This article is part of our CBB Betting series.
Penn State -1 vs. Oregon State
This game is a toss-up on paper, though Penn State has the edge in a few areas, so I think they'll ultimately do enough to win. For starters, Penn State has a higher adjusted efficiency rating on both sides of the court than Oregon State. Penn State should have an edge inside where the Nittany Lions rank 32nd in the nation in two-point field goal percentage. A soft Oregon State defense allows opponents to convert two-point field goals at one of the higher rates in the country. Similarly, Penn State has been the stronger rebounding team as well as the more accurate three-point shooting team this season. I expect these matchup differences to play a part in deciding the game.
UCLA at UNLV - Under 139½
This pick mostly hinges on UNLV, which up to this point has leaned on its defense for victories. In each of its first three games at home, UNLV failed to score more than 64 points and yet still managed to win all three. A team that lacks scoring but has an above-average defense, UNLV's under credentials are further bolstered by its tendency to slow down the pace of play. UCLA coach Mick Cronin prefers a slower, methodical game as well, so I expect a lower number of possessions in this one. My only concern is UCLA sinking the under by scoring too many points, though this will be the Bruins' first true road game of the season, which can only help our cause.
LSU -7 vs. Wake Forest
LSU had a close call Friday, but I don't think that will be the case against Wake Forest. The Tigers' high-powered offense, ranked No. 27 in the country in KenPom's adjusted efficiency ratings, takes on a Wake Forest defense that pales in comparison, ranking 89th. And on the other side of the court, it's a similar situation, where Wake Forest enters with an offense ranked No. 91, while a stingy LSU defense ranks 24th in adjusted efficiency. Assuming LSU plays up to its potential, it shouldn't have much trouble covering the number. The Tigers had a tough shooting day Friday against Penn State, making just 4 of 24 three-point attempts. Expect them to bounce back. Wake Forest might be undefeated, but don't let its record fool you — it's not on the same level as LSU. The Demon Deacons have decent raw numbers offensively, but they played their first five games at home against some of the lowest teams in D1, which allowed them to get off to a deceptively successful start. Wake Forest was finally challenged Friday in its first non-home game and got taken to overtime against an Oregon State team that's 1-5. Not a great sign for things to come as Wake Forest plays more competitive teams, starting with Saturday's matchup against a dangerous LSU squad.
Utah +1½ vs. Utah
BYU is the slightly more impressive team on paper, but I like Utah to pull the small upset at home. One reason is the Utes' rebounding. Utah, which ranks top 16 in the country in both offensive and defensive rebounding rates, has a matchup advantage over BYU in that area and that could ultimately be the difference. BYU is also playing in its first true road game of the season. The Cougars seemingly have been rather lucky on defense this year, as opponents are somehow making only 18.8 percent of three-point attempts, the second-lowest rate in the country. I'll admit that BYU has a stout defense, but the luck factor is hard to overlook. For example, during the last full college basketball season, the team with the lowest defensive three-point percentage allowed was 27.2 percent, almost 10 percentage points higher than what BYU has seen in the tiny sample size this season. Now, obviously, this kind of stat won't regress after one game, but I expect Utah's shooters, a capable group, to take advantage of the friendly arena and make their open shots. This game likely will come down to the last possession, and I anticipate Utah's rebounding and shooting to be the difference at the end.