Now that we are into the New Year, conference play really kicks into high gear. Here are two Power 5 schools ranked in the Top 10 that might be on upset alert Tuesday with tough games despite favored on the NCAAB odds.
Top NCAA Basketball Picks For January 3
Mississippi State at No. 8 Tennessee (-10.5)
ESPN2 has the telecast at 7 PM ET from the SEC. MSU is an excellent team at 11-2 and its only losses to Drake and No. 8 Alabama. Through 13 games, the Bulldogs are among the nation’s best surrendering 54.5 points per game (tied 4th nationally) on a 36.6 opponent field goal percentage (7th nationally).
The 54.5 points per game allowed is the program’s lowest 13-game total in the modern era since the 1955-56 season, which was Babe McCarthy’s first season with the Bulldogs. State’s 36.6 opponent field goal percentage is the program’s third-lowest clip through 13 games dating back to 1978-79.
The Maroon and White have dialed up 131 steals on a 10.08 per game clip (12th nationally). Both are the program’s third-highest mark through 13 games, and it marks the third time that State is averaging over 10.0 steals per game going back to 1979-80.
Tennessee has played the last eight contests without All-SEC Preseason Second-Team pick Josiah Jordan-James (8.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.6 SPG) due to injury. The Vols carry a 23-game home win streak—the sixth-longest home win streak in program history—into Tuesday’s game against Mississippi State. Ten of those wins have been over SEC opponents.
UT owns the best 3-point defense in Division I (.212) as well as the best overall field-goal percentage defense (.332). In 13 games, Tennessee’s opponents have only managed to make 62 3-pointers—4.5 per game. Three Vols have combined to make 72. Eight times this season, the Vols have held their opponents to 50 points or less. Tennessee has now done that 28 times during the Rick Barnes era (2015-present).
Only two opposing players have scored 20 or more points against the Vols this season. Tennessee trailed at the break only once this year and is outscoring its opponents 35.1 ppg to 24.2 ppg (+10.9 ppg) in first-half action. Offensively, Tennessee’s balanced attack is led by Santiago Vescovi (12.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.5 APG, 2.5 SPG). He drained 30 of his 45 field goals from beyond the three-point line and is coming off a season’s best 22 points at Ole Miss.
The Vols have won seven of the last eight meetings overall against the Bulldogs, including three straight at home. Overall, Tennessee possesses an 88-44 series advantage. The last time the Bulldogs won in Knoxville was a 71-66 victory in February 2015.
The favorite is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings.
No. 3 Kansas at Texas Tech (+2.5)
ESPN2 has this Big 12 matchup at 9 p.m. ET. The only loss for No. 3 and defending national champion Kansas so far in 13 games was against Tennessee at a neutral site on Nov. 25. The Jayhawks come off a 69-67 home escape vs. Oklahoma State on New Year’s Eve – rallying from a 15-point halftime deficit. KJ Adams scored the go-ahead basket with 4.8 seconds left.
The 15-point halftime deficit matched the largest halftime deficit overcome to win by the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse (Dec. 15, 2014 vs. Florida, 71-65 [24-39 at half] and Dec. 1, 1995 vs. UCLA, 85-70 [26-41 at half]). Kansas has won back-to-back games when trailing by at least 15 points at halftime (15 points – 2022 National Championship game on April 4 against North Carolina).
KU shot a season-best 47.8 percent (11-of-23) from the three-point range. That is the highest three-point percentage in a conference game at Allen Fieldhouse since shooting 50.0 percent (11-of-22) on Feb. 15, 2020 vs. Oklahoma.
Jalen Wilson finished with 20 points and Adams had 14 to lead the Jayhawks, who trailed 45-30 at the break before a 22-5 run wiped out the deficit and propelled them to their 32nd consecutive conference-opening win. It was Wilson’s eighth game this season and 15th career game he scored at least 20. Wilson moved into 61st on the all-time scoring list in Kansas history with 1,025 points, passing Rodger Bohnenstiehl (1,006), Christian Braun (1,018), David Magley (1,022) and Cedric Hunter (1,022).
Wilson leads the conference in scoring at 21.0 ppg, which is 11th nationally. He also leads the Big 12 with six double-doubles, which is 14th nationally. Kansas ranks in the top three in seven Big 12 statistical categories, including second in steals per game (9.6) and second in three-point field goals made per game (7.8).
Texas Tech (10-3) comes off a 67-61 loss at No. 18 TCU on Dec. 31. Senior Kevin Obanor leads the Red Raiders with 15.8 points per game and is adding 6.2 rebounds, while sophomore Daniel Batcho is at 12.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. De’Vion Harmon is averaging 12.2 points per game and leads Tech with 4.0 assists and 2.2 steals per game. All five Texas Tech starters are averaging in double figures coming into the matchup against KU with Jaylon Tyson at 10.0 points per game. Obanor, Harmon and Isaacs have started all 13 games this season.
Tech is on a 29-game home winning streak coming with an 8-0 home record this season. TTU’s last home loss came on February 9, 2021, against No. 14 West Virginia in an 82-71 defeat. The school record is 35 straight home victories.
The Kansas-Texas Tech series dates back to 1959 with KU holding a 41-7 all-time advantage. KU has won two straight and six of the last seven versus TTU.
- Mississippi State and Texas Tech ATS