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College Basketball Best Bets: Picks, Odds & Predictions for Wednesday, December 21

St. John's at Villanova

Villanova hasn't missed a beat on offense in its first season without former coach Jay Wright, although the same can't be said for its defense. The Wildcats rank No. 129 in adjusted defensive efficiency, which would be their lowest defensive rating since 2012. Villanova's points allowed per game isn't too awful, although it's had the luxury of playing against opponents that play at a slower pace. Out of 11 opponents this season, eight of them play at a pace slower than the D1 average offensively, per KenPom. In two of the games against teams that play faster offensively, the combined point total went over 148 points.

St. John's is playing at the second-fastest adjusted tempo in the country offensively, per KenPom, so they will do everything they can to push the pace in this one. The Red Storm have scored over 80 points in half of their games, including recent games over DePaul and Florida State, two teams that aren't much worse than Villanova on the defensive end.

The Wildcats started off the season in rough shape, at 2-5, but have since won four straight, scoring at least 70 points in every game. Considering their offensive prowess and the Red Storm's penchant for turning games into track meets, a high-scoring game seems like the most likely outcome in this matchup. I like the over in this one.


College Basketball Best Bet: Over 146

TCU vs. Utah

These two teams are incredibly similar. They are both outstanding defensive teams, ranking top-30 in KenPom's adjusted efficiency standings, and both have signature wins over potent offensive teams. Utah took down Arizona at home at the start of December, while TCU soundly defeated Iowa in Florida around the same time. Furthermore, both also suffered disappointing home losses earlier in the season, casting doubt early on as to how the season might go for each team. That being said, one team appears to have a slight edge entering Wednesday's matchup.

Utah looked impressive when it won its first two Pac-12 games but recently lost by nine points to BYU. This loss is somewhat hard to explain, although Utah's other two losses this season both came against the two toughest defensive challenges it's faced. This isn't a great sign for Wednesday's game, as TCU will represent the second-best defense Utah will have seen so far this season, per KenPom's adjusted efficiency ratings.

TCU, meanwhile, inexplicably lost to Northwestern State by one point at home back on Nov. 14, but the Horned Frogs have since gone on a scorching-hot run, winning seven straight games. During this streak, TCU has collected double-digit victories over both Iowa and Providence, helping erase some of the doubt that came from its loss earlier in the season.

As mentioned earlier, these two teams are both excellent on defense, although TCU does one thing exceptionally well that Utah doesn't -- cause turnovers. TCU's defense is causing turnovers at the 28th-highest rate among all D1 teams, while Utah is ranked No. 318 in the same category. Similarly, on the other end, TCU's offense is great at not turning the ball over, ranking No. 51, while Utah's offense is getting the ball stolen more often than the D1 average rate, per KenPom. Given this data, it's a good bet that TCU will win the turnover battle in this matchup.

One other note that we need to consider is that these two teams clashed last season in Fort Worth, and TCU won handily, 76-62. Several key players from that game will once again return to the court for Wednesday's matchup, so last year's outcome shouldn't be overlooked.

Overall, this game is an even matchup, but when considering TCU's turnover advantage in addition to their recent encounter from a year ago, I have to go with the team that has the edge in both instances. I'll take the Horned Frogs in this one.

College Basketball Best Bet: TCU +2

Auburn at Washington

Auburn has lost two of its last three games, and the opponents in each game (Memphis and USC) share one thing in common, a stout defense. This theme will continue into Wednesday's contest, as the Tigers will travel to Washington to face a Huskies defense that ranks right alongside USC in adjusted efficiency, per KenPom.

Additionally, Auburn has only played four games away from home, losing the previous two and nearly losing a third in Mexico against Northwestern, surviving by a final score of 43-42. The Tigers have looked sharp at home against inferior teams but haven't played nearly as great otherwise.

Washington, in contrast, has already defeated an elite defensive opponent in the form of Saint Mary's. The Huskies also took down Colorado just a couple of weeks ago, another team that's solid on the defensive end, so they're certainly capable of keeping their poise and breaking down a stingy defense when faced with that challenge. Washington's offense has gotten the job done for most of the season, but its real strength lies on the defensive side of the court, allowing just two opponents to score over 70 points this season, one of them being on the road to Gonzaga.

All things considered, Auburn is a long way from home, nearly as far away as it could be. In order to win, it will need to play much better than it did in its first true road game of the season against USC. Washington has already shown that it can defeat an opponent like Auburn, so I'm betting this game will come down to the wire. I'll take the points with the home team.

College Basketball Best Bet: Washington +4.5

Wednesday College Basketball Best Bets:

Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Wednesday:

  • St. John's at Villanova - Over 146

  • TCU +2

  • Washington +4.5

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