Saturday’s College Basketball Betting Previews: Kansas-Arizona State, Kentucky-North Carolina

Saturday’s College Basketball Betting Previews: Kansas-Arizona State, Kentucky-North Carolina article feature image

Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: PJ Washington

Oh, NCAA. You’ve done it again.

Not only are we gifted with 16 top-25 teams playing on Saturday, but a pair of ranked matchups take place. No. 9 North Carolina and No. 19 Kentucky travel to Chicago for the CBS Sports Classic before No. 1 Kansas and No. 18 Arizona State conclude a home-and-home series in Tempe, Ariz.

Which sides deliver more value? Let’s breakdown the games.

>> All odds as of Friday night. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NCAAB odds and track your bets.

Kentucky Wildcats vs. North Carolina Tar Heels 

  • Spread: UNC -3.5
  • Over/under: 166
  • Time: 5:15 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: CBS

Don’t buy into the notion that the Wildcats (4-6 against the spread) are doomed — even against the Tar Heels (5-3-2 ATS).

Despite Kentucky playing just one game since Quade Green announced his decision to transfer, it looked like a completely different team against Utah on Dec. 15. The Wildcats hit a season-high 57.1% from behind the arc, and for the first time this season, John Calipari’s bunch made a commitment to playing inside-out.

North Carolina is loaded in the frontcourt, yet the two programs stand about even in size. The Wildcats should find success against the Tar Heels’ 121st-rated opponents’ two-point percentage (48.6%). On top of that, Roy Williams’ crew has struggled to stay out of foul trouble, allowing Kentucky to take advantage with the eighth-highest Free Throw Rate (FTA/FGA) in college basketball.

Keldon Johnson (16.1 points per game) and Reid Travis (14.6 ppg) are two of the best in the country at getting to the line, and they’re the Wildcats’ most important pieces.

Defensively, Kentucky can’t afford to give up second-chance opportunities, as UNC has amassed the third-highest Offensive Rebounding Rate in the nation while shooting 37.1% on 3s. The Wildcats have allowed their opponents to hit 39.0% 3-point percentage, but I’m expecting their 71st-ranked Defensive Rebounding Rate to hold its own.

According to our Bet Labs data, this matchup represents Kentucky’s first contest as an underdog in December since the 2013-14 season. Expect Calipari’s squad to exhibit its true potential against North Carolina, though.

THE PICK: Kentucky +3.5

Kansas Jayhawks at Arizona State Sun Devils

  • Spread: Kansas -4
  • Over/under: 150.5
  • Time: 9 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPN2

The Sun Devils (5-5 ATS) are coming off a 16-point loss at Vanderbilt on Monday, and their freshman Luguentz Dort (19.8 ppg) has combined to shoot 5 of 23 from the field over his past two contests. I’m seeing this stretch as a sign of regressing to mean for a second straight season, and it couldn’t come at at worse time.

Bill Self’s unit owns the eighth-highest Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (90.2 opponents’ Points Per 100 Possessions). Even without the 7-foot Udoka Azubuike (ankle injury), the Jayhawks (5-5 ATS) have a slight size advantage and can match Arizona State’s physicality on the glass via the 68th-highest Defensive Rebounding Rate in the nation.

If they establish their presence inside, allowing them to push the pace in transition (91st-ranked Adjusted Tempo), the Sun Devils’ 215th-ranked Effective Field Goal Percentage (49.8%) will take themselves out of the game.

On the flip side, the Commodores’ convincing win over ASU was guided by playing inside-out via 5-star big man Simisola Shittu. Kansas can operate in a similar fashion with preseason All-American Dedric Lawson (19.7 ppg) and the 60th-highest 3-point percentage (37.6%) in Division I.

Between the 2015-16 season and this one, the Jayhawks are 10-10 (50.0%) ATS when they’re favored by at least four points in December, per Bet Labs. They’ll leap over .500 following this contest.

THE PICK: Kansas -4

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