Wednesday College Basketball Best Bets: Our Staff’s 5 Picks for St. John’s vs. Villanova, Missouri vs. Kentucky, More Games (Feb. 3)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images. Pictured: Julian Champagnie (left) and Jermaine Samuels (right).
- Wednesday's college basketball slate is a good one, as it features a number of ranked matchups and mid-major games.
- Our staff broke down five games from the slate, including Missouri vs. Kentucky and St. John's vs. Villanova, and they shared a betting pick for each game.
- Check out each pick complete with a full betting breakdown below.
We’re officially halfway through the week, and we have plenty of college basketball on the docket to help us celebrate.
Just like Tuesday, Wednesday’s slate features plenty of ranked matchups to go along with a number of mid-major games.
Their five favorite games start with Fordham vs. UMass at 6 p.m. ET and wrap up with No. 3 Villanova vs. St. John’s at 9 p.m. ET.
Check out full breakdowns and picks for all five games below, and feel free to navigate to any game by using the table below.
College Basketball Odds & Picks
All listed odds have been updated as of Tuesday morning. Specific bet recommendations at the end of each matchup breakdown come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing on Tuesday morning.
Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.
Fordham vs. UMass
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of watching Fordham basketball this season, it’s been a struggle on the offensive end of the floor.
It’s the worst offense in the Atlantic 10 by a longshot, averaging only 0.80 points per possession in conference play.
In fact, it’s shooting only 41% from inside the 3-point arc, which is one of the worst percentages in the country. On top of that, it’s turning the ball over on 20.4% of possessions, has one of the lowest free-throw rates in the conference, and shoots only 26.4% from deep.
If all of that wasn’t enough, the Rams also play at one of the slowest paces in the country, ranking 345th, per KenPom.
UMass has also been one of the best defenses in the Atlantic 10 this year, allowing only 0.93 points per possession.
So, I have a hard time seeing how Fordham is going to score over 60 points.
In fact, when these two teams met almost two weeks ago, UMass held Fordham to 46. UMass’ offense really struggles from inside the 3-point arc, averaging only 46.5% in conference play. And in its first meeting with Fordham, it shot a dismal 32.3% from 2-point range.
Although the Minutemen should be able to carve up this Fordham defense, only averaging 1.00 points per possession in the first meeting is a cause for concern.
I have only 129.48 points projected for this game, so I think there’s value in expecting another low scoring affair between these two teams.
Pick: Under 134.5
Missouri vs. Kentucky
At first blush, this line jumps out as a bit odd.
Missouri is a ranked team hosting the struggling, messy Kentucky team limping into this matchup at just 5-10.
In reality, Mizzou has overperformed to date, and Kentucky has underperformed when comparing their on-court play to their record in the standings.
KenPom uses a “luck” metric to determine which teams have better or worse records than their actual play would dictate. This season, these two teams fall on the opposite ends of the spectrum in that regard, with Kentucky ranking as the ninth “unluckiest” team in the nation and Missouri coming in as one of the top-15 “luckiest” teams.
Even if that is the case, this Mizzou team is built to take advantage of this Kentucky team.
The Tigers play a physical, downhill style of basketball. By doing so, Missouri leads the SEC in percentage of points scored from the foul line.
Kentucky’s young defenders are less capable of slowing down the Tigers’ penetration or Jeremiah Tilmon on the block.
On the other end, Missouri also leads the conference in percentage of points allowed at the charity stripe. Kentucky’s sputtering offense is filled with non-shooters but also hasn’t shown the kind of aggressiveness to take advantage of the Tigers’ hack-heavy tendencies.
In the end, this is likely a grind-it-out game between two poor shooting teams. Missouri’s ability to manufacture points will outlast Kentucky’s offensive slog.
Add in John Calipari’s cryptic quotes about having a group of players missing from his lineup for unexplained, non-COVID reasons, and Mizzou is clearly the pick here.
Pick: Missouri -4.5
Wichita State vs. Tulane
The Shockers come off an overtime victory at home against Central Florida with an outburst in shooting percentage.
The biggest factor holding Wichita State back is its effective field goal percentage, now ranked 311th nationally. Whether it’s inside or beyond the arc, head coach Isaac Brown has one of the worst shooting teams in the nation.
The Shockers posted a terrible 2-of-23 from 3-point range in a loss at Memphis but rebounded against Central Florida at 10-of-30, complemented by 57% within the arc.
While home-court does not mean as much during the COVID-19 season, there are large shooting percentage splits for the Shockers between home and away.
Thankfully, the visiting team is not much better at shooting the rock, as Tulane comes in dead last from 2-point range in AAC play.
Defensive rebounding is the Achilles’ heel of Wichita State, but that may not be exposed by a Tulane team that’s inept in hitting the boards.
Conversely, to cover a spread of this size with a terrible shooting team, success at the free-throw line is imperative.
The Shockers have been the best team in AAC play at free-throw rate, while Tulane is 207th nationally at sending opponents to the line.
Look for the Shockers to continue a rise in effective field goal percentage when playing at Charles Koch Arena.
Pick: Wichita State -11
St. John’s vs. Villanova
This college basketball season has identified its top two title contenders in short order.
Baylor and Gonzaga, or Gonzaga and Baylor (depending on your preference), are clearly the cream of the collegiate crop this season.
The futures market also reflects this with the Zags going off at 5:2 at most books and Baylor closing in around the 3:1 to 4:1 range.
Villanova is next in line at 9:1 (FoxBet, FanDuel). That sizable odds gap between Gonzaga, Baylor and Villanova also indicates that the third-ranked team in the country isn’t knocking on the door, in terms of being considered an absolute heavyweight.
If Nova were to be swapped out for Michigan, Iowa or Texas, I’d be as lukewarm on them as I am on the Cats.
To be clear, I think Villanova is a great team, and it shares a lot of characteristics with some of Jay Wright’s best, namely the way it shares and protects the basketball.
The Cats rank eighth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio. But there’s something missing from this bunch that the third-ranked team in the nation generally would have in spades: a killer instinct.
Nova was nearly upset by Seton Hall at home three games ago and let the Pirates hang around late in the game last week. If it does that against St. John’s, there’s a good chance it’ll get burned.
The Johnnies have won five of their last six, and thanks to Posh Alexander, they’re actually pairing some quality defense with their uptempo offense.
Alexander is the key in this one because if he can limit Collin Gillespie and help SJU force 10+ turnovers, I think SJU has a puncher’s chance at a major upset.
I had this game projected as Villanova -6 (-300), so to be able to grab it at nearly 9:2 is too much value to pass up.
Pick: St. John’s +440
TCU vs. Oklahoma State
By Pat McMahon
This will be the second meeting between the Horned Frogs and the Cowboys, with Oklahoma State taking the first game by a score of 77-76. That game sailed over the closing total of 136.
That was a surprising result, especially considering that TCU likes to take its time on offense (243rd in tempo), and the Cowboys are one of the top defensive teams in the nation, ranking 32nd in defensive efficiency.
A close look at the box score of the first meeting reveals some statistical oddities that led to a much higher scoring game than expected.
First, TCU’s hot shooting played a big role. The Horned Frogs shot 54.5% from the field and 47% from 3 for the game, well above its season averages of 45% and 35%. Duplicating that shooting performance against a stout Cowboys defense is highly unlikely.
As good of a shooting night as the Horned Frogs had, they did a terrible job of taking care of the basketball, which ultimately led to them losing the game. TCU committed 20 turnovers, giving the Cowboys 27 points off from those mistakes.
Oklahoma State also killed the Frogs on the offensive glass, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds and scoring 15 second-chance points.
TCU coach Jamie Dixon has been around the sport forever, and he knows how to make key adjustments to give his team a better chance to win.
It’s a good bet that he’ll ensure his team controls the tempo and plays at a slower pace that the Horned Frogs are more comfortable with.
TCU actually defended the Cowboys pretty well in the first matchup, holding them to 42% from the floor and 18% from 3. Limiting mistakes is a key for the Horned Frogs to stay in the game this time around, and I expect them to be much more prepared for Oklahoma State’s pressure.
This is the third rematch for the Horned Frogs this season, as they have played Kansas and Oklahoma twice already. Against both of those teams, the total went over in the first game but stayed under in the second matchup.
They got blasted by Kansas at home, allowing 93 points in their first meeting against the Jayhawks but held Kansas to just 59 in the second meeting in a game that went way under.
I like that trend to continue tonight against the Cowboys, and I think we’ll see a tight game played in the 60s.
Pick: Under 141