This article is part of our College Basketball Picks series.
Steve Peralta returns with his best bets for Saturday's small college basketball slate.
Clemson vs California
Under coach Brad Brownell, Clemson has typically relied on its defense and a slow tempo to win games. Dating back to 2018, Clemson has ranked top-33 in adjusted defensive efficiency in four different seasons, so defense is something the Tigers clearly take a lot of pride in. This year's team currently ranks No. 66, but it's still a solid group, as it recently held Iowa to its lowest-scoring output of the season. Clemson's offense, meanwhile, is actually ranked a little higher at No. 60, but historically the defense has carried the team under coach Brownell.
California's defense isn't ranked as high as Clemson's, coming in at No. 148, but it's still by far the strength of the team. California has already played two Big 12 teams this season, Kansas State and TCU, and the Golden Bears held both opponents to under 64 points. On the other end of the court, California is nothing short of discombobulated, ranking No. 281 in adjusted offensive efficiency. The Golden Bears have yet to score more than 66 points in a game this season and have scored under 60 points in half of their games.
Considering the incredibly slow pace and defense-first nature of both teams, a low-scoring game is almost a given. The number is low, naturally, but in both of California's games against Big 12 teams, the total stayed under 118 points. I like our chances with the under in today's matchup.
College Basketball Best Bet: Under 124.5
Tarleton St. at Wichita St.
This game features two teams that are offensively challenged for similar reasons. Tarleton State ranks No. 221 in adjusted offensive efficiency while Wichita comes in slightly better at No. 145. Neither team can consistently make its shots. Tarleton ranks No. 270 in effective field goal percentage while making 28 percent of its three-point attempts, ranking near the bottom 10 percent among all D1 teams. Wichita State, meanwhile, ranks No. 318 in effective field goal percentage and is making under 26 percent of its three-point shots, ranking around 20th-lowest in the country.
On the defensive side of the equation, both teams are rather stout, with Tarleton State ranking No. 100 in adjusted efficiency and Wichita State further up at No. 49. The latter has held opponents to under 60 points in three of five games this season, with a season-high of 67 points allowed. Given the Texans' offensive struggles, there's a decent chance of making it four games after today.
These two teams played each other a season ago, also in Wichita, and the home team won with a final score of 65-51. Although the rosters are a little different compared to a year ago, the characteristics of each team are virtually unchanged. We have the same coaches, with the tendencies, and the same strengths and weaknesses. I'll take the under.
College Basketball Best Bet: Under 125.5
Iowa vs TCU
On paper, the Horned Frogs aren't awful when looking at their overall efficiency numbers, but a deeper look uncovers several red flags.
On November 14, TCU lost a home game, 64-63, to Northwestern State, a team that ranks No. 334 in KenPom's overall efficiency ratings. The Demons rank No. 307 in offensive efficiency and No. 337 on defense, so it's hard to find a more favorable matchup for a Big 12 team. Furthermore, just yesterday on Friday, Nov. 25, TCU defeated California, 59-48, in a win that was so unimpressive, TCU still dropped a few spots in KenPom's efficiency rankings even with a victory. California ranks No. 211 in overall efficiency and has yet to win a game this season, now 0-6. Only allowing 48 points isn't bad, but it's less of an accomplishment against a Golden Bears team that ranks No. 281 in adjusted offensive efficiency. Either way, TCU has yet to play a team this season that ranks above Cal, and yet the Horned Frogs are already exhibiting warning signs.
Additionally, TCU's shooting numbers are another cause for concern. The Horned Frogs are making under 25 percent of their three-point attempts this season, one of the 12 lowest percentages among all D1 teams. The Horned Frogs have played the easiest schedule in the country up to this point, per KenPom, so they've been able to get by without making outside shots.
Iowa, meanwhile, has played sharp as ever. The Hawkeyes' offense currently ranks fourth-best in the country in adjusted efficiency, continuing a trend of elite offensive performance. Iowa finished with a top-five offense in each of the past three seasons, so it's safe to say this season hasn't been a fluke. Iowa traveled to Seton Hall on Nov. 16 and crushed the Pirates, 83-67, a team that features a defense that ranks comparably to TCU.
It's always possible TCU's defense will rise to the occasion, but ultimately I'm betting Iowa's potent offense will get the job done.
College Basketball Best Bet: Iowa -6
Saturday College Basketball Best Bets:
Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Thursday:
- Clemson vs California - Under 124.5
- Tarleton St. at Wichita St. - Under 125.5
- Iowa -6
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