College Basketball Mid-Week Betting Preview
With conference play in full swing, let’s take a look at a couple of upcoming matchups. In the Big 12, Kansas plays its first conference road game at Iowa State tonight. Tomorrow, a battle between ranked Pac-12 teams, Oregon and Arizona, should be the highlight of the betting card.
Kansas at Iowa State +5 O/U 145
The number three-ranked Kansas Jayhawks continue their quest to recapture the Big 12 title in Ames tonight, against an Iowa State team that has struggled in the early part of the season. Not a ton was expected of Iowa State, who were picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 in the preseason. However, a 7-6 record, remains something of a surprise. Particularly worrying is the 70-68 home loss to 2-11 Florida A&M on New Year’s Eve. To lose to a team of this quality and class, who lost by at least 29 points against USC, Seton Hall and Tennessee, cannot bring comfort to Cyclone fans.
Kansas, meanwhile, is second in KenPom and is establishing itself as a legitimate title contender, if not favorite. The Jayhawks are 11-2, with the two losses coming by a combined three points, on a neutral floor to Duke and away at Villanova. The team did not look particularly impressive against West Virginia in its Big 12 opener, but showed poise in coming back from a ten-point deficit to win 60-53.
The biggest positive for Iowa State in this spot is the return of star Tyrese Haliburton. The potential lottery pick is one of the best point guards in America, and had been out since December 22nd. While the team surprisingly lost to TCU in his return, Haliburton showed his value, posting a triple-double. The talent gap between these two teams is large, but Haliburton is expert at making everyone around him better.
The two biggest issues Iowa State face here are a serious rebounding disadvantage, and inferior long-range shooting and three-point defense. Kansas ranks 26th in rebounding rate this season, at 54.9%. Iowa State ranks 131st in defensive rebounding rate and a troubling 296th in offensive rebounding rate. Kansas’ front line is a serious step up in class for the Cyclones, and it’s very hard to see Iowa State being able to compete inside. However, the real gap may emerge from the outside. Iowa state is shooting only 31.9% from beyond the arc, 215th in the nation. Kansas, meanwhile, is hitting on 35.6% of three-point attempts. More troubling still, Iowa State’s three-point defense appears to be lacking, as it is allowing opponents to shoot 36.1% from distance. Kansas’ three-point defense is 28th in the country, with opponents shooting only 28.7%.
Iowa State may be able to win the turnover battle, however. The Cyclones are 38th in defensive turnover rate and 58th in steal rate. Kansas is averaging 15 turnovers per game over its last three, while Iowa State is only turning the ball over 11.7 times per game.
It’s usually not easy to win in Ames, but Iowa State has already lost twice on its home floor, by two against Florida A&M and a 16-point blowout defeat against in-state rival Iowa. Kansas is favored by five, while KenPom’s numbers have the game at seven, and Bart Torvik puts it at 11. Kansas’ size advantage and shooting superiority could see them through a tough opening Big 12 road game.
Arizona at Oregon
Two of the three ranked teams from the Pac-12 square off in this early non-conference game between 24th-ranked Arizona and ninth-ranked Oregon. Both teams have three losses already and almost all of them are reasonable defeats. Oregon has losses to Gonzaga, UNC, and on the road against Colorado. Arizona lost at Baylor and also to Gonzaga. The only bad loss came in St. John’s on a neutral floor in San Francisco. Oregon is likely to be favored, but it will be interesting to see where the line opens, as Bart Torvik has it at -1.7 to the Ducks. Oregon is always tough to play at home, and have opened the year 6-2 ATS as a home favorite, with an average cover margin of +4.8. Since 2017, Arizona are only 3-8-1 ATS as a road dog, with an average cover margin of -4.1. In that same span, Arizona is only 2-5-1 ATS against ranked opponents, while Oregon is a spectacular 10-1 ATS, with an average cover margin of +5.5.
Arizona’s offense is one of the best in the nation. What’s special about this unit is the ability to excel in a whole series of actions. The Wildcats are currently in the 90th-percentile or above in transition offense, spot up situations, pick and roll offense, and post-up action. This type of variety could be critical against an Oregon team that excels in transition and pick and roll defense, but has faced little post-up play, and has struggled when it has. Oregon ranks in the 56th-percentile in points per possession allowed against post-ups. Zeke Nnaji has been an excellent post-up player this year, and this looks to be a good matchup for him to continue to score, and open up other action for this offense.
Oregon should have success in the half-court, because it pretty well always does. The Ducks are scoring a 0.96 PPP in the half-court, putting them in the 95th-percentile nationwide. The last time Arizona faced a half-court offense this good, it was at home against Gonzaga. The Zags are the best half-court team in the country, scoring 1.02 PPP. The Bulldogs had their way with Arizona, scoring 84 points on 47.5% shooting, and connecting on 39.1% of three-point attempts. 84 points was actually a break for Arizona, considering Gonzaga only shot 17-30 from the free-throw line.
Oregon, with the exception of a nine-point loss at Colorado, has played very close against some of the best teams in the country. Losses on a neutral floor against Gonzaga and North Carolina came by one and four points, respectively. Both of those occurred without the now-eligible freshman N’Faly Dante. The 6’ 11’’, 230-pound big man has not exactly raced out of the gates, and is only averaging 15.2 MPG, but he may be an x-factor as Oregon look to cope with Nnaji on the interior and the likes of Nico Mannion and Josh Green trying to get to the rim. Arizona lost its only true road game so far this season, by five at Baylor. The Wildcats also have to manage a quick turnaround to play Oregon State on Sunday. Oregon should be rested and focused for this big home game.