Top College Basketball Betting Picks of the Week – December 23rd Edition
No. 3 Louisville at No. 6 Kentucky
- When: Saturday, 3:45 PM ET
- TV: CBS
- Live Stream: CBS Sports Live
Duke-North Carolina is probably college basketball’s best rivalry, but this is a close second. The entire state of Kentucky will essentially shut down for two hours or so to watch or attend. The campuses are 78 miles apart, connected by Interstate 64.
Last year, Kentucky won at Louisville 71-58 when the Cats were ranked 16th and Cardinals unranked. Tyler Herro had 24 points and Keldon Johnson 15 for UK; both those guys are in the NBA now. Herro was 10-for-13 from the field. The Wildcats won their third in a row overall and 10th of 12 in the Bluegrass rivalry. Christen Cunningham had 20 points and Jordan Nwora 17 for Louisville, which shot just 36 percent. Nwora is the team’s star this year.
Kentucky leads the all-time series 36-16 and has won 10 of the last 12. The Wildcats hold a 27-12 advantage since the series resumed in 1983. Kentucky holds a 19-5 advantage in games played in Lexington. Louisville has an 18-11 record all-time in games played on Dec. 28.
Some NumbersLouisville (11-1) beat Miami (Ohio) 70-46 in its last game on Dec. 18 in the KFC Yum! Center, marking 161 consecutive games the Cardinals have won when holding an opponent under 50 points. Louisville has started with at least a 11-1 record through 12 games for the eighth time in the last 10 years. UofL has won at least 12 of its first 13 games on three occasions over the last nine years.
Nwora scored 20 points to lead the Cardinals in scoring vs. Miami (Ohio), his eighth game this year with 20 or more. Nwora needs 10 points to become Louisville’s 69th career 1,000-point scorer. His 234 points scored this year is the most by a UofL player through 12 games over the last 20 seasons. He leads the ACC in scoring (21.2 ppg, 20th in the nation).
UofL is fourth in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.350), 26th in field goal percentage (.485) and ninth in scoring margin (+18.3). UofL is second in the nation in defensive efficiency and 13th in offensive efficiency in KenPom rankings. Louisville’s last five opponents have combined to shoot 29-of-135 (.214) from three-point range. UofL is 31st nationally in 3-pt. FG defense (.267).
What about Kentucky?Kentucky (8-3) s not going to be ranked anywhere near sixth in the new polls on Monday as the Cats were 0-2 last week, losing 69-66 to Utah and 71-65 to Ohio State, both in Las Vegas. On Saturday, OSU won the rebounding 33-25. UK is 7-0 this season when winning the rebounding, 1-3 when losing or tying the rebounds. It is UK’s first two-game losing streak since February 2018.
Kentucky remains among the nation’s top 25 statistically in free throw percentage (7th, .795), field goal percentage defense (22nd, .376), rebound margin (16th, +8.7), and defensive rebounds. Four players are averaging over 11 points a game for UK, led by sophomore guard Ashton Hagans (13.9 ppg, 2.1 steals per game).
No. 25 West Virginia vs. No. 5 Ohio State
- When: Sunday, noon ET
- TV: Fox Sports 1
- Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
This is called the Cleveland Classic from that the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in that city. This will be the first meeting since 2010 and the 17th meeting between the border schools and just the third in the last 24 years. However, this game gets a little bit lost because it’s on the final Sunday of the NFL regular season and starts just one hour before the Cleveland Browns’ regular-season finale at Cincinnati.
Ohio State leads the all-time series 9-7 that began in 1940. The Buckeyes won the first eight meetings in the series, while the Mountaineers have won seven of the last eight. This will be the first meeting on a neutral court between the two schools.
In the last 15 seasons, the Buckeyes and Mountaineers have combined to play in 22 NCAA tournaments (11 each), three Final Fours and made 12 Sweet 16 appearances. Ohio State has a huge following in Northeast Ohio. West Virginia coach Bob Huggins — a former Buckeyes assistant, and a former head coach at Walsh and Akron — has strong ties to the area. OSU is giving up a home game by playing in Cleveland in December. The same goes for West Virginia.
Key PlayersNortheast Ohio has become an important recruiting territory for West Virginia with sophomore forward Derek Culver hailing from the Steel Valley. Also, freshman forward Oscar Tshiebwe played right across the state line at Kennedy Catholic High in Hermitage, Pennsylvania. The Mountaineers have been ranked 100 weeks in the AP poll under Huggins, including 37 weeks in the AP Top 10. Huggins has had WVU ranked more weeks than any other coach in school history.
WVU (10-1) ranks fifth nationally in offensive rebounds per game (15.0), fourth in 3-point FG% defense (24.0), 11th in FG% defense (36.2) and ninth in rebounds per game (43.2).
What about Ohio State?Ohio State (11-1) is likely to rise from No. 5 in the new polls Monday after the Buckeyes beat No. 6 Kentucky 71-65 in Las Vegas on Saturday. D.J. Carton led a balanced Buckeye attack with 13 points while Kaleb Wesson went for 12 points and eight rebounds and Kyle Young totaled 10 points and six boards. The Buckeyes played much of the game without second-leading scorer Duane Washington Jr., who was limited to eight minutes due to a rib injury.
OSU earned its third victory against an Associated Press Top 10 team this season, marking the first time Ohio State had won three such games since the 2012-13 season. The Buckeyes defeated Michigan State twice and Indiana once in that campaign.Locking down the opponent’s leading scorer has been key to Ohio State’s success this season. The Buckeyes’ 12 opponents’ leading scorers have shot 32% from the field and 24.4% from 3-point range. Ohio State has limited the group, which is averaging 15.1 points per game on the year, to 10.3 ppg.