It’s Saturday, and while the sports betting world eagerly awaits the excitement of Super Bowl Sunday, College Hoops fans can also celebrate the coming of college basketball’s biggest day as an appetizer. If you’re looking for a few angles to consider in making some of the biggest games of the day a little more interesting, you’ve come to the place; for the Prime Time Previewer is here for just that.
Tuesday was a 1-1 day: as we covered comfortably with NC State, with the Wolf Pack losing by two in OT to Virginia as a 7.5-point favorite and couldn’t get it done with the Buckeyes as a 10-point dog in Michigan. We did get some closing line value in both games, and in the end, that’s all you can really hope for as a sports bettor.
With today’s slate, I’ll first focus on a battle for Big 12 supremacy in Lawrence, as Texas Tech makes the trip to Kansas; and then for the nightcap, well head down to SEC country, where the number one seeded Tennessee Volunteers look to stay atop the college basketball world in College Station vs. Texas A&M. I’ll reiterate that these likely aren’t two of the best angles out there as part of such an expansive slate, but these are certainly two of the games the casual College Basketball bettor wouldn’t mind making even more exciting.
With that being said, let us waste no more time in getting to the breakdowns, in this College Basketball Saturday edition of the Prime Time Previewer.
Texas Tech (17-4, 5-3) @ Kansas (16-5, 5-3)
4 pm ET CBS
Open: Kansas – 3.5
Spread: Kansas – 4
Consensus: Kansas 71%
Up until mid-January, Texas Tech was about as hot as any team in nation, starting out 15-1 with their sole loss being to Duke, and beginning Big 12 play with a perfect 4-0 record. A close look at their non-conference schedule, however, revealed it to be quite soft (322nd), and once they started playing some real competition in the Big 12 (Iowa St (12th), Baylor (33rd), and Kansas State (44th)), the Red Raiders lost three straight and dropped to 4-3 in the Big 12.
As of lately, Tech has gotten back on track with two recent home wins vs Arkansas (57th) and TCU (29th), and now will face their toughest test of the year in heading back out on the road to take on Kansas, who themselves have struggled a bit in conference.
As discussed in last Saturday’s article, some of Kansas’s recent struggles can be attributed to the loss of C Udoka Azubuike, who was lost for the year on January 6th. Kansas, at that point, was 12-2 and 1-1 in conference; since then, the Jayhawks are 4-3, going 4-2 in the Big 12.
Kansas has also played the most difficult schedule in the nation, and the 3rd most difficult non-conference. But going 1-4 in their last three games, Kansas has reason for concern. Granted, all three of these losses were on the road, but this isn’t typical for a Bill Self coached Kansas team, and this game will be huge in turning things around, with a quality in-Conference win, at home.
Keys to the Matchup:
The biggest mismatch on the floor will likely be the Texas Tech offense (99th) against the Kansas D (14th).
While Tech has been decent overall in terms of shooting percentage (93rd), they rely most on a presence around the basket with Jarrett Culver and Co., scoring 54.9 % of their points from inside (37th), while only getting 26.5% from three (302nd), where they shoot only a slightly above average 34.7% (142nd).
This is where Kansas may present themselves a bad matchup for the Red Raiders, because while Kansas has been vulnerable on the perimeter (137th 3P%), they have been great inside – only allowing 46% of their points from inside three, while allowing 37.2% of their points from beyond the arc (35th). They have held opponents to a 45.5% 2P% (28th) overall, and as a team that will use a zone from time to time, I’d expect Bill Self to employ one more frequently against a team like Texas Tech, who can struggle from the outside.
It is possible that there is a hidden matchup edge for Kansas here that isn’t quite accounted for in the spread, though it is important to realize that some of these defensive numbers may be scewed a bit, considering the defensive presence Azubuike was.
On the defensive side of the ball, Texas Tech (3rd) will hold a decent advantage over the Kansas offense (30th), which has only eclipsed 70 points twice in conference play.
Kansas relies on an inside presence as well to get points, with C Dedric Lawson the focal point of an offense that has scored 54.9% of its points inside (34th). It’ll be tough sledding against a Red Raider defense that is about as stout as it gets inside, however, allowing only 47.1% of points inside (261st) at a 42.5% percentage (5th). Teams haven’t really been able to beat Texas Tech inside, or outside for that matter (3rd 3P% D), so Kansas could struggle here as a team that shoots 53.3% as a whole (82nd).
The only area Texas Tech has really been susceptible has been from the free throw line, where they allow a near 24% of their points (17th); as fouling and putting teams on the line has been the one real issue for the Red Raiders all year (286th). Kansas isn’t a team who relies heavily on free-throw shooting (226th), though, and are only slightly above average at drawing fouls and getting to the line (173rd) where they only shoot 67.9% (257th).
Therefore, we could also say that Texas Tech may have an advantage unaccounted for in the number, for the matchup really isn’t great for the Jayhawks.
Overall, however, I think the strength of schedule (1st to 60th) is something to really consider in this matchup when comparing the statistics. While the Texas Tech defense has been very impressive, their schedule hasn’t been, and in the few times when they’ve stepped up in competition against a team somewhat comparable Kansas’s quality (i.e. Duke, Iowa State), they came up short.
TTU is 2-6-1 ATS in their last 10 games
TTU is 2-5 ATS on the road
Kansas is 2-7-1 ATS in their last 10 games
Kansas is 7-6 ATS at home
The early action has been hot and heavy in favor of Kansas, and the line has responded with a half-point uptick. This number reached as high as 4.5 at many off-shore shops, and that appeared to be the point of resistance from the sharper money, as those 4.5’s did not last long. At four, Pinnacle and Matchbook are showing juice leans toward Kansas, while MyBookie is the sole major off-shore to be showing 4.5.
Lean: Kansas -4 -110
This game is tough because of the loss of Azubuike, and how it tarnishes the integrity of the statistics we have on Kansas. The situational trends show that Kansas has been slightly undervalued at home, however, while Tech has been overvalued on the road. The strength of schedule disparity is dramatic, and when Tech has stepped up in competition they have faltered a bit. This is a big game for Kansas, and in front of their home crowd, I think they’ll give a max effort, wanting to show that they are still elite in the Big 12.
Tennessee (19-1, 7-0) @ Texas A&M (8-11, 1-6)
8 pm ET ESPN
Open: TENN – 11.5
Spread: TENN – 11
Consensus: TENN 86%
Tennessee has been one of the real surprises this year in College Basketball; now winners of 15-straight, they have catapulted themselves to a number one ranking and now play with that target on their back each day they take the court. While they haven’t really played many of the elite teams in the NCAA thus far (46th SOS), they do have wins over Gonzaga (4th) and Louisville (13th), and an overtime loss to Kansas as their one blemish.
The Volunteers have been rolling in the SEC (7-0), however, and after making easy work out of South Carolina (109th), in a 92-70 rout on the road, on Tuesday, they’ll look to stay hot in College Station against a Texas A&M team that, at this point, will need a miracle in the SEC Tournament to have any hope of a successful season.
A&M has now lost seven out of the last nine games, with the loss to Arkansas (57th), at home, 73-71, being the only loss that wasn’t by 9 points or more. One of those nine-point losses was in Kentucky, so that gives some hope that they can keep this game within the number, but I think this one will really come down to how they approach this game motivationally.
With this Tennessee game at home, being by far their biggest game left on the schedule, the Aggies could be looking at this game as a chance at creating one bright spot on what has been a lost season. Getting the best of the best, at home, on ESPN, may be what the Aggies need to put forth their best effort and leave it all on the floor.
Keys to the Matchup:
Tennessee will have the matchup advantage on both sides of the floor, obviously, but on the offensive end (3rd), is where the edge will be greatest against a Texas A&M defense that has been uncharacteristically subpar (117th) under Billy Kennedy.
Where the Aggies defense has struggled most is on the perimeter, where they surrender a 33.6% 3P% (141st), accounting for 37.5% of their overall points given up (31st). This could be a silver lining for A&M, because Tennessee’s offense, while shooting a solid 35.8% overall from three (96th), only typically generate 23.6% of their offense from outside (332nd).
The Volunteers are much more likely to try to take the ball the basket – with Forwards Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield leading the way – where they shoot 57.4% inside (5th). Defending the paint is A&M’s strong suit, where they allow the 43rd best 2P% in the nation and are one of the better shot-blocking teams as well (17th).
Overall, I think A&M could have a little more success then one would think, in slowing down this Tennessee offensive attack, and could hold a matchup advantage unseen in the number.
As far as offense goes for A&M (153rd), points may be at a premium against this Volunteer D (30th). The Aggies are simply an awful shooting team (244th), particularly from three (342nd), where they shoot 28.5%. This isn’t an ideal matchup against Tennessee either, because they are much better at 2P% defense (22nd) as opposed to 3P% (96th).
The one way A&M may find success here is on the offensive glass (46th), which has really been the one thing they have been good at on Offense, while Tennessee has struggled on the defensive glass at times (246th). If they can generate some second chance opportunities, maybe PF Savion Flagg can get a few more looks inside, where he shoots 57%. C Josh Nebo has also been strong inside, when given the opportunity, shooting 77% from two-point range.
Overall, it’s possible that, from a matchup perspective, A&M underperforms expectation, would could result in a tad of line value for the Volunteers on this side of the matchup.
TENN is 5-2 ATS on the road
TENN is 7-3 ATS in their last 10
A&M is 4-6 ATS at home
A&M is 5-4 ATS in their last 10
As one would expect, the public is hammering Tennessee up to this point, and yet the line has come down a half-point, evidence of a potential sharper position on A&M. Pinnacle is leading the way at low end of the market at a soft 10.5 on A&M, while the more recreational books with lower limits are at 11.5.
Play: A&M 11.5 -110
Betting on the team with a one beside their name, while 86% of the action has been on them and the line is moving the other direction isn’t something that is going to turn out profitable in the long-term. This is A&M’s biggest game left on the schedule, and in Prime Time, I’d expect an all-out effort, as a chance to show the world that the program hasn’t completely fallen off. If their defense comes to play, which they should, they can matchup better than would be expected, given the mentioned hidden edges.