The 2021-22 college basketball season is in full swing, and we start the new year with some conference matchups between the top teams in the country. Below is my analysis and favorite bets for Wednesday’s slate.

 

 

Alabama vs. Florida

(Line: Florida -1, DraftKings Sportsbook)

Both teams hit some bumps in the road toward the end of their nonconference schedules as the Crimson Tide fell to both Memphis and Davidson while Florida dropped games to Maryland and Texas Southern. Alabama is looking to keep the positive momentum going coming off a big win at home, squeaking by a shorthanded Tennessee team that was down it’s top two players. The Gators haven’t played in over two weeks due to a COVID-19 pause, yet they have reportedly been back practicing the last few days and should be at full strength. Even after the win, Alabama still seems to have some glaring weaknesses Nate Oats needs to work out and I think this Gators team can exploit them in Gainesville.

Florida’s strength this year stems from Mike White’s newly installed aggressive pressure defense that funnels guards into the pain to meet elite rim protector Colin Castleton. The Gators don’t allow three pointers (seventh nationally in 3pt FGA defense) and limit transition (339th nationally in defensive average possession length), which are two extremely important facets of Alabama’s offense. The Crimson Tide revolve around their four-headed monster perimeter attack in which they run a ton of pick-and-roll and look to generate open looks from three (27th nationally in 3pt FGA). What sticks out in my mind is how Alabama has struggled against other dribble-drive funnel defenses (see Iona and Memphis) and forcing the Alabama back court to attack the rim is a successful strategy. Where Alabama’s biggest weakness is defending the paint and 7-foot big man Colin Castleton should have a field day inside. I don’t see how Alabama stops him at the rim and should have their own problems on the other side of the court dealing with the Florida pressure. I like the Gators to get it done at home.

The Pick: Florida -1

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Iowa State vs. Texas Tech

(Line: Iowa State -1, DraftKings Sportsbook)

The Red Raiders will be without Terrence Shannon and Mylik Wilson in this one due to injuries, which could be an issue when they travel to Ames to take on the 12-1 Cyclones. Iowa State is just coming off a home loss to one of the best teams in the country, Baylor. Yet, the Cyclones were very impressive in their close loss where they gave defending national champions everything they could handle for 40 minutes. Texas Tech is one of the most physical teams in the country where they stifle their opponents with their size and length (17th nationally in team height). Yet, Iowa State has proved they can handle opponents’ physicality (see Memphis and Xavier) and without Shannon there to provide much needed offense, I see much more paths to victory for the Cyclones, especially at Hilton.

This game has all the makings of being a rock fight as both teams sport top ten defenses per KenPom. TJ Otzelberger has completely changed the culture in Ames in his first year from being a high tempo finesse offense into a more tough defensive minded team. Mark Adams over at Texas Tech has continued his patented “no middle” defensive philosophy which gives opposing teams a ton of problems, yet still seems to have a long way to go offensively. What sticks out to me most in this game is the point guard disparity. The Red Raiders do not have a true point guard and have been rolling out Swiss Army knife Kevin McCullar to run the offense which really takes away from some of his strengths. Iowa State has gotten stellar point guard play out of freshman Tyrese Hunter who has been the perfect fit to Otzelberger’s offense. What Iowa State looks to do defensively is extend pressure and take away passing lanes which disrupts offensive sets, creates turnovers and forces opponents into isolation situations. Outside of Shannon, Texas Tech certainly doesn’t have many playmakers and turn the ball over at an alarming rate (248th nationally). Of course, the Cyclones will struggle themselves against this stout defense but I think they have enough scorers that can shoot over the packed Red Raider defense (ranks 357th nationally in 3pt FGA defense) with Izaiah Brockington, Gabe Kalsheur and Tyrese Hunter that they keep the ball rolling in Ames with their first Big 12 win of the year.

The Pick: Iowa State -1

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