Tuesday, March 28

College basketball predictions: Rutgers will win at home again

While I cannot wait for March, I’m going to cherish this last full Saturday men’s basketball slate prior to the start of conference tournaments.

It can be overwhelming to find bets in this massive sea of games, so here are the situational spots I had circled for Feb. 26.

Rutgers (-1.5) vs. Wisconsin

After two straight road losses, Rutgers comes home to the friendly confines of Jersey Mike’s Arena (aka the RAC), where it has dominated in league play. In fact, the Scarlet Knights are 6-0 SU and ATS at home against teams ranked inside the KenPom top-30 this season.

I’m looking to buy the mini-dip. I know Wisconsin has revenge from a Feb. 12 loss in Madison to Rutgers, but I just think it’s a bad matchup.

Rutgers can really out-tough Wisconsin at multiple positions, and most importantly, it has an excellent individual defender in Caleb McConnell to stick on Johnny Davis. In the first meeting, McConnell blanketed Davis as well as anybody has all year, holding the potential Player of the Year to just 11 points.

Rutgers guard Caleb McConnell
Rutgers guard Caleb McConnell

While I do think Wisconsin will come out motivated for this one, it could get caught peeking ahead to a massive Big Ten showdown next week against Purdue.

The Badgers have also overperformed their underlying metrics this season, so the regression monster could be looming around the corner. Per ShotQuality, the Badgers have won four more games than their projected win total to date.

Trust in home Rutgers.

Arkansas (-2.5) vs. Kentucky

Nobody in the country is hotter against the spread than the Razorbacks, who have covered nine consecutive games. All of their recent success can be traced back to a lineup change made before a 44-point blowout against Missouri.

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Meanwhile, Kentucky has been no slouch either, and finds itself in the thick of the race for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Wildcats have flashed their depth in their last two wins against tournament teams (Alabama and LSU), as they were without guards TyTy Washington Jr. and Sahvir Wheeler.

Those two wins, however, came at Rupp Arena. I don’t think UK can get away with its absences on the road in a hostile environment against a scorching Arkansas team that leads the SEC in overall defensive efficiency in league play, per KenPom.

Kentucky guard TyTy Washington Jr.
Kentucky guard TyTy Washington Jr.

Wheeler and Washington will likely be listed as game-time decisions once again, but I’m guessing John Calipari will take a cautious approach and hold both out. There are bigger fish to fry in March, and health should be priority No. 1, especially since the Wildcats have won the last two outings without them.

Louisiana Tech (+6) at North Texas

The Mean Green have been on an absolute roll during their 13-game winning streak. This might be the perfect time, however, to sell high on Grant McCasland’s group, which has been flirting with losses in close games in recent weeks.

We could get a bit of an inflated number here for a team that grinds games to a halt — North Texas has the slowest adjusted tempo in the country.

The Mean Green also struggle at the free-throw line, ranking outside the top-300 in the country. That could come into play here late, and ultimately swing a cover or leave the backdoor open.

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Plus, the Bulldogs have major revenge in play here. As a No. 1 seed, they lost in the semifinals of last year’s C-USA Tournament to North Texas. Then, earlier this year, they dropped another one to North Texas at home by one after blowing a 17-point second-half lead.

In a game in which points should come at a premium, I think Kenneth Lofton Jr. and company can find enough offense to keep this tight throughout.

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