The 2021-22 college basketball season is in full swing, and conference play provides matchups between the top teams in the country. Below is my analysis and favorite bets for Wednesday’s slate.

 

 

LSU vs. Florida

(Line: Florida -1, DraftKings Sportsbook)

This is a very good opportunity to buy low on the Gators and sell high on the Tigers with both teams trending in opposite directions after last week. Florida are losers of two straight after blowing a halftime lead against Alabama and keeping it fairly tight on the road against an incredibly hot Auburn team then falling late. LSU is coming off two massive home wins against Kentucky and Tennessee. Yet, looking at the shot quality metrics (and even some luck in the Kentucky game), the LSU wins were not convincing and could have easily gone the other way. LSU and Florida’s defensive schemes are extremely similar — aggressive defensive pressure on the perimeter to make guards uncomfortable and make mistakes and elite rim protection. LSU does this much better than Florida does, which shows in the metrics as LSU ranks out as the best defense in the country per KenPom while Florida is 37th. With both teams so similarly structured, the difference in this game is going to come down to guard play and shot making. LSU will be without starting point guard Xavier Pinson due to injury, which is a huge blow against an aggressive defense. This game is going to played at a high tempo, and both teams are going to turn it over at a fairly high clip (Florida is 198th nationally and LSU is 217th nationally). Yet, I think the backcourt advantage lies to the Gators, especially at home. Florida takes threes at a pretty high clip (41.5% of their FGA) and although they’ve shot it poorly, I think they may be due for some positive regression. This game feels the same to me as when LSU traveled to Auburn and were down double digits the entire game (without Brandon Murray). I will be backing the home team here, selling LSU at their high and expect a big game out of Colin Castleton patrolling the paint.

The Pick: Florida -1

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Xavier vs. Villanova

(Line: Villanova -1.5, DraftKings Sportsbook)

Let’s try this again. I dropped Xavier +5.5 in their first matchup after they turned the ball over like giving away candy on Halloween in the second half, blowing an eight-point halftime lead. I am going back to the well here with Xavier at home for the same reasons I backed them in the first matchup. After Nova’s two-game losing streak in mid-December where they shot 20% from three, as expected we saw some positive regression and the Cat’s have shot 34% from behind the arch during their last four. Shooting 47% of your shots from three is always going to bring some variance (see Alabama) and Villanova is definitely going to see that throughout the year. Where Nova does have an Achilles heel though is inside, especially defensively, and that is where this Xavier team has shown major improvements from last year. The additions of Jack Nunge and Jerome Hunter shored up the Musketeer’s soft defense from a season ago which has improved from ranked 94th to 28th per KenPom. The Wildcats’ defense on the other hand is extremely versatile, able to switch one through five. But that doesn’t matter against Xavier as the Musketeers are crafty on the perimeter and Nova has no one who can guard Freemantle or Nunge in the paint. I have been super high on this Xavier team all year and I currently only have them about one point different than Villanova in my power rankings, which indicates this line should be around -2 favoring Xavier at home. The only thing scary about Xavier is their tendency to turn the ball over at a high clip (193rd nationally in turnover percentage) which costed them the previous matchup. As long as they can take care of the ball at a decent rate, they should have the advantage inside and on the glass and be able to have a similar performance as the first half of the first matchup and pull out the win at home. I love getting points here in a very tough Cintas Center home environment.

The Pick: Xavier +1.5