College Basketball Betting Previews: Kansas at Baylor and Oregon at Arizona
Saturday’s busy college basketball card features a series of important conference matchups, as teams across the nation move into the tail end of their regular season schedules. Let’s take a look at a couple of big games, and what we might expect.
Kansas Jayhawks at Baylor Bears
This may just be the biggest regular season college basketball game of the entire season. The top-ranked Baylor Bears can take a huge step towards a Big 12 title on Saturday afternoon, as they take on #3 ranked Kansas in Waco. In addition to the massive conference implications, the number one ranking is at stake as well. If Baylor can take care of business here, it will have a great chance to end the regular season on top of the polls. Kansas, should they get this quality road win, would almost certainly jump up to the top spot. Many college basketball observers would think this is a true reflection of Kansas’ current place in the college basketball landscape.
Baylor’s ascent to the top of the national rankings really took flight back on January 11, when the team notched a historic victory in Allen Field House, beating favored Kansas 67-55. Despite being out-rebounded 32-26, the athletic Bears held their own against the bigger Kansas group, shooting a solid 46.3% from two-point range. Baylor’s quickness bothered the Jayhawks all night, as the Bears forced 14 turnovers while only giving up five of their own. In truth, this was the sloppiest game of the season for Kansas, who shot only 39.2% from the floor and 26.7% from distance. For the season, Kansas rank sixth in the nation in shooting percentage at 48.5% and are shooting a decent 35.1% from three-point land. With revenge in mind and some regression likely, we could see a focused and improved performance from the Jayhawks here.
Although it is hard to see Kansas playing as badly again, Baylor’s defense is one of the best in the country, and if anyone can do the double over the Jayhawks, it may just be this Baylor team. The Bears rank second in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rating (Kansas comes in at third) and Baylor ranks sixth in opponent two-point percentage, and ninth in opponent field goal percentage. Baylor has held opponents to less than 60 points in a fantastic 15 of 25 games.
However, there are a couple of mitigating factors working against the Bears here. To begin with, in the team’s recent win in Kansas, star Devon Dotson was lost for a long stretch of the game with a hip pointer. He could only give the Jayhawks 28 minutes, and was clearly not at full strength. In his last game, a 91-71 blowout against Iowa State, Dotson was sensational. The guard scored 29 points on 11-for-14 shooting to go along with three steals. If he is up to speed, the talent gap tilts even more heavily to the Jayhawks. Secondly, Baylor may be without second-leading scorer MaCio Teague. The guard is dealing with a wrist injury and is considered questionable. Teague is a key player for the Bears and in the win against Kansas had 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting while grabbing seven rebounds and three assists. His ability to rebound despite his smaller frame, is critical to keeping Baylor competitive on the glass while playing four-guard lineups. Overall, Baylor’s offense is 8.0 points per 100 possessions better with Teague on the floor. On the defensive end, the team is 9.0 points better per 100 possessions when Teague is out there. The combination of a healthy Dotson and an injured Teague could well swing the pendulum back in Kansas’ favor.
One major concern for Kansas is from a spot perspective. Kansas has to travel to Baylor to play a nationally-televised game at 11 AM local time. Coach Bill Self is not too happy about it. “(The) Pressure is on us for us to go down there and perform well. I would love to find out why the game is at 11 if it’s on GameDay. We would want to highlight our league the best we can and in the best time slot as possible. Maybe Baylor wanted to keep the same time or maybe the Big 12. It seems strange to me, but we’ll wake up early. It will be the best-on-paper college basketball game of the year.” With a clear edge in energy and enthusiasm likely coming the Bears’ way from a raucous home crowd, Kansas could find itself behind the eight-ball early. That said, this has all the makings of a very close game. The Jayhawks have revenge on the mind, and ultimately grabbing the points here seems the safer decision.
Oregon Ducks at Arizona Wildcats
Both of these teams have perhaps slightly underperformed in a PAC-12 that has been a bit more competitive than expected this season. Oregon are 20-7 on the year, but only 9-5 in a conference it was expected to win. Arizona is a solid 19-7 as well, but 9-4 in PAC-12 play. It’s season has been impacted by some bad losses, including games against St. John’s, Oregon State, and UCLA. Despite some disappointing results, Arizona has done enough to rise to number 11 in KenPom, after starting the season ranked 27th. Oregon have ticked up from 29th to 27th.
These two teams last met, in Eugene, on January 9, with Oregon winning 74-73 in overtime. The Ducks squeaked out the win despite a bad shooting night. The team shot 40.0% from the field and only 30.4% from distance. The game was evenly matched in almost every single statistical category throughout the entire night. There’s little reason not to expect more of the same here. Both teams have quality size, and quick and effective guards.
Oregon will be happy to take advantage of Arizona in spot up situations on offense. Despite a solid half-court defense that ranks in the 83rd-percentile in points per possession, the Wildcats’ are mediocre defending this action. Arizona is giving up 0.85 PPP in spot up situations, placing it in the 65th-percentile nationwide. Oregon is phenomenal in this area offensively. The Ducks are scoring 1.038 PPP here, putting them in the 94th-percentile in college basketball. Importantly, this is also the action Oregon is most reliant on, with almost 25% of all of its offensive possessions ending in a spot up situation. If the team can be comfortable with what it does best in a tough road environment, the offense should be able to keep the team competitive.
Although Arizona has an excellent transition offense, the Wildcats would be better off playing in the half-court in this matchup. Oregon’s transition defense ranks in the 98th-percentile in points per possession. However, the team’s half-court defense has some real issues. Oregon is surrendering 0.86 PPP in the half-court, placing it in the 42nd-percentile. This is a problem for a team that hopes to make a real run in March, and Arizona should be able to use its home-court advantage to help better communicate in the half-court and exacerbate this apparent edge.
Oregon has a tendency to play up to its competition. That was shown time and again during last year’s run to the PAC-12 tournament championship and then a push to the Sweet 16 before falling only 53-49 to eventual champions Virginia. Oregon is 5-2 ATS this year against ranked opponents and in recent years have been extraordinary in this spot. Dana Altman’s teams, since 2016, are a phenomenal 17-3-1 ATS against ranked opponents, with a great average cover margin of +5.8. Altman seems to know how to bring the best out of his guys in the biggest moments. With any real chance of claiming a PAC-12 title on the line in this game, expect a gutty road performance from the Ducks. While there’s little to choose between the sides, solid offensive performances from both teams do seem somewhat likely here. A look to the over also warrants some consideration.