Michigan vs. Rutgers: Pick Under 136
(Tip 7 p.m. ET)
The Wolverines are have not been playing up to expectations this season as the 2020 Elite Eight participants sit at 7-5. The offense is struggling as Hunter Dickinson and Eli Brooks are the only two averaging at least 10 points per game. Their shooting is cold as they’re 30.6% behind the arc, 47.3% inside, and rank 270th in Effective Field Goal Percentage, according to KenPom.
Rutgers is another offense not to write home about as they are 275th in three-point percentage (30.6%) and 249th from inside the arc (47.3%). The Scarlet Knights can defend, especially at home, including holding Purdue to their lowest point total of the season. Caleb McConnell, Ron Harper, Jr., and Paul Mulcahy are a tough trio to get through as they average a combined 5.3 steals per game.
Both these teams struggle with their long-range shooting, so don’t expect fireworks from there. Secondly, these teams play at a slow tempo as they are both in the bottom 250 of the average time of possession and average possessions per game. The under is a pretty good bet to take.
Kentucky vs. LSU: Pick LSU -1.5
(Tip 7 p.m. ET)
Kentucky is usually slow to start their season, but they’ve been a tear lately. They come into this game with a four-game winning streak and a victory margin of 33.75. One key to this winning streak is the three-point shooting, as the Wildcats have hit eight or more threes and shooting 38% or better in three of its four games. The other has been their ability on the boards as they are the No. 1 rebounding team in the country.
The way for the Tigers to win this game is with their defense. The Tigers rank first in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency and steal percentage. They know how to put pressure on their opponents and force tough shots as they hold opponents to just 26.2% from three and 40.9 field goal percentage.
It’ll be strength vs. strength with Kentucky’s outside shooting and LSU’s defense. While Kentucky has been impressive during this winning streak, this will be their biggest road test. If this was a larger spread, we could give Kentucky spread, but in this case, LSU is the bet.
Illinois vs. Minnesota: Pick Illinois -7
(Tip 7 p.m. ET)
The Illini have looked like a dangerous team as they come in winning seven of their last eight. This year, seven-footer Kofi Cockburn has been a force by averaging 21.8 points, 12.1 rebounds, and a double-double in all but two games. They’re also good in the backcourt as Alfonso Plummer, Jacob Grandison, and Trent Frazier are all shooting 40% from behind the arc.
Ben Johnson has coached Minnesota to an impressive 10-1 in his first season, but eight of those wins have come against teams that rank outside of KenPom’s top 100. Forward Jamison Battle leads this team with 18.9 points and loves to shoot from behind the arc, as that’s where he’s taken most of his shots. The Gophers strong suit on defense guarding the perimeter, holding opponents to less than 25% shooting on attempts.
The problem for Minnesota is they’ve been terrible defending the paint, which gives Cockburn a chance to have a big game. The Illini will dominate down low, exhaust the defense to where it will open things up from the perimeter.
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