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CBB betting trends: UConn's dominance, battle for the Big 12

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Selection Sunday is just over a month away, but there's much to sort out between now and then. College basketball is about more than Cinderella stories and March miracles.

We're analyzing some trends around the country and betting options to explore, including UConn's dominance, the battle for the Big 12, and the difficulties in winning on the road.

Is UConn inevitable?

UConn head coach Dan Hurley is hard to stop when he's on a mission. After winning his first national title and the fifth in program history, Hurley had a new mission this regular season: befriend January.

Yes, the month of January.

After a 15-1 start to the 2022-23 season, the Huskies went 3-5 in January, slipping in the Big East standings and entering the NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed. Everyone assumed UConn peaked too early. That wasn't the case; they simply exhibited the peaks and valleys of a college basketball season before cutting down the nets in April.

So, as Hurley joked last week, he's been "mad" at January.

"Now we have a chance ... to begin to love January again, and we hated January," he said.

Hurley and January appear to have reconciled, as the Huskies posted a perfect 9-0 record through the month. UConn is 21-2 overall and the undisputed No. 1 team in the country. The question remains: Are the Huskies on their way to becoming the first back-to-back champions since Florida in 2006-07?

UConn is the co-favorite (+700) along with Purdue to win the national championship and is +170 to return to the Final Four.

It is also -1200 to win the Big East regular-season title and currently has a two-game lead over Marquette (+650 to win the Big East) in the loss column.

History, however, is not on the Huskies' side. The aforementioned Florida is the only team to win consecutive titles in the last 30 years and the only champion since Michigan State in 2000-01 to return to the Final Four the following season.

Furthermore, UConn's top two scorers from last year's squad - Jordan Hawkins and Adama Sanogo - left for the NBA.

The Huskies put more responsibility on returners and replenished through the transfer portal. Taking a chance in the portal is like swinging at a 100 MPH fastball. It could be a complete whiff, or it could be a home run.

But the decision to acquire Cam Spencer was a no-brainer. Spencer came from Rutgers, where he emerged as a sharp-shooting wing that the Huskies needed.

Spencer's been even better this season, averaging a career-best 15.5 points on 45% shooting from three. His rebounding and assist averages have also increased. He's the perfect backcourt partner to returner Tristen Newton, who's leading the team in scoring and assists, while returners Alex Karaban and Donovan Clingan are thriving with larger roles.

UConn's win streak should last at least another week with upcoming games against Georgetown and DePaul, two of the Big East's worst teams.

From there, things get more challenging. The Huskies play Marquette twice, a desperate Villanova team, Creighton, Seton Hall, and Providence. Marquette could cover some ground in the standings with wins against the Huskies.

UConn doesn't want a reversal of last season, where it struggled midseason and then thrived the final two months. The team is blossoming now, but could it falter down the stretch?

The Huskies hope befriending January didn't make an enemy out of March.

Hurley's group has the talent, depth, and coaching to make another run. But there's a reason repeat champions are practically unheard of. The variability and unpredictability of the tournament eventually knock off even the best. Remember that before placing a future on UConn or filling out your bracket.

Battle for the Big 12: Kansas or Houston?

Kansas has sat on the Big 12's throne since Bill Self arrived in 2003. The Jayhawks have won 16 regular-season titles under the coach.

Houston's arrival into the Big 12 from the American Athletic Conference, however, complicates Kansas' comfortable seat. Kansas may be the rightful heir, but Houston has a legitimate claim to the throne.

Houston, who leads a crowded Big 12 and is one loss ahead of its rival, is a heavy favorite to win the conference at -150, while Kansas is +600.

In the programs' first duel, Kansas dominated at home in a 13-point win.

Houston has an easier schedule to finish the season than Kansas and has a one-game lead in the standings. The two will meet for an encore in the final game of the regular season on March 9.

The battle for the Big 12 will ultimately come down to these two teams - in the regular season and conference tournament. But who has a better chance to go deeper in the NCAA Tournament, and who will win the rematch (and potentially a third meeting in the Big 12 championship)?

Houston is +220, and Kansas is +400, to make the Final Four. They are +950 and +1800, respectively, to win the Big Dance. KenPom also favors Houston, the top team in its rankings, while Kansas lands at 12.

So why do the analytics and odds favor Houston despite Kansas' monstrous win over the weekend?

Houston's success starts with its historically great defense. Head coach Kelvin Sampson's aggressive, disruptive style of man-to-man defense stifles opposing offenses. As a result, 61% of its games are going under the total.

Sampson's pick-and-roll coverages and timely post-doubles invigorate Houston's defense. The Cougars allow 0.503 points per possession on plays involving a pick-and-roll ball-handler, one of the country's lowest marks, according to Synergy. Here's how they do it:


Houston implements a hedge-and-recover defensive approach to the pick-and-roll. Its hedger (the guy guarding the screener) stays parallel to the ball-handler after the screen is set and does a phenomenal job squaring his hips and preventing Texas' guard from turning the corner.

What's happening behind the two defenders guarding the action is even more impressive. The three other defenders rotate and eliminate key areas of the court and easy outlets for the ball-handler. Sampson likes his backline defenders to drop into a zone and guard a space instead of a man on these actions.

While Houston's defensive innovation is considered cutting-edge, Self's offensive counters are even more impressive. Kansas offset Houston's charging defense by playing a game of hot potato.

The Jayhawks emphasized finding the roll man quickly, which often created a numbers advantage for Kansas.


Kansas scored 0.950 points per possession in the pick-and-roll against Houston, according to Synergy


Houston doubled Hunter Dickinson on virtually every post-touch, and the All-American forward made the Cougars pay. The former's defense typically allows 0.640 points per possession on post-ups, per Synergy. Kansas scored 1.273 points per possession on post-ups against Houston.


Kansas has the personnel to neutralize Houston's approach. Its offense runs through Dickinson, who's an exceptional passing big. He recognized Houston's double teams and made the perfect read to get shots for his teammates.


Few college basketball players have the instinct, vision, poise, and height to make that pass.

Playing at home helped Kansas, but it will seemingly have the answers to Houston's defense when they meet again.

Road woes are as bad as ever

Does it feel like there are more court-stormings than in previous years? There's a reason for that: road teams are struggling more than ever.

It's no different than any other sport - professional or collegiate. It's harder to win in a less-familiar atmosphere with fans rooting against you rather than for you, especially after getting accustomed to different sleeping and living conditions the night prior.

That's why oddsmakers factor in home-court advantage to every point spread, and it's often worth as many as three points.

However, the numbers suggest it's harder to win on the road than ever before, and the best teams in the country are losing on the road at a higher rate.

That data is from two weeks ago, but, since then, Auburn, North Carolina (twice), Wisconsin (twice), Houston, and Kansas lost on the road as AP Top 10 teams.

As of last week, AP Top 25 teams were 67-64 on the road against unranked teams, the worst winning percentage since 2009-10, according to the Associated Press.

What does this mean for bettors? Favor home teams, especially home underdogs - but not blindly.

Home win percentage by conference

Conference Home win % Home underdogs ATS win %
Big 12 83% 56%
Big Ten 80% 63%
Pac-12 80% 76%
SEC 78% 55%
ACC 74% 45%
Big East 72% 42%

Big 12 teams win at home more frequently than any other conference, followed by the Big Ten and Pac 12. Betting on home underdogs against the spread has been profitable for Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC teams.

The Pac-12 is the only major conference where home underdogs are winning outright more than road favorites (71% of the time).

As pundits theorize why it's harder to win on the road than before - less roster continuity due to the portal, additional years of eligibility, and NIL seems like a reasonable theory - the reality is home teams have an even greater advantage playing at their arena than ever before.

Sam Oshtry is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on X @soshtry for more betting coverage.

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