CBB Picks: Ride With Alabama, Auburn As Home Favorites in the SEC

Alabama and Auburn have better chances of contending for the men's college basketball title than their football teams had at winning the College Football Playoff.

Auburn's situation is a bit more understandable because its football team goes through ebbs and flows like no other team.

Alabama's basketball title credentials being better than the football team is surprising, and it says so much about the Crimson Tide's ridiculously high football standard and the basketball program built over the last few seasons.

Nate Oats' team is one of the few sides that can be listed among the favorites to cut down the nets in April. The Crimson Tide are in that spot because of their tremendous defense, and that should be on display again on Wednesday against Mississippi State.

As for Auburn, it has a chance to make a statement against one of the better sides in the SEC, the Texas A&M Aggies, on its home court. The Tigers' defense led them to a 6-1 start in the league and that should be the difference-maker again on Wednesday.

Wednesday CBB Picks

Overall Record: 72-73-5 (5-2 Monday)

Xavier at UConn (Over 153.5) (6:30 p.m. ET, FS1)

Xavier and UConn combined for 156 points in their first meeting on New Years' Eve, which Xavier won by 10 points.

The Musketeers eclipsed the 80-point mark in six of their last seven games. They still put up 72 points in a loss to DePaul in the exception of that trend.

UConn averages 79.3 points per game and enters Wednesday with some regained confidence after ending a three-game losing streak with a 30-point rout of Butler on Sunday.

Xavier likes to get up-and-down the floor. The Musketeers are 14th in adjusted tempo and fifth in two-point offense on KenPom. UConn will have to match them in stretches and that should lead to an entertaining 40 minutes in Storrs.

Houston at UCF (+10) (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

It will be hard for Houston to bounce back from its loss to Temple against a UCF team that likes to play defense as much as it.

UCF possesses a top 50 defense that gives up 64.5 points per game. The Knights are in need of a rebound of their own after suffering road losses against Tulane and South Florida last week.

UCF is one of the few teams in the American Athletic Conference that can match Houston's defensive output, and hang within 10 points of the Cougars with that strong play.

Wisconsin at Maryland (-5) (7 p.m. ET, BTN)

Wisconsin is one of the worst road teams in the Big Ten.

The Badgers fell on the road against Illinois, Northwestern and Indiana. They failed to reach 70 points in all three of those defeats.

That is a significant number because Maryland averages 70.3 points per game. The Terps posted over 70 points in eight of their 10 home games at the Xfinity Center.

Maryland's home consistency and Wisconsin's road inconsistencies make up the perfect formula for the Terps to win and cover at home.

Belmont (-13.5) at Evansville (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Belmont has one of the most reliable offenses in the mid-major ranks.

The Bruins produced at least 74 points in every game of their current six-game winning streak. They shoot 46.3 percent from the field and rank second behind Utah State in three-point percentage.

Evansville has a -5.1 three-point percentage differential. The Purple Aces are 342nd in that category and they rank 345th in opponent three-point percentage. For reference, there are 363 teams in Division I.

That is one of the biggest differentials you will see all season and it will help Belmont break out to a double-digit advantage on the road.

Mississippi State at Alabama (-12) (9 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

When SEC play began, you could have billed Mississippi State-Alabama as a must-watch game.

But now it is viewed as a mismatch in which the Crimson Tide should easily cover the 12-point spread.

Mississippi State started 11-1 and proceeded to bottom out the second it reached league play. The Bulldogs are 1-6 in the SEC and they were held under 60 points in four of their six league defeats.

Alabama beat Mississippi State by 11 points on December 28. That started a run of seven straight SEC victories by double figures.

Nate Oats' team is not just winning games, it is dominating them, and that should continue in Tuscaloosa against a team it already beat once by 11 points.

Texas A&M at Auburn (-4) (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Auburn comes into Wednesday on a five-game winning streak in which it held four of the five opponents to 66 points or fewer.

The Tigers rank second in three-point defense and fifth in defensive effective field-goal percentage on KenPom. They limited Arkansas and Florida, two top-half SEC teams, under 60 points at home.

Texas A&M has a solid defense of its own, but it has faced some setbacks on the road. The Aggies lost by nine to Kentucky on Saturday and gave up 83 points in a road defeat to Memphis. Both the Wildcats and Tigers are ranked inside the KenPom top 40, just like Auburn.

A&M's best victories have come against Florida, No. 41 on KenPom, but both of those were tight victories. The Aggies need to prove they can command a game against a top side before being trusted to cover on the road.

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