College Basketball Best Bets: Our Staff’s 5 Top Selections for Feb. 26, Including Kansas vs. Baylor
Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images. Pictured: James Akinjo (Baylor)
- On the second-to-last Saturday of the regular season in college basketball, our staff has five best bets for four games.
- Those games include Purdue traveling to Michigan State, Kansas taking on Baylor on the road and two mid-major matchups.
- Dive in below to formulate your college basketball betting card.
We're just days from March, this is the last Saturday that will feature only regular season games, and the NEC tips off conference tournaments on Monday.
That means the stakes in college basketball aren't getting any lower.
That also means it's time to put forth our best betting effort, so that we can enter the best month of the year on a winning streak.
With that in mind, we have five best bets in order to help you navigate this large Saturday slate. So, get set below with two massive games in the Big Ten and Big 12, and two mid-major clashes.
Saturday's College Basketball Best Bets
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college basketball staff is targeting from today's slate of games. Click the team logos for one the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.
|Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.
Purdue vs. Michigan State
In the last nine games between Purdue and Michigan State, dating back to 2016, Matt Painter & Co. are 6-3 SU and 8-1 ATS.
Michigan State has also now lost five of its last six games behind some pathetic defensive performances.
So, why am I backing Sparty in this spot?
Because Tom Izzo is due for a win in a desperation situation. We’re approaching March and the Spartans are slowly creeping toward bubble range.
Meanwhile, Purdue might be looking ahead to a Tuesday night battle in Madison that will likely decide the Big Ten regular-season title. Hopefully, we can catch the Boilermakers sleeping in this spot.
The defense has been bad for Michigan State, but Illinois and Iowa shot the lights out in the respective wins over Sparty. Those two combined to make 30 of their 80 3-point attempts, good for a 38% clip.
Michigan State is top-50 nationally in 3-point defense at 30.7%, so hopefully we’ll get some negative shooting regression on that end — even against a team with Jaden Ivey and Sasha Stefanovic.
However, the key to this game will be Sparty’s guards. Purdue's perimeter defense is rather pathetic, as it ranks 330th in defensive turnover rate and can’t guard a ball-screen to save its lives. The Spartans are 220th in pick-and-roll defensive efficiency, per ShotQuality.
Meanwhile, for all their faults, Tyson Walker and AJ Hoggard both rank top-15 among D-I players in assist rate. Hoggard actually is first with a 48.9% mark.
The Spartans don’t love to run the PnR, but they’re efficient doing so. And I think Izzo will make it a point to have his savvy guards attack the opposition over-and-over.
I think Michigan State wins this game outright, but I’m not willing to fade Purdue unless I’m catching three or more points.
Pick: Michigan State +3.5 (Play to +3)
Louisiana Tech vs. North Texas
By D.J. James
North Texas is one of the slowest-paced teams in the country, and it faces one of the nation’s more up-tempo teams in Louisiana Tech Saturday afternoon. This Conference USA duel is one of the more underrated games on Saturday’s slate.
North Texas reports a record of 7-15-1 to the over this season. There is a reason for that trend favoring the under: the Mean Green utilize 21.2 seconds per possession on offense and force opponents to use up approximately 18 seconds per possession on the other end of the court.
The Mean Green control the pace of play — especially on their home floor. They also feature a top-25 defense, per KenPom, and Louisiana Tech’s most esteemed team attribute is its offensive attack.
Kenneth Lofton Jr. is a force down low. Thomas Bell will carry the brunt of the assignment to counter Lofton, and Bell is no slouch, either — he averages more than six rebounds and a full block per game. That means Bell should be able to contain Lofton on the interior.
In addition, Louisiana Tech expects to hit 3-pointers. In fact, 33.7% of the Bulldogs' offense has come from behind the arc.
However, North Texas has the means to combat Louisiana Tech’s perimeter shooting on Saturday. The Mean Green boast one of the best perimeter defenses in the country — a team strength that eliminates extra points from the opposition and will help drive this game under.
The Mean Green’s opponents have only shot 28.6% from deep this season, so expect more of the same from the Bulldogs’ guards.
Therefore, I expect North Texas’ season-long under trend to continue on Saturday against Louisiana Tech.
Pick: Under 128.5 (Play to 126)
Murray State vs. SEMO
By Doug Ziefel
Plain and simple: Southeast Missouri State is in trouble here.
The Redhawks are one of the worst defensive teams in the nation, ranking 335th in adjusted defensive efficiency (AdjD), per KenPom.
Their efficiency is so low because the team’s offensive tempo is detrimental to the team’s defensive efforts. The Redhawks have a penchant for getting into track meets against teams that are far more efficient than they are, as is the case on Saturday vs. Murray State.
Murray State has had a phenomenal season, earning a top-25 ranking and an Ohio Valley Conference title. The Racers are among the rare college basketball teams that are just as good on defense as they are on offense. Murray State ranks exactly 32nd in both adjusted offensive efficiency (AdjO) and AdjD.
Murray State is a terrible matchup for SEMO because not only will Murray State be able to score at will, but moreover, it will also be able to stifle the Redhawks’ outside shooting.
In these teams’ first meeting this year, the scenario I’ve presented fully came to fruition, as the Racers ran over SEMO in a 106-81 victory.
I foresee Saturday’s game unfolding similarly, as Murray State seeks to finish its season on a high note.
Pick: Murray State -11 (Play to -12)
Kansas vs. Baylor
I have found myself fading Baylor a decent amount throughout this college basketball season. It has worked out a few times, such as last week vs. Texas Tech, and I’ve also taken a few punches, like when the Bears blitzed Texas at home earlier this month.
Nonetheless, I will not be fading the Bears on Saturday. In fact, I love this spot for Baylor as a short favorite against the Big 12-leading Kansas Jayhawks.
This is a revenge game for the Bears after the Jayhawks dominated the teams’ previous matchup, 83-59, at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas took control early and never looked back.
Adam Flagler is the most complete guard on Scott Drew’s team, and it looks like he will be 100% cleared for Saturday night. LJ Cryer remains a gametime decision, but Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sochan have really stepped up in his absence.
Baylor ranks inside the top 15 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, which is precisely the balance necessary to take down an elite Kansas roster.
David McCormack is a load inside for the Jayhawks, but Flo Thamba is one of the most reliable interior defenders in the country. He should be able to keep McCormack in check.
Look for Matthew Mayer to be a difference-maker in this game. The senior came into the year with high expectations, and while he has been good overall, I still think he can offer more offensively. Saturday just may be the night for it.
The Ferrell Center should be rocking for this one — and with a win, Baylor is certainly still alive in the regular-season race. Give me the Bears to get it done at home, covering the number in the process.
Pick: Baylor -2.5 (Play to -3)
Kansas vs. Baylor
The No. 10 Baylor Bears host the No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks for the second meeting between the two schools this season. When these two teams faced each other earlier this month, Kansas walked away with the win, smoking Baylor, 83-59, with a combined 142 points scored.
Baylor is 14-13-1 against the total this season and has hit the over seven out of 14 times at home. Kansas is 15-10-2 against the total this season, but the Jayhawks have been less likely to hit the over on the road, going 4-for-8 away from Lawrence.
Baylor comes into Saturday’s game after a hard=fought battle against Oklahoma State, which it won in overtime, 66-64, with a combined 130 points scored between the two teams.
Kansas’ last matchup was a rivalry game against Kansas State, which went for a mammoth 185 points in a 102-83 Jayhawk victory at home.
Both of these teams are clearly complete and have the offensive prowess to score with the best of them, but look for the equally capable defenses to stymie offensive production in this game.
Baylor and Kansas rank 18th and 32nd in AdjD, allowing 92.7 and 95.2 points per 100 possessions, respectively. Both programs have the defensive capabilities to do enough to slow down their opponent’s offense.
The angle that I love, and what I think will ultimately be the differentiator for this game, is tempo. Neither team plays particularly fast basketball.
Kansas ranks 68th in the nation in AdjT, with 69.8 possessions per 40 minutes. Baylor is the more sluggish team, ranking 142nd in AdjT with 68.1 possessions.
Look for the combination of solid defense and reasonable tempo to keep these excellent offenses in check as Baylor looks to even the series at home.
I am projecting the total at 140 points in this matchup and recommend taking the under on a total that skews too high after Kansas’ latest outing.