Football was fun, but it feels like a new year officially starts when all eyes turn to college basketball. We’ve reached that point in the collegiate schedule. There are ranked opponents facing off every day of the week, and we are getting a good idea of who the best teams in college basketball truly are.
We’ll have a few conference challenges coming up, but the majority of the regular season left will be against conference foes. This may just be for bragging rights and a conference title for the blue-blood programs, but smaller conferences know the only team who will see the NCAA Tournament is the conference tournament winner. Seeding matters in those games, so the regular season plays a larger role for those squads.
We have a fun slate of games in front of us this week, but which ones will be the most important when the season comes to an end? Which ones are the top games to bet on? This week, there is a strong correlation. Let’s pick a game per day that is worth analyzing for the sake of NCAAB picks.
Auburn Tigers vs. LSU Tigers
Wednesday, January 18, 2023 – 07:00 PM EST at Pete Maravich Assembly Center
This matchup is interesting because of its potential. LSU is reeling, and Auburn looks to be one of the best teams in the conference. However, LSU is hosting this game, and the Auburn Tigers only have one double-digit victory since Christmas.
This team has won a lot of games, but there have been some nailbiters. Pair that with an LSU team desperate to turn things around, and this could be a fun matchup.
Now, on paper, Auburn is clearly the better team. LSU has lost four straight games, including a 40-point loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide. However, that negative momentum would be wiped away if the team could somehow get a home win against Auburn.
I expect the spread at the best sportsbooks to favor Auburn significantly, and rightfully so. Still, with how Auburn has been unable to win convincingly in recent games, don’t be surprised if LSU sticks around.
UCLA Bruins vs. Arizona State Sun Devils
Thursday, January 19, 2023 – 10:30 PM EST at Desert Financial Arena
UCLA is one of the best teams in the country, and we’ve reached a point where we have to wonder who can contend in the Pac-12. USC almost beat the Bruins, but UCLA still emerged victorious.
Arizona State is second in the conference standings, and a win would put them in first. With this being a home game for the Sun Devils, this could be a chance for the power balance of the Pac-12 to shift.
UCLA has a stifling defense, and Arizona State will have to remain efficient to keep this once close. They need a strong first half to gain momentum and confidence, and turnovers have to be limited. UCLA is too good to give transition points to.
However, Arizona State is strong in the paint with blocks and boards. If they can win those physical matchups down low, this could be a close game. Upsets happen all the time in college basketball, and this one would not be that much of a stretch despite it being an unranked team against a top-5 opponent.
Ball State Cardinals vs. Kent State Golden Flashes
Friday, January 20, 2023 – 06:30 PM EST at M.A.C Center
Friday nights include no games including ranked opponents or even teams in the Power 6, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t see a game that could help determine the winner of a conference.
The MAC has multiple solid teams, and games like this one will determine seeding when the tournament rolls around. Both teams need a win here to remain near the top of the standings, and a loss would end Kent State’s undefeated conference streak to start the year.
Kent State has won eight games in a row, and Ball State will be looking to pull off an upset. I don’t think that happens, but I expect this to be close at least for the first half.
UCLA Bruins vs. Arizona Wildcats
Saturday, January 21, 2023 – 02:00 PM EST at McKale Center
UCLA has two big games this week. Going 2-0 would cement this team as one of the five best in the country. Since these are both road games, we will get an idea of how tough the Bruins can be.
This Saturday will feature plenty of ranked teams facing off in tight games, but none of them matter as much as this one. The Wildcats have one of the best offenses in basketball, but there are sizeable holes on defense. UCLA remains much more solid, but can they keep up if this becomes a shootout?
It will be fun to watch, one way or another. Give me the Wildcats to win at home.
Butler Bulldogs vs. UConn Huskies
Sunday, January 22, 2023 – 12:00 PM EST at XL Center
If this game had been a few years ago, this would be one of the top matchups of the season. However, both of these teams have taken a step back in recent years. Right now, they are in the middle of the pack in the conference, while teams like Providence and Xavier take control.
Still, that means the matchup itself could go either way. UConn should win with a better offense and homecourt advantage, but you can’t make any promises with these teams this year. A slow start could be enough for UConn to lose this game in the end.