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NCAA Men's College Basketball Bets: Arizona-USC, Purdue-Wisconsin

Analysis and bets for Tuesday's top-25 battles between No. 2 Arizona and No. 16 USC and No. 8 Purdue and No. 10 Wisconsin.

Today is March 1. You know what that means—college basketball all month long.

My colleague Kevin Sweeney and I have been providing picks all season long and that certainly isn’t going to slow down now. Tuesday night’s slate has 12 top-25 teams in action as the season draws to a close. There are three games between ranked opponents, two of which Kevin and I will be previewing and predicting.

In Pac-12 country, No. 2 Arizona heads to California to take on No. 16 USC for the second time, going for the season sweep.

In the Big Ten, a top-10 clash between No. 8 Purdue and No. 10 Wisconsin is going down in Madison. The Badgers won the first meeting and they can extend their lead for first place in the conference with a home victory.

Season record: 33-37-2
Guest pickers: 22-20-2

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Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis (1) drives past Rutgers guard Paul Mulcahy during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, in Piscataway, N.J.

No. 8 Purdue (24-5, 13-5 Big Ten) vs. No. 10 Wisconsin (23-5, 14-4)

Time: 9 p.m. ET | ESPN
Spread: Purdue -3 (-118) | Wisconsin +3 (-110)
Moneyline: Purdue (-161) | Wisconsin (+125)
Over/Under: Under 144.5 (-110) | Over 144.5 (-118)

The Boilermakers lost last time out against Michigan State and slid four spots in the poll. The 68-65 road defeat was Purdue’s second loss in five games and allowed Wisconsin to climb into the conference's top spot ahead of this top-10 showdown.

Purdue’s offense averages the sixth-most points in DI (81.6), though that figure is quickly dropping. Only once in the last five games did the Boilermakers eclipse 80 points—they did so against Rutgers—and their average during this recent stretch is down to 67.8 PPG. Purdue’s struggling offense relies on guard Jaden Ivey (17.3 PPG) and center Zach Edey (14.8 PPG) for a huge chunk of its scoring production.

The Boilermakers still have the No. 1 adjusted offense on KenPom, ranking ninth in assists per game nationally and second in three-point field goal percentage, but their defense ranks outside of the top 100.

The Badgers enter Tuesday on a four-game winning streak and they were one of the biggest beneficiaries of this past weekend’s top-25 shakeup, rising three spots to sneak into the top 10. Three of Wisconsin’s recent wins were decided by five points or fewer, eking out road wins against Indiana, Minnesota and Rutgers.

Wisconsin is certainly beatable on its home court, having dropped three games in Madison this season, though it can point to a 74-69 road win over Purdue early in conference play in January. Badgers guard Johnny Davis accounted for half of his team’s points in that game, tallying a season-high 37 points. Davis does it all for Wisconsin, leading the team in rebounds and assists as well, with some assistance in the scoring department from Brad Davison and Tyler Wahl. The Badgers are balanced on both sides of the ball, ranking just inside the top 40 on KenPom by both metrics.

Kyle Wood’s Bets:

Moneyline or Spread Pick: Wisconsin +3

The Badgers are 6-2 as an underdog this season and this will be their first time getting points at home. Purdue is below .500 Against the Spread (ATS) this season and 0-4-1 over its last five games. Wisconsin has momentum, already stole a road game in this series and has a scorer in Davis who can go blow-for-blow with Ivey, both top-five prospects in SI’s latest NBA draft big board. Purdue’s recent poor performances against lesser teams than the Badgers seal the deal for me. On Wisconsin.

Over/Under Pick: Under 144.5

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Wisconsin and Purdue games both go over at high clips. The Boilermakers have seen four of their last five games go under as their offense has struggled to match its usual production. Three of the last five Badgers games have hit the over, though those totals have all been set below 140. I think this game will be close and each team should push 70 points, but I’m sticking with the under.

Kevin Sweeney’s Bets:

Moneyline or Spread Pick: Purdue -3

For as well as Wisconsin played against Purdue the first time around, the Badgers still needed 37 points from Johnny Davis to have a chance to win. While I won’t rule out Davis exploding for another huge performance, it seems unwise to bet on it happening again. Purdue’s big men did an outstanding job of getting Wisconsin’s frontcourt in foul trouble in the first meeting – the Badgers were running out of big bodies by the closing stanza of the game and would have likely lost had Purdue forced overtime. I think the Boilers will dominate the rim and this time, Jaden Ivey will stay out of foul trouble and slow down Davis. Boilers win and cover to keep their Big Ten title hopes alive.

Over/Under Pick: Under 144.5

The one thing Wisconsin did an outstanding job of in the first meeting was controlling tempo. Statistically, Purdue isn’t a fast-paced offense, but the Boilermakers can be extremely opportunistic in transition with Ivey’s explosiveness off the bounce and Sasha Stefanovic’s ability to hunt threes. The Badgers limited Stefanovic to just eight points on 2-8 shooting in the January meeting, a huge key to stopping the Boilermakers. I think Purdue will wear down Wisconsin on the block, but the Badgers’ ability to suck the life out of the game will keep the score down

Arizona forward Azuolas Tubelis, left, drives the lane as Colorado guard Luke O'Brien, center, and forward Jabari Walker, right, defend in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, in Boulder, Colo.

No. 2 Arizona (25-3, 15-2 Pac-12) vs. No. 16 USC (25-4, 14-4)

Time: 11 p.m. ET | ESPN
Spread: Arizona -4.5 (-110) | USC +4.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Arizona (-213) | USC (+160)
Over/Under: Under 150.5 (-110) | Over 150.5 (-110)

The Wildcats were not punished in the poll for their 16-point road loss to Colorado over the weekend. It was a rare slip-up for a team that hadn’t lost since late January and whose only previous two blemishes came on the road against ranked Tennessee and UCLA teams. Arizona defeated then-No. 19 USC in Tucson earlier this year, 72-63. The Wildcats are 3-2 against top-25 teams this season.

Arizona averages the third-most points per game (84.4) thanks to a deep cast of contributors. It starts with guard Benedict Mathurin, who averages a team-leading 17.1 PPG. Seven Wildcats players average seven or more points per game because everyone gets involved on the team that leads the nation in assists (20.1).

The Wildcats' defensive efficiency metrics are on par with its excellent offense, ranking 12th and 10th, respectively on KenPom.

The Trojans are surging and haven’t lost since they played Arizona. A 70-69 win over Oregon marked six straight wins, which is 1.5 games back from the Wildcats for first place in the Pac-12. Their game against the Wildcats was one of two bouts against a top-25 team, the other coming against UCLA a few weeks ago—a USC victory.

Isaiah Mobley, older brother of Cavaliers Rookie of the Year and former USC star Evan Mobley, leads the team in scoring and rebounding and is a capable shooter from deep. Three other Trojans average double-digit points for a team averaging 73.5 PPG. 

USC grades out slightly better on offense than on defense, where it has a top-50 scoring unit nationally.

Kyle Wood’s Bets:

Moneyline or Spread Pick: Arizona -4.5

I like to think the Colorado loss was a blip rather than an indication of larger problems for the Wildcats. This game is an opportunity to prove that with important tournament seeding on the line for Arizona when it comes to the big dance and the Pac-12 tournament, for which it’s trying to hold off USC for the top spot. The Wildcats are better than .500 ATS and their recent struggles to cover have been a result of sizable spreads. This is a rare single-digit line for Arizona that they cover on the road.

Over/Under Pick: Under 150.5

Just a few weeks ago, these teams combined for 135 points. Arizona’s 72 points was a fairly low mark by its high offensive standards and USC's 62 points was low, though not as big an outlier. I think the Wildcats will be sharper offensively this time around, pushing into the high-70s, while the Trojans will strive to just reach their average of 70.

Kevin Sweeney’s Bets:

Moneyline or Spread Pick: Arizona -4.5

USC catches Arizona at a bad time, as you can almost certainly expect an engaged Wildcat bunch coming off a loss at Colorado. USC does have good size to match up with Arizona’s intimidating frontcourt, but lacks the offensive firepower to keep up with one of college basketball's most dynamic offenses College hoops analytics expert Evan Miyakawa noted earlier this month that Arizona is among the most dominant teams in the sport in terms of going on runs, which he refers to as “kill shots.” I think the Wildcats will get an early “kill shot” in and cruise to victory.

Over/Under Pick: Over 150.5

The Wildcats have scored 83 or more points in four of their last six games. I expect them to get to that number in this game, and if they do I feel really good about this one going over. Arizona seemed to crack the USC defense in the second half of the teams’ first meeting, scoring 43 points after tallying just 29 in the first half. I think the Wildcats get closer to that 43 per half than the 29 number and hit that total.

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