Top College Basketball Picks for Sunday, January 3rd, 2021

Top College Basketball Picks for Sunday, January 3rd, 2021
Sat 2nd January 2021

Wisconsin vs Penn State 

The Wisconsin Badgers entered the new year as No. 6 in the AP Top 25 Poll and No. 4 in the KenPom rankings. They already played twice this week, suffering a 70-64 defeat at Maryland and beating Minnesota at home, 71-59.   

The Badgers are 9-2 on the season and 3-1 in the Big Ten Conference play. On the other side, the Penn State Nittany Lions are 3-4 overall, dropping all three Big Ten games thus far. They ride a three-game losing streak following an 87-85 overtime defeat at Indiana last Wednesday. 

The Nittany Lions are 1-1 straight up and ATS in two matchups with the ranked teams this term. However, since they routed West Virginia 75-55 on the road, the Lions have lost three consecutive games, falling to No. 49 in the KenPom rankings. 

Penn State has the 22nd-best offensive rating in the country (111.5), but the Nittany Lions have struggled defensively, allowing 95.9 points per 100 possessions (76th in the country). Wisconsin scores 113.8 points per 100 possessions (10th) while yielding 88.3 (5th). 

The Badgers have owned the Lions lately, winning their last 13 head-to-head duels. Also, the Badgers are 5-1 ATS in their previous six encounters with Penn State. Both teams love to play at a slow pace, so it’s no strange that the under has hit in six of their last seven meetings. 

The key factor in this clash will be a defense on both sides. The Nittany Lions have to bring their best defensive game to stand a chance against Wisconsin, but they also have to stay sharp offensively, as the Badgers’ defense can be ruthless. 

Penn State is 4-9 ATS in its last 13 games overall. Wisconsin is 5-2 ATS in its previous seven outings. 

College basketball pick – Wisconsin by 4. 

Ohio State vs Minnesota 

Another Big Ten showdown takes place at Williams Arena in Minneapolis where the Golden Gophers search for their third straight win over the Ohio State Buckeyes. Minnesota has dropped 13 of its previous 17 games against Ohio State, but the Gophers have been playing very well lately. 

They’ve lost at Wisconsin last time out, 71-59, but the Gophers have defeated #4 Iowa 102-95 in overtime and #17 Michigan State 81-56 over the last eight days. Minnesota is 9-2 on the season and 2-2 in the conference play, suffering both its losses against the top-25 teams. 

The Buckeyes, on the other side, are 8-2 overall and 2-2 in the Big Ten play following a 90-54 thrashing off the Nebraska Cornhuskers last Wednesday. It was their third win in the last four outings along with a 71-70 defeat at Northwestern. 

Ohio State has the seventh-best offensive rating in the nation (114.5) while playing at a very slow pace (67.5). The Buckeyes will try to slow things down against the Gophers who average 73.4 possessions per 40 minutes. Minnesota ranks 30th in offensive efficiency (110.9) and 45th in defensive efficiency (93.1). 

The hosts are slight dogs here, and we would by a few points before playing a bet on Minnesota. This should be a hard-fought battle and it could easily go either way. The Gophers have had some ups and downs, but they’ve been terrific at home against some of the best teams in the country. 

College basketball pick – Minnesota by 5. 

Houston vs SMU 

We’re heading to the American Athletic Conference, as the #5 Houston Cougars take on the SMU Mustangs at Moody Coliseum in Dallas, Texas. This should be another thrilling clash, as the Cougars opened as slight 2.5-point road favorites, while the Mustangs beat Houston in their last encounter by one point, 73-72, as 1.5-point home dogs. 

There’s no easy money in this one, though Houston went 5-1 straight up and 3-2-1 ATS in its last six matchups with SMU. However, the Mustangs are 6-0 on the season and 2-0 in the American play. Five guys average points in double figures, while the Mustangs tally 110.6 points per 100 possessions (34th). 

The Cougars mostly lean on their stout defense, allowing just 89.6 points per 100 possessions (12th). Still, they have the 14th-best offensive rating (112.2) while playing at a slow pace (67.1). The Cougars’ backcourt is one of the best with junior Quentin Grimes onwards, but we don’t see them winning this game easily. 

Houston is 7-1 on the season and 2-1 in the conference play following a 65-64 defeat at Tulsa this past Tuesday. The Cougars shot only 35.7% from the field and 19.0% from downtown. They could struggle in Dallas this weekend after going 1-4 SU and ATS in their last five games away from home. 

College basketball pick – SMU by 5. 

Northwestern vs Michigan 

The Big Ten clash between #19 Northwestern and #16 Michigan wraps up Sunday’s slate, and the Wolverines are firm favorites to tally their ninth win in a row and extend a perfect season. 

Michigan hasn’t met any ranked teams, but the Wolverines have had some nice wins including an 84-73 victory at Maryland on New Year’s Eve. Their offensive rating is the eighth-best in the country (114.5), while freshman center Hunter Dickinson average 16.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. 

Northwestern will look for Pete Nance (11.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG) and Ryan Young (9.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG) to cope with Dickinson. The Wildcats snapped a four-game win streak with an 87-72 defeat at #10 Iowa, allowing 18 points to Luka Garza, but the rest of the Hawkeyes dismantled Northwestern’s defense. 

Michigan easily defeated Northwestern in their last two encounters, 80-60 and 79-54. The Wolverines should have a more difficult task this time, but we are still backing them to cover. The Wildcats are not an elite defensive bunch, surrendering 93.8 points per 100 possessions (50th). Still, they shouldn’t be blown away. 

College basketball pick – Michigan by 7. 

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