With conference season heating up, we are going to experience some of the top rivals in college basketball square off over the coming weeks. The first few weeks of the season are fun, but this is where we truly learn who the contenders and pretenders are for each conference.
Every team has a different scheduling strategy. Some like to schedule challenging non-conference opponents to boost morale, and others want to be tested by the best so they can expose flaws. This makes it hard to compare teams until conference schedules begin, so we can finally compare apples to apples.
There are plenty of games worthy of NCAAB picks this week, so let’s cover five of them. We have one key game for five straight days starting on Wednesday.
Missouri Tigers vs. Arkansas Razorbacks
Wednesday, January 4, 2023 – 08:30 PM EST at Bud Walton Arena
The SEC always carries a ton of weight in the large discussion of college basketball. Between the consistency of Kentucky and the rise of teams like Auburn, Arkansas, and Alabama, it is one of the deepest conferences in college hoops.
While neither of these teams is highly ranked, it is still a top-25 matchup that will matter when seeding happens for the NCAA Tournament.
While Missouri only has one loss, many of the team’s early games were against inferior opponents. Still, the Tigers played well against Kansas and beat Kentucky outright, so there is plenty to be excited about.
Arkansas only has two losses, but the Razorbacks lost the conference opener to LSU. A loss here would make us reconsider the power structure of the SEC. It’s too early to call any game a must-win, but an 0-2 SEC start for Arkansas would be bad news for the team as a whole.
Arkansas is hosting, so this should be a win. Still, this is a pivotal moment for both programs if an upset were to occur.
Purdue Boilermakers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
Thursday, January 5, 2023 – 07:00 PM EST at Value City Arena
Purdue is one of the best teams in the country, and it looks like the favorite to win it all this year. With plenty of returning talent and a great coaching staff, this team has high hopes for the season.
Another true test will come for Purdue against Ohio State. Can the Boilermakers win against another ranked opponent? If so, it will be thanks to Zach Edey, one of the best centers in college basketball. The 7-foot-4 big can consistently score in the paint, and his value as a rebounder has increased with the extra minutes he’s gotten this year.
OSU must come up with a way to stop Edey, and that will be a fun challenge for the Buckeyes.
Akron Zips vs. Ball State Cardinals
Friday, January 6, 2023 – 08:30 PM EST at Worthen Arena
I’ll be honest. This is one of the few games on this day between two teams with winning records. Friday isn’t known as a great day for college basketball as it’s mostly the Ivy League that plays. Still, we have an interesting game on our hands.
Ball State hosts and they have a faster pace this season. Because of this, I expect the over to hit with a few minutes to spare.
But if you want a prediction in terms of which team will win, give me Ball State. This team is marginally better, but the fact that they are hosting gives them the edge in my eyes.
Kentucky Wildcats vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
Saturday, January 7, 2023 – 01:00 PM EST at Coleman Coliseum
Kentucky hasn’t lived up to the hype this year, but the talent is on the roster. The Wildcats have a reputation for struggling early in the season due to the roster turnover each season. Still, Kentucky has to turn the corner if they want to have any hope of winning the SEC this year.
Alabama has started off strong, and Brandon Miller is playing like one of the best players in the SEC. With the Tide playing at home, this is a great chance to gather more momentum for the SEC slate for Alabama.
Alabama needs to win home games like this one if they want to win the SEC two times in three years. That’s what makes this a great game to bet on. It’s a pivotal moment, and both teams have the talent to shine if things go well.
Houston Cougars vs. Cincinnati Bearcats
Sunday, January 8, 2023 – 03:00 PM EST at Fifth Third Arena
Since Houston doesn’t play in the Power 5, this team won’t see a ton of tough games. Still, they have to take care of business against practically every opponent if they want to earn the one seed.
That’s why games like this one are so important. Cincinnati isn’t an elite team, but they have a talented roster and are capable of winning some big games. These are the games that Houston needs to win convincingly to take over.
I think that will happen, but don’t count out Cincinnati for your bets at the best sportsbooks.