College Basketball Odds, Picks: Our Staff’s 5 Best Bets for Tuesday (Jan. 3)
Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images. Pictured: Markquis Nowell & Jerome Tang (Kansas State)
Our staff has you covered for the college basketball slate on Tuesday with five best bets below. So, dive in immediately and get the top college basketball odds and picks.
Tuesday's 5 College Basketball Best Bets
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college basketball staff is targeting from Tuesday'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.|
Marquette vs. St. John's
Pretty great buy-low spot for St. John’s here, which is reeling after three straight losses and playing three of the last four games on the road.
Meanwhile, it’s a pretty great sell-high spot for Marquette, which looked like absolute world-beaters after a string of excellent performances. The Golden Eagles have played six of their last eight games against KenPom top-60 teams, going 4-2.
That doesn’t even include the road win over Notre Dame.
Shaka Smart’s up-tempo, pick-and-roll heavy offense has shredded opposing defenses. But I think Mike Anderson’s Red Storm can counter that, given they grade out well in transition defense (.904 PPP allowed, 76th percentile) and guarding the pick-and-roll ball handler (.698 PPP allowed, 64th percentile).
Plus, Anderson likes to play at an even higher tempo, meaning the Storm can match the pace of this game.
And I bet St. John’s dominates the glass tonight. The Red Storm are top-100 in both OR% and DR% while the Golden Eagles are sub-250 in both stats.
St. John’s might win this game on second-chance points alone, given it scores about 10 points per game on put-backs while Marquette allows seven points a night.
I’m the world’s biggest Shaka fan, but only because he’s a god as an underdog. Conversely, you do not want to lay points with Shaka in any situation, as he’s posted around a -13% ROI as a favorite, as a road favorite and as a conference favorite.
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Mississippi State vs. Tennessee
Tennessee continues to be the best defensive team in the country night in and night out. The Volunteers rank No. 1 in the country in a number of significant defensive categories, including adjusted efficiency, effective field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.
On Tuesday night, the Vols will match their defense up against a Mississippi State offense that has struggled this season in these same categories.
The Bulldogs rank 258th nationally in effective field goal percentage and 279th in 3-point percentage.
During its non-conference schedule, Mississippi State averaged just 68.2 points per game despite playing a strength of schedule that was ranked 288th nationally, according to KenPom.
The Bulldogs must now face the best defense in the country with an offense that has yet to find consistency against lesser opponents.
The only other team in the SEC that has a defense in the same vicinity of the Volunteers is Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have reached an 11-2 record by making up for their poor offensive performances on the defensive end.
Through 13 games, the Bulldogs rank sixth nationally in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and top-20 in a number of categories, including effective field goal percentage, turnover percentage, 2-point percentage and steal percentage.
Between the best two defenses in the SEC, this total provides plenty of value.
LSU vs. Kentucky
By Brett Pund
The Wildcats are coming off one of the biggest wins on their schedule every season, defeating in-state rival Louisville by 23 points on New Year’s Eve. Coach John Calipari’s team will then follow this matchup up with a trip to top-10 Alabama this Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Tigers have had all week to prepare for this game after opening SEC play with a victory over Arkansas. We all know that every SEC team gives Kentucky their best shot, as it’s always a memorable victory to top the Cats.
Another key factor in this game will be free-throw shooting, which is an area where Calipari’s squad has struggled this season. On the year, Kentucky is outside the top 300 in free-throw percentage, which can make it very difficult to close out victories by larger margins.
I was on LSU in the victory over the Razorbacks, and I believe it’s still undervalued in this great scheduling spot Tuesday night.
Utah State vs. Air Force
By D.J. James
However, the side doesn't have value in this game.
Air Force plays at the 345th-ranked Adjusted Tempo in college hoops, per KenPom. The Falcons occupy 19.4 seconds per possession offensively and 17.6 seconds per possession defensively on average.
Utah State, on the other hand, ranks 65th in Adjusted Tempo. It does have the 23rd-ranked offense in the nation, but Air Force tends to slow teams down.
For one, Air Force is elite at defending the perimeter. It’s holding opponents to 27.6% from deep, which ranks 14th in the NCAA.
Meanwhile, Utah State thrives beyond the arc (41.6% as a unit), and 37.4% of its offense comes from beyond the arc. Air Force will prevent open looks, so there won’t be many other opportunities for the Aggies to switch up their attack.
Air Force will potentially have foul trouble, as it ranks 278th in free-throw attempt percentage on defense. Meanwhile, Utah State gets 19.5% of its points from the strike.
Even if the Falcons yield some free passes to the line, they’ll be able to negate Utah State’s main source of scoring (3s). Once that happens, the Aggies will need to deviate from their strengths.
Expect Air Force to slow the game down to its pace at home and restrict open looks for the Aggies from 3-point land.
Kansas State vs. Texas
I think the market is still undervaluing how good Kansas State has looked.
The Wildcats are now 12-1 with four wins over KenPom top-100 teams. Jerome Tang, Keyontae Johnson and Markquis Nowell have changed the entire vibe and feeling in Manhattan, playing aggressive, on-ball defense and scoring efficiently on the interior.
K-State also shares the ball (fifth nationally in Assist Rate), crashes the glass (54th nationally in OR%) and gets to the line (88th in Free-Throw Rate). It’s good, all-around fundamental basketball.
The Wildcats are now catching a generous amount of points against a Texas team that barely snuck by Oklahoma and is still reeling from the Chris Beard incident. Texas is still a much more talented team than Kansas State, but I don’t think this game is set up for a blowout.
Instead, I’m expecting two high-level defenses to go largely punch-for-punch while both offenses try to score on the interior (both teams are sub-240 in 3-point rate). Texas wins, but hardly by double-digits.
It’s also worth mentioning Texas is just 5-8 ATS as a favorite this season, so I’ll fade the Longhorns one more time.