College basketball predictions: Take a favorite and an underdog
The return of Terrence Shannon Jr. and the potential loss of Kelel Ware loom large in Champaign on Saturday, while the eyes of Texas turn to a massive Big 12 matchup in Waco.
Indiana at No. 10 Illinois
Shannon rejoined the Illinois basketball team on Jan. 21 and has played two games following a decision by a federal judge to grant a temporary restraining order.
The teams leading scorer was suspended by the university in December following his arrest on a felony rape charge.
His return to the Illinois starting lineup has the potential to turn this game into a blowout.
Illinois already has proven adept at mixing and matching its rotations, evidenced by the fact that seven different players have led the Illini in scoring across their 19 games.
Only three other power-conference programs have more leading scorers this season, according to statistician Evan Miyakawa.
Marcus Domask took on an alpha role in Shannons absence, pouring in an average of 23 points across the five games Illinois was without its star player.
So adding Shannon (20.5 ppg) back into the lineup is borderline unfair.
Shannons elite athleticism also gives Illinois a chance to improve in transition (176th in fast-break points).
If they improve on that front this will be a top-five offense nationally by seasons end.
Meanwhile, the Hoosiers are losing altitude under Mike Woodson.
After a 15-6 start to last season, IU finished 8-6 straight-up and got crushed by Miami in the Round of 32.
Illinois forward Marcus Domask USA TODAY Sports via Reuters ConThis year, they Hoosiers have struggled with injuries and continuity, and that is rearing its head again in this spot.
Indiana has major defensive issues without Ware in its starting lineup.
The sophomore 7-footer missed IUs game against Wisconsin last week due to an ankle sprain, and the Hoosiers were victimized on the defensive end.
Wisconsin scored 91 points and shot nearly 70 percent from inside the arc (18 of 26 on two-pointers). Practice reports indicate he has been a limited participant this week, which makes him a game-time decision.
Big picture, the Hoosiers are trending in the wrong direction whenever they match up against a quality opponent.
Theyve lost by double digits to UConn, Auburn, Nebraska, Purdue and Wisconsin, failing to cover in all five contests.
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The bottom feels like it could fall out from this bubble team at any moment.
I would play this all the way up to Illinois -17 if Ware is forced to sit out. If he does play, he should be limited with that ankle injury.
Recommendation: Illinois -13.
TCU at No. 15 Baylor
The vaunted Baylor offense is in a bit of a funk. After spending the majority of the year in the top five of KenPoms adjusted offensive efficiency rankings, the Bears are suddenly struggling to score.
It started with a 60-point performance in regulation against Oklahoma State, and persisted in below-average nights against Cincy (62 points) and K-State (54 points in regulation).
This teams ceiling remains sky high on the offensive end, but its no longer a lock to play in the 80s and 90s as it routinely did in November.
TCU guard Avery Anderson III APAnd now the Bears are facing a TCU team that has played exceptionally well against the top of the Big 12 this season.
The Horned Frogs knocked off a pair of top-10 opponents in Oklahoma and Houston and fell just short against Kansas and Iowa State, losing both by a single possession.
The Frogs can turn you over (15.4 TOs, 22nd) and they kill opponents in transition (21.5 fast-break points per game, first.
The X-factor in this game will be Avery Anderson III. The senior point guard needs to avoid the kind of turnover issues that sunk TCUs chances against Cincy and Iowa State.
Recommendation: TCU +5.5.
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