College Basketball Best Bets for Ranked Teams on Tuesday: Tennessee, Creighton, and Iowa State to Cover

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NCAAB Pick: Tennessee +1.5 (-116) at Bookmaker (visit our Bookmaker Review)

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Tennessee +1.5 (-116)
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Picks Summary:

  • Tennessee +1.5 (-116)
  • Creighton -5.5 (-108)
  • Iowa State +7.5 (-108)

Top sportsbooks have released their odds for tonight’s college basketball action.

Three games, in particular, interest me as worth investing in for tonight: Tennessee vs. Texas A&M, Marquette vs. Creighton, and Iowa State vs. Texas.

For reasons that I will explain, you should play the spread for each game.

Remember, fans from the Volunteer State who want to wager on this game should check out our top-rated Tennessee betting sites.

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Texas A&M Aggies

Tuesday, February 21, 2023 – 07:00 PM EST at Reed Arena

Bad Reason to Like Texas A&M

I'm afraid that many people like Texas A&M because of the injuries to Volunteer forwards Julian Phillips and Josiah-Jordan James, both of whom are going to be game-time decisions tonight.

It might seem like both injuries are meaningful because Tennessee just lost by 12 to Kentucky without both players. But the Volunteers also lost by seven, at home, to Kentucky with both players, showing that their presence or absence did not influence the result.

Many Volunteer supporters would scratch their heads over the importance of being attached to both players. First of all, Tennessee isn't doing as badly as it seems. Besides the Kentucky loss, the Vols' other two recent losses were buzzer-beaters.

Moreover, they beat top-ranked Alabama by nine even though they shot an unusually awful 26.1 percent from deep.

After all, neither player is essential: Jordan-James merits complaints from fans for his inconsistency and his poor shooting. While Phillips adds value on the glass, Tennessee has other valuable rebounders -- fellow forward Jahmai Mashack being one -- to put in his place.

Key and Vescovi

One underrated Volunteer will be Tyreke Key. Key was a prominent shooter at a school in a lower-profile conference before transferring to Tennessee.

It is true that he has performed worse against SEC competition, struggling against the length and tight defense played by many SEC teams. But he still did well against teams like Missouri that give up a lot of threes and lack length -- he shot five of nine from deep against this team.

Texas A&M is another team with a vulnerable perimeter defense, one that also lacks length and gives up a lot of outside shots. Game footage from, for example, the Auburn game shows how easy it is to work inside-out against the Aggie defense.

Hence, Texas A&M allows one of the highest rates of threes in the nation. Tennessee will also rely on the efficient shooting of guard Santiago  Vescovi, who is converting 39.3 percent of his three-point attempts.

Much of the Tennessee offense is predicated on good movement -- players both passing well and moving well off the ball -- that experienced distributors like Vescovi and point guard Zakai Zeigler will accomplish against the Aggies' vulnerable perimeter defense.

Aggies' Outlook on Offense 

Texas A&M has a terrible tendency to get stuck on the dribble with unreliable ball handlers dribbling themselves into trouble.

Characteristically, Tennessee has its defenders well-positioned to help inside.

Engaging Volunteer defenders inside, dealing with their good hands and their general stoutness will prove a difficult task for an Aggie team that is allergic to shooting threes.

The Vols are one of the best teams at forcing turnovers, which they will use to energize their offensive attack.

NCAAB Pick: Tennessee +1.5 (-116) at Bookmaker

Marquette Golden Eagles vs. Creighton Bluejays 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023 - 08:30 PM EST at CHI Health Center Omaha

The First Meeting 

One might be inclined to invest in the Golden Eagles because they won the first meeting -- they won by 11 at home back in December

But Creighton shot with unusual inefficiency in that game, converting four of its 20 shot attempts. Moreover, Creighton was not playing nearly as well as it is now.

Whereas the Bluejays were enduring a prolonged losing streak, they have only lost a double-overtime thriller at Providence in the past five weeks.

Ryan Kalkbrenner's Importance

Perhaps most crucially, Creighton missed key center, Ryan Kalkbrenner. The seven-footer is a highly-ranked shot-blocker and an efficient scorer inside.

His defense is even undervalued because opponents frequently do not even dare to challenge him. When they do, even if he does not block their shot, he will alter their shot or otherwise make it hard to score.

He helps explain why Creighton's interior defense is so highly ranked. But Marquette is ranked last in the Big East. The Eagles lack the size and ability to protect the basket. Kalkbrenner will thrive, and if Eagle defenders devote extra attention to him, then he will find one of four teammates who convert 34.9 percent or more of their three-point attempts.

While Marquette's three-point efficiency isn't that far behind Creighton's, the Golden Eagle's perimeter defense is vastly more vulnerable on the road -- as evident in its opposing three-point percentage on the road -- plus Kalkbrenner's rim protection allows Bluejay defenders to guard the perimeter more aggressively.

Creighton is thus the nation's eighth-best team at limiting opposing three-point attempts.

NCAAB Pick: Creighton -5.5 (-108) at Heritage Sports (visit our Heritage Sports Review)

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Creighton -5.5 (-108)
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Iowa State Cyclones vs. Texas Longhorns

Tuesday, February 21, 2023 - 09:00 PM EST at Moody Center

Cyclones on the Road 

With one's NCAAB picks, one might be -- but shouldn't be -- inclined to fade Iowa State on the road.

While the Cyclones have lost multiple consecutive road games, they have already won at Oklahoma and at TCU.

Moreover, they constantly remain competitive on the road. For example, they lost by two at Kansas, which famously has one of the nation's toughest venues for visiting teams.

So, even if they don't win tonight, we should at worst expect a super tight game and therefore a comfortable Cyclone cover.

Iowa State's Defense 

The Cyclones are great at mucking up road games with their stifling defense. Specifically, their style will bother Texas. The game tape shows the Cyclones' defense's inclination to swarm the paint, compelling opposing ball handlers to kick the ball outside.

This determination to guard the basket by preventing shot attempts at the rim in the first place -- Iowa State allows the nation's lowest rate of field goal attempts at the basket and, by extension, excels at contesting jumps shot attempts inside the arc -- is problematic for a Texas team that does not want to shoot threes.

Given Texas' disinclination to shoot threes, the Longhorns struggle against teams that compel opponents to attempt a high rate of them. One example is Tennessee. While the Volunteers are very good, Texas Tech is not. Despite sitting second-to-last in the Big 12 standings, Texas Tech nearly beat Texas in both of their games.

Of course, Iowa State is another example -- the Cyclones beat Texas by 11 at home just over a month ago.

To add insult to injury, the Cyclones have the Big 12's top defensive rebounding unit by percentage. They have the personnel to limit Texas regularly to one shot attempt per Longhorn possession.


Deterring defenses from cheating on its shooters, Iowa State has a lot to rely on to generate open three-point looks.

The Cyclones threaten inside especially with the arrival of efficient scorer Osun Osunniyi but also with the willingness of smaller guys like the quick Tamin Lipsey and Gabe Kalscheur, both of whom convert over 75 percent of their shots inside, to attack the basket.

Especially with a good passer like Lipsey, Iowa State also has enough effective distributors.

Iowa State will use these tools to exploit a Texas team whose perimeter defense, ranking last in the conference in opposing three-point percentage, repeatedly allows opponents to shoot above their average from deep -- Texas' last three opponents accomplished this feat.

NCAAB Pick: Iowa State +7.5 (-108) at Heritage Sports

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Iowa State +7.5 (-108)
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