensive coaches square off so soon after a previous tilt, their familiarity with the others’ scheme will make offense very hard to come by. And, it’s hardly as though the Mountaineers lit it up. West Virginia shot 40.1% from the field and went only 3-for-15 from distance.
The fact is, the underlying numbers suggest that this will game will most likely be a similar grind. The West Virginia offense, for starters, matches up very poorly against Texas Tech. The Mountaineers’ half-court offense ranks in the 40th-percentile nationwide, and will be facing a Red Raiders half-court defense that is surrendering only 0.78 PPP, placing it in the 91st-percentile. While Texas Tech are nowhere near as effective defending in transition, the Mountaineers’ transition offense is downright awful, scoring only 0.89 PPP, putting it in the 8th-percentile. Conversely, this West Virginia defense is so good that even in the areas where Texas Tech is solid, the advantage is squarely with the Mountaineers. The Red Raiders are proficient in both half-court and spot up offense, ranking in the 75th and 74th-percentile respectively. But, West Virginia’s defense is built very well in these areas. The Mountaineers give up only 0.74 PPP in the half-court and only 0.73 PPP in spot up situations. Those numbers place the West Virginia defense in the 98th-percentile in both defensive categories. Ultimately, there are just far more reasons to trust that these defenses can maintain their level of play in favorable matchups, then there are to think these teams can conjure up ways to score the ball consistently.
Baylor Bears at Iowa State Cyclones
The Baylor Bears capped off a solid week as the newly-anointed number one team in the country, winning impressively away at Florida 72-61. Baylor jumped out to an 11-point half-time lead and led by as much as 19 in a second half where it was never really threatened. The Bears showed off much of what has led to their rise up the poll. Baylor out-rebounded an athletic Florida squad 31-21 and played excellent defense throughout, particularly on the perimeter, where it limited the Gators to 4-for-17 shooting from distance. There is, however, a chance that the offense may come back to earth a bit. While Baylor is ranked a solid 16th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rating, the shooting performance against Florida was better than to be expected. The Bears shot 47.4% from three-point range, up from their season average of 35.1%. From the line, the improvement was even greater, as the team went 93.8%, connecting on 15-of-16 attempts from the charity stripe. For the year, Baylor is only shooting 71.3% at the line. That said, this should be a matchup where the Bears can score at a good clip. Iowa State struggles on defense, ranking 129th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. Baylor would do well to get out and run in transition where possible. The team’s transition offense is scoring 1.07 PPP, placing it in the 76th-percentile in the nation. The Cyclones are poor in transition defense, allowing 1.04 PPP, putting it in only the 23rd-percentile. On offense, Iowa State would also do best to get out in transition. Behind excellent lead guard Tyrese Haliburton, the team’s transition offense is excellent, ranking in the 89th-percentile. Baylor is effective defending in transition, but nothing like as strong as it is in the half-court, where it ranks in the 99th-percentile in points per possession allowed.
One has to wonder if the aura of Iowa State’s Hilton Colisuem is not quite what it once was. Long one of the toughest places in the entire nation to come and play, Iowa State’s home form has dipped this season. The Cyclones have struggled against quality opposition at home, losing to Iowa and Kansas, but also dropped a game against minnows Florida A&M. While the team has won two in a row in front of its own fans, this isn’t the tall task it has been in recent times.
Much like the game discussed above, we have a recent matchup between Baylor and Iowa State to draw upon. In Waco on January 15, the Bears took care of Iowa State 68-55. Baylor controlled the glass, out-rebounding the Cyclones 39-30. Iowa State could not get anything going on offense. It shot 39.7% from the field and 26.1% from three-point land. Also, it struggled with Baylor’s quickness and athleticism, committing 20 fouls to Baylor’s 13. This was a comprehensive victory, with the Bears covering as a nine-point favorite. Tonight, Baylor is listed as a four-point favorite. The Bears did have to travel back from Florida this week after a game in Gainesville, but that’s mitigated by the fact that Iowa State was also on the road at Auburn on the same day. It’s hard to see past top-ranked Baylor in this spot.