Kentucky vs. North Carolina, Purdue vs. Arizona picks: College basketball odds
A pair of ranked matchups at neutral-site venues Saturday have caught my attention.
Lets start with the blue-blood showdown in the ATL.
No. 14 Kentucky vs. No. 9 North Carolina (in Atlanta)
The Kiddy Cats remain difficult to pin down this season.
Rob Dillingham, Justin Edwards, Reed Sheppard and D.J. Wagner are all playing significant minutes as true freshmen, combining to score 55% of Kentuckys points this season, so its understandable theyre going to play high-variance basketball with so many inexperienced starters.
When its clicking for coach John Calipari and company, the sky appears to be the limit.
The Wildcats went 15 rounds with Kansas before wilting late.
They hammered No. 8 Miami during a flawless performance three weeks ago.
But then they came crashing back to earth, dropping a home game to UNC Wilmington as 19-point favorites.
What that tells me is that motivation and leadership can be lacking when UK is punching down.
But when it comes to getting up for a big game, one that Big Blue Nation is sure to travel for, I have confidence that Kentuckys youth wont be its undoing.
On the North Carolina side of things, the Tar Heels appear poised to go as far as RJ Davis and Armando Bacot can carry them.
Davis is pouring in 21 points per game and Bacot is as healthy and productive as ever.
The UNC big is averaging a double-double (15.9 ppg, 11.9 rpg) with two blocks per game.
Harrison Ingram Getty ImagesBut outside of this dynamic duo, the emergence of Stanford transfer Harrison Ingram has been the real story on Tobacco Road.
Ingram has three 20-point performances in his last five games and presents a mismatch for Justin Edwards at the four.
I expect this game to be defined by transition buckets and fearless backcourt play.
Recommendation: Over 167 (play to 168.5)
No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 3 Purdue (in Indianapolis)
Ive written extensively about Purdues offseason decision to embrace a quicker tempo.
After years of glacially paced halfcourt battles, the Boilermakers are playing noticeably faster this season.
As a result, their offensive numbers are off the charts.
They rank first in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to Bart Torvik, pumping in 85.6 ppg.
Thats a 13-point increase over their scoring average last season.
Zach Edey leads the nation in nearly every efficiency metric and has been sensational against ranked opponents (25 ppg, 13 rpg, 58% shooting).
But now Purdue must face a Wildcats team that hasnt simply switched to a faster tempo, it was engineered for it.
The day Arizona hired longtime Gonzaga assistant coach Tommy Lloyd, the Wildcats entered a new offensive era.
They run and they gun and they score points at a nation-best 94 ppg.
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In Lloyds first season in the desert, his team finished seventh in adjusted efficiency on the offensive end and ninth in adjusted tempo, according to KenPom.
In Year 2, the Cats maintained a top-15 rating in both metrics and this season they check in sixth nationally in both.
Suffice it to say, they wont be thrown off by Purdues tactics and have the upper hand playing an up-and-down game.
And while Im encouraged by the improved play of Fletcher Loyr and Braden Smith in Matt Painters backcourt, Id still rather have Kylan Boswell and Caleb Love.
Boswell has a 4.25:1 assist-to-turnover ratio against ranked opponents, and Love continues to impress as a stat-sheet stuffer.
Love is on pace for career highs in shooting percentage, assists, rebounds and steals.
In the end, I think the Arizona backcourt will win the day in Indianapolis.
Recommendation: Arizona +3 and Over 162.5
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