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Best Bets: Previewing Baylor-West Virginia and Maryland-Michigan State

Baylor v Iowa State

AMES, IA - JANUARY 29: MaCio Teague #31 of the Baylor Bears drives the ball, as Michael Jacobson #12 of the Iowa State Cyclones puts pressure on in the first half of the game at Hilton Coliseum on January 29, 2020 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)

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Saturday and Sunday betting lines have not yet been put out by the fine folks running sportsbooks. Until they are, we will be using projections from KenPom, Torvik and Haslametrics to analyze Saturday’s games.

No. 14 WEST VIRGINIA at No. 1 BAYLOR, Sat. 4:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Baylor 66, West Virginia 61
  • TORVIK: Baylor 66, West Virginia 61
  • HASLAM: Baylor 64, West Virginia 61

My first instinct with this game was to just blindly hammer the under, no matter where it opens. Both teams are top four nationally in defensive efficiency, Baylor should, theoretically, be able to control the tempo, and they don’t exactly want to play fast.

That said, both the Bears and the Mountaineers are elite offensive rebounding teams and neither of them rank in the top 40 percent nationally in defensive rebounding. They also both force turnovers on more than 22 percent of their defensive possessions, and while Baylor is above average at protecting the ball, West Virginia’s guards seem to throw the ball to the other team more than Jameis Winston before Lasik. Put another way, I am worried that there are going to be enough extra possessions to push the total over.

MORE CBT: Bubble Watch |Bracketology

BEST BET: I’ll still be on the under if the total opens at about 128 or higher, but I actually think I like Baylor (-5) more at this point. The way Baylor’s defense works is that they switch everything 1-through-4 and they overplay to keep the ball out of the middle and force baseline. What this forces opposing offenses to do is to make plays in isolation and to shoot kick-out threes off of baseline drives. Miles McBride is dangerous as a scorer, but he’s nothing that Davion Mitchell can’t handle and the rest of their perimeter players don’t scare me, as creators or as shooters. The Bears do have enough size that I can’t see Oscar Tshiebwe or Derek Culver overpowering anyone in the paint, so I am having trouble seeing how the Mountaineers get to 60 points. And if this game, say, 70-57, under 128 would still hit.

So while I do like the under, my favorite bet will be Baylor (-5).

*SATURDAY UPDATE: This line is currently sitting at Baylor (-5.5) with a total of (130.5). I fired at both.

No. 9 MARYLAND at MICHIGAN STATE, Sat. 6:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Michigan State 70, Maryland 66
  • TORVIK: Michigan State 71, Maryland 65
  • HASLAM: Michigan State 70, Maryland 63

On the one hand, this feels like a perfect buy-low spot for Michigan State. They are one Ayo Dosunmu slip away from losing four straight games but they are coming home to play in a game where Michigan State will be hosting College Gameday.

Everyone is going to be fired up for that.

That said, Maryland has now won seven straight games, and four of those games have come on the road. They won at Illinois and at Indiana during that stretch. They are sitting all alone in first place in the Big Ten race. We can make all the jokes we want about Mark Turgeon and the Terrapins, but this team is starting to look like they are actually, legitimately, really, really good.

So I’m really torn here.

BEST BET: I’m going to wait to see where the line opens before I give a take, but I’ll probably be staying away.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: The line is currently sitting at Michigan State (-6.5). I think the value is on Maryland at that number, but I’m staying away myself.

NOTRE DAME at No. 7 DUKE, Sat. 4:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Duke 82, Notre Dame 68
  • TORVIK: Duke 83, Notre Dame 69
  • HASLAM: Duke 84, Notre Dame 69

In their last three games, Duke has:

  • beaten North Carolina by two in overtime in a game where the Tar Heels shot 21-for-38 from the line and gacked away a 13 point lead in the final 4:31.
  • beaten Florida State by five when Florida State shot 12-for-20 from the free throw line.
  • beaten a bad Boston College team, 63-55.

The two best things that Duke does defensively -- force turnovers and run teams off of the three-point line -- are the two things that Notre Dame does best offensively, and the Irish have a big guy inside in John Mooney that will make Vernon Carey have to work.

BEST BET: The Blue Devils are coming off of their two biggest wins since the turn of the calendar and they have not exactly played great during that stretch. If the Irish, who are still in the mix for an NCAA tournament berth if they can land a win like this, are (+11.5), that will be tough to stay away from.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: Notre Dame at (+12.5) seems like a solid beet.

OLE MISS at No. 12 KENTUCKY, Sat. 2:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Kentucky 73, Ole Miss 63
  • TORVIK: Kentucky 73, Ole Miss 63
  • HASLAM: Kentucky 73, Ole Miss 64

Ole Miss has been one of the hottest teams in the country over the course of the last three weeks. According to Torvik, they have the 17th-best team in college basketball since Jan. 24th. They have covered in six straight games, including three straight double-digit wins against South Carolina, Florida and Mississippi State. They have had some struggles on the road, but this team has been a cash cow for us and I’m going to stay on the bandwagon.

BEST BET: If Ole Miss is catching (+9) here, then I’ll be all over it.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: The line is Ole Miss (+9.5), and I am all over it.

OKLAHOMA at No. 3 KANSAS, Sat. 12:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Kansas 74, Oklahoma 60
  • TORVIK: Kansas 74, Oklahoma 61
  • HASLAM: Kansas 76, Oklahoma 58

Ole Miss has been the 17th-best team in college basketball over the course of the last three weeks. Oklahoma has been 18th. I actually think the Sooners matchup better with Kansas than Ole Miss does with Kentucky, but we should be getting more points with the Sooners because Kansas is a better team.

But back to the matchup, where Oklahoma killed West Virginia was in their ability to spread the floor, pull the Mountaineer bigs away from the bucket and kill them with ball-screens. Kansas is unquestionably better at guarding these actions, particularly with the improvement that Udoka Azubuike has made defensively and their ability to play small, but I still think Oklahoma will be able to get clean looks for Brady Manek and Kristian Doolittle.

BEST BET: I don’t think that we’ll get this at Oklahoma (+14), but if it’s (+10.5) or higher I’ll be on the Sooners.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: I got it at Oklahoma (+11.5). The line is currently Oklahoma (+11). I like it down to (+10.5).