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Odds and Ends

College Basketball Best Bets for Jan. 15: Back SEC Underdogs

by Thomas Casale
Updated On: January 14, 2022, 11:21 pm ET

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We have a huge college basketball card for Saturday. In my three top plays, I examine why it's a good spot to buy low on Arkansas, bet against powerhouse Auburn on the road, and expect Seton Hall to rebound versus Marquette. 

Odds are opening lines courtesy of PointsBet

Arkansas Razorbacks (+8) at LSU Tigers

I'm going to buy low here on Arkansas. The Hogs come in 2-5 in their last seven games and the two wins were over lowly Elon and Missouri.

Meanwhile, LSU is 15-1 and has the top defense in college basketball, according to KenPom. While this doesn't scream Arkansas, the Razorbacks are still a talented basketball team and I think they can keep this game close on the road.  

Key Metric: Arkansas' free-throw shooting

There's no question LSU's defense has been phenomenal so far this season. The Tigers' defense ranks first in efficiency, second in effective field goal percentage, fifth in three-point field goal percentage, 11th in two-point field goal percentage, and seventh in forcing turnovers. That's an impressive resume. 

The one area where LSU struggles though is committing fouls and that could be a huge factor in this game. Arkansas lives at the foul line, ranking 34th in free throw scoring rate and 25th in foul shots attempted at 37.4 per game. LSU ranks 235th in allowing opponent free throw attempts at 32.3 per game. 

LSU has gotten a bit lucky with teams failing to convert from the foul line against them. Opponents are shooting a dismal 62 percent at the line when facing the Tigers. Florida had 22 free throw attempts on Wednesday and converted just 11 of those opportunities, losing 64-58. 

I've been waiting patiently for the right time to bet against LSU and I believe Saturday may be that time. The Tigers are still expected to be without injured guard Xavier Pinson (10.9 PPG) for this game, so I'll take the eight points with Arkansas to keep it close. I'd bet the Hogs down to +6. 

Pick: Arkansas +8

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Auburn Tigers at Ole Miss Rebels (+9)

I'm all over Auburn in the futures market at +7000 to win it all, but for this particular game, I see some value in taking Ole Miss as a big home dog. 

There aren't a lot of stats or metrics that are going to point to the Rebels here. However, winning on the road in conference play is difficult. Beating conference opponents by double-digits on the road is even more difficult.

Auburn is coming off the huge win at Alabama, so I'm hoping Ole Miss can get this into a grind-it-out, defensive kind of game. 

Key Metric: Ole Miss' improved three-point shooting

Mississippi plays strong, aggressive defense, and that's going to be the calling card to keeping this game close. Although, one interesting note is the Rebels have shot the three ball much better in conference play.

In its first three SEC games, Ole Miss is shooting a conference-best 40.3 percent from beyond the arc. The Rebels also rank first in three-point defense in SEC play. 

Auburn is very good at defending the perimeter, so Ole Miss won't be able to rely solely on its outside shooting. For the Rebels to compete, they will need help from Auburn. If you look at some of the Tigers' road games, they offer hope. Auburn has played four true road games this year and three of them (Alabama, Saint Louis, South Florida) were decided by six points or less. 

This is a bit of a spot play for me. I love Auburn and predicted months ago that they were a Final Four-caliber squad. So far, they haven't disappointed. However, this is a tricky road game in a place where the Tigers haven't had much success recently. Ole Miss is 14-4 straight up in its last 18 meetings with the Tigers. 

I'll grab the nine points here and hope Auburn is a little hungover after the big Alabama win. 

Pick: Ole Miss +9

Seton Hall (+1) at Marquette Golden Eagles

I wrote earlier this week that Seton Hall is a team I'm buying in the futures market. The Pirates then went out and lost to DePaul. This is still a team I'm high on long-term though.

The Big East is really tough this year and winning on the road won't be easy against any team. Also, I thought the Pirates were a little flat in the first half against DePaul coming off that emotional OT win over UConn on Saturday in one of the best games of the college basketball season.  

Marquette is starting to play better under Shaka Smart. The Golden Eagles have won three straight, although Marquette has struggled against tougher competition, losing to UCLA, Wisconsin, UConn, Creighton, and Xavier this season. 

Key Metric: Seton Hall's low turnover percentage

Marquette likes to pressure the ball and convert turnovers into points. That won't be easy against Seton Hall. The Pirates rank 19th in turnover percentage, committing just over 15 a game. Marquette still struggles to shoot the basketball, so if Seton Hall can limit turnovers and prevent the Golden Eagles from scoring easy buckets, I like the Pirates' chances. 

I also like the way Seton Hall's big front line matches up with Marquette. The Golden Eagles' halfcourt offense runs through forward Justin Lewis, who averages 15.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Seton Hall has big bodies to throw at Lewis in Tyrese Samuel (6-10), Alexis Yetna (6-8), and Ike Obiagu (7-2). Seton Hall only allows 24.7 percent of its opponents points from threes, so I can live with Marquette relying on its outside shooting to win. 

I still believe Seton Hall is one of the top teams in the Big East. The Pirates didn't play well at all against DePaul, especially defensively. I'm betting we see a much better effort on Saturday. I'd back Seton Hall at -3 or less. 

Pick: Seton Hall +1

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Thomas Casale

Thomas Casale started watching CBB during the heyday of the Big East with Pearl Washington, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin. He's been betting on college hoops for over 30 years and loves finding value in the futures market. Follow Thomas on Twitter, where he'll be complaining about the 2-3 zone, @TheTomCasale.