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College Basketball Odds, Picks & Predictions for Saturday: Bets for Houston-Baylor, Alabama-Kentucky & More (February 24)

This Saturday brings us a stacked college basketball slate loaded with significant matchups. The day starts hot with Houston-Baylor and just keeps on rolling. Now let’s dive into today’s college basketball odds to make our picks and predictions for Saturday, including bets on the Houston-Baylor and Alabama-Kentucky games. For more college basketball picks and predictions, make sure to check out our other college basketball articles and our college basketball betting tools!

College Basketball Odds, Picks & Predictions for Saturday: Bets for Houston-Baylor, Alabama-Kentucky & More

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Houston-Baylor Odds

HOU: -142 | Home Team: +120
HOU -2: -112 | BAY +2: -108
Over 135: | Under 135: -110
When: 12 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings

Houston-Baylor Pick & Prediction

We’re getting strength on strength in this ranked game between Houston and Baylor with the home Bears boasting an elite defense and the road Cougars riding a historically great defense. Baylor averages 1.04 points per possession (PPP) in the half-court, tied for the fourth-best in the country, while Houston allows just 0.737 PPP in the half-court, which is the fewest. You have to go back to the 2014-15 season to find a power conference defense allowing less PPP in the half-court.

I expect Baylor’s offense to primarily operate in the half-court in this game as Houston will limit its transition opportunities. While not a run-and-gun team per se — Baylor ranks 284th in adjusted tempo — the Bears will push the ball when the opportunities present themselves. They won’t in this matchup, however, as Houston allows just 8.2 transition attempts per game, the ninth-fewest in the country. They also have just a 12.4% turnover rate in conference play, the lowest in the Big 12.

Synergy breaks pick-and-roll plays into two different categories — possessions that end with the ball-handler and possessions that end with the roll man. Baylor runs 15.7 pick-and-roll sets ending with the ball handler per game, the 12th-most in the country, and Houston allows just 0.532 PPP on those sets, the third-fewest in the country, thanks to elite point of attack defense from Jamal Shead, Emanuel Sharp, and LJ Cryer.

You might be asking why you shouldn’t just lay the points with Houston if I’m this enamored with their defense. Primarily, I’m concerned about their offense traveling here. The Cougars rank 360th in Haslametrics’ away-from-home rating largely due to their offensive struggles on the road. They rank a ghastly 332nd in eFG% in road games this season, which is a large factor in their 1-6 ATS record away from home.

Baylor’s defense lags significantly behind its offense, to be sure, but the Bears do have some bright spots on that end. Haslametrics has Baylor ranked 15th in its “potential points off second chances” metric and Synergy has them in the 91st percentile for PPP allowed on offensive rebounds. In other words, they limit opponents to one trip down the floor and won’t afford Houston many easy second-chance points.

The Bears’ biggest defensive flaw comes from their rim protection as they rank in the 22nd percentile in defending shots at the rim. However, Houston averages just 19 shot attempts at the rim per game, which ranks 339th in the country. They’re instead over-reliant on mid-range jumpers, ranking second in mid-range attempt rate. Those inefficient shots are a primary culprit in limiting their offensive potency in road environments.

Neither team will look to push the pace in this game, with Houston limiting Baylor’s transition opportunities and grinding the game to a halt – the Cougars rank 345th in adjusted tempo. Houston is 6-1 to the under on the road this season while Baylor is 6-1 to the under against ranked opponents. I’m anticipating a grinding chess match between two great coaches on Saturday, and I love the under in this game as a result. I got my action down on the 138, but the number is now down to 135.

Best College Basketball Pick & Prediction: Under 138

UNC-Virginia Odds

UNC -2: -115 | UVA +2: -105
Over 130: | Under 130: -110
When: 4 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings

UNC-Virginia Pick & Prediction

The last time we saw Virginia, they got run off the court by their rival Virginia Tech with a final score of 75-41. Meanwhile, North Carolina has had a week off after a 15-point home win over that same Virginia Tech team. As such, I believe this sets up a perfect buy-low, sell-high spot in the ACC. Let’s dive into the matchup.

North Carolina has historically struggled to win in Charlottesville, and they’ve lost eight straight road games against Virginia. That includes last season, UNC coach Hubert Davis’ first trip to face Virginia coach Tony Bennett, where the Tar Heels failed to break through the 60-point barrier on offense. Bennett’s defense remains outstanding, and I believe the Cavaliers have the answers to slow down a potent Carolina offense.

The Tar Heels love to get out and run, ranking 41st in adjusted tempo and the 85th percentile in transition frequency per Synergy. However, Virginia grinds games to a halt, playing with the slowest tempo in the country, and they rarely allow opportunities in transition. The Cavaliers allow 6.8 transition possessions per game, the fewest in the country, and are in the top ten in fast break points per game allowed at 5.9.

The Tar Heels love to play through Armando Bacot in the post, but the Cavaliers have the answers to slow him down. Virginia ranks in the 90th percentile for rim defense efficiency and in the 81st percentile for defending post-up possessions. Additionally, they have allowed just 24 points in the paint per game in conference play, which leads the ACC.

Of course, the offense is the bigger question for Virginia — they rank ninth in adjusted defensive efficiency and 163rd on offense. I’m not here to sell you on that offense — it gets ugly at times. However, it’s worth noting that Virginia’s offense is much more effective at home. They have an eFG% of 53.4% at home compared to 46.9% on the road.

The Cavaliers run Tony Bennett’s blocker-mover offense that relies on screens — they run off-screen sets at the highest rate in the country. That’s one area where they could find success against North Carolina, who ranks in the sixth percentile defending off-screen sets this season.

The Cavaliers have been an elite 3-point shooting team this season, ranking 28th with a 37% shooting clip from deep. That’s likely unsustainable, but perhaps they can keep it rolling for another game at home against a UNC defense that still has looming negative regression — the Tar Heels rank 336th in open 3 rate allowed per ShotQuality.

It’s rare to find Tony Bennett as a home underdog, but he’s been profitable in this spot, hitting at a 13-9 ATS (59%) clip in his career. Overall, his Virginia teams are 105-83-3 ATS (56%) at home and 71-59-3 ATS (55%) in ACC play. With North Carolina’s recent struggles in Charlottesville in mind and a matchup that favors the Cavaliers’ elite defense, we’re buying low on Virginia here.

Best College Basketball Pick & Prediction: Virginia +2.5

Duke-Wake Forest Odds

DUKE +1.5: -108 | WF -1.5: -112
Over 150.5: | Under 150.5: -110
When: 2 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings

Duke-Wake Forest Pick & Prediction

Wake Forest gets an opportunity to exact some revenge on Duke this Saturday afternoon as the Blue Devils head to Winston-Salem. The Demon Deacons enjoy the fourth-ranked home-court advantage in the country per KenPom’s metrics as Joel Coliseum has been a fortress all season. Wake Forest has a stellar 14-0 straight up and 10-3-1 ATS record at home this season. They’re 7-0 straight up and 5-2 ATS at home in conference play, winning those seven games by an average of 19.5 points per game.

While Duke emerged victorious in the first matchup, there were some positive takeaways for Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons finished the game with 40 points in the paint to Duke’s 32 while nabbing 15 offensive rebounds to Duke’s 11. The Blue Devils have an elite interior presence led by Kyle Filipowski, but the Deacons were not outmatched.

It’s even more impressive that Wake Forest was able to hang tough in the paint on the road due to the foul trouble they experienced. Starting center Efton Reid III was limited to just 15 minutes as he dealt with foul trouble while forward Andrew Carr fouled out. Maintaining that strong post presence is incredibly important against a Duke team that ranks in the 77th percentile in the frequency of shots taken at the rim per Synergy.

In that first matchup, we also saw Wake Forest, a typically elite shooting team, struggle to make shots. The Demon Deacons made just 23.1% of their 3-point shots, but they rank 27th in the country with a 37.3% three-point shooting clip this season. Cameron Hildreth and Kevin Miller, who average a combined 29 points per game this season, struggled mightily. They combined to shoot just 2-16 from the field (12.5%) and 0-6 from 3-point range. We should see better performances from both here at home.

If this game is close late in the second half, we could see free-throw shooting become crucial. Luckily, the Deacons are one of the best teams in the country at the charity stripe. Wake Forest makes 82.3% of its free throws in conference play, leading the ACC. Duke, meanwhile, ranks 11th in the conference at 71.1%. Duke had 12 more free throws than Wake Forest in that prior matchup, and we should see that flip somewhat here with the Deacons benefitting from a home whistle.

With foul trouble in the frontcourt and ice-cold perimeter shooting, it’s a wonder that the Demon Deacons were able to hang around against Duke in that first matchup. This time around, I’m expecting them to get the outright win in front of a sellout crowd. It’s the first sellout game for the Deacons since 2017, and I love Wake Forest to extend their stellar home record this season.

Best College Basketball Pick & Prediction: Wake Forest ML

Alabama-Kentucky Odds

ALA: N/A | UK: N/A
ALA +2: -108 | UK -2: -112
Over 174.5: -110 | Under 174.5: -110
When: 4 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings

Alabama-Kentucky Pick & Prediction

It’s been an up-and-down season for Kentucky, and they’re coming off a wild buzzer-beater loss on the road against an underwhelming LSU team. However, the Wildcats have a huge opportunity on Saturday with a road matchup against an Alabama team that’s currently projected as a three-seed in the tournament according to Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology.

The Crimson Tide are coming off a hard-fought overtime win over Florida on Wednesday, and this is a tough turnaround, particularly after guards Mark Sears and Aaron Estrada both played over 40 minutes in that game. Further complicating matters is a projected lack of depth for Alabama. Latrell Wrightsell Jr. missed the game against Florida with a head injury and is expected to be out once again while Mohamed Wague has been suspended by the SEC for a game due to a malicious elbow.

Wrightsell and Wague are two of the team’s best defenders, which presents problems against Kentucky. The Wildcats have a lethal offense ranked ninth in adjusted efficiency per KenPom, and they play at a blisteringly fast pace, ranking 18th in adjusted tempo. Antonio Reeves and Rob Dillingham are the stars of the show — they combine for just under 35 points per game and are both shooting over 44% from 3-point range.

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Alabama’s defense will be hard-pressed to find stops in this game as they rank in the 28th percentile defending in the half-court per Synergy. The Tide struggle to defend without fouling, ranking 280th in opponent free throw rate, and can’t consistently clean up on the defensive glass, ranking 241st in defensive rebound rate.

Kentucky’s defense is still a relative flaw, but they seem to have turned a corner in recent games. It’s a small sample size of only three games, but since their embarrassing home loss against Gonzaga, the Wildcats rank sixth in adjusted defensive efficiency and 20th in eFG% allowed per BartTorvik. Ugonna Onyenso’s rim protection has been a huge deterrent for the Wildcats while Adou Thiero’s athletic presence as a small ball forward is crucial for the team’s perimeter defense.

Alabama’s offense hinges on three-point shooting as they rank 10th in three-point attempt rate, but they shoot far worse from deep when they’re on the road. The Tide shoot 41.1% from 3-point range at home and just 33.5% from 3 on the road. We shouldn’t overreact to a relatively small sample size of seven true road games, but if tired legs become a factor for a short-handed Alabama team, that could impact their ability to hit consistently from deep.

Ultimately, I believe this sets up a strong buy-low, sell-high spot for these SEC teams. Kentucky has the scoring punch to take advantage of a flawed Alabama defense while the Wildcats’ defense has continued to trend up. The Crimson Tide are set to be shorthanded in this game while the Wildcats could have a full roster for the first time all season if forward Tre Mitchell can play. Kentucky gets the win at Rupp Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Best College Basketball Pick & Prediction: Kentucky ML

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