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College basketball picks, January 16: Is the right Big 12 team ranked higher in Iowa State-BYU?

The No. 24 Cyclones have a strong case that they should be ahead of the No. 20 Cougars in the polls. Can they prove it on the road?

Iowa State Cyclones guard Keshon Gilbert, forward Tre King, and forward Milan Momcilovic celebrate after a score against Houston during the second half in the Big-12 conference showdown of an NCAA college basketball at Hilton Coliseum on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, in Ames, Iowa. Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan might be a completely different team at home than on the road for the rest of the season, and Marquette might have finally reversed their slide in MLK college hoops action yesterday.

Dug McDaniel might have just had 15 points and four assists with three turnovers for the Michigan Wolverines in their 73-65 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes yesterday, but his 39 minutes on the floor as a point guard might have been the difference.

McDaniel will only play homes games due to academic issues for the rest of the regular season, but the question becomes can Juwan Howard get him back on the floor for conference tournaments and beyond. It might be the difference to keeping his job in Ann Arbor and losing it.

As for Marquette, after two losses at Seton Hall and at home to Butler, an 87-74 Quad 1 win over Villanova came at just the right time. While the Golden Eagles were just 7-23 from three-point range, they had only three turnovers, and were 30-40 from two point range. Kam Jones’s 22 points and Tyler Kolek’s 21 mostly came closer to the rim, which shows the upside of Shaka Smart’s team if they can start knocking down some shots.

At just 31.6% this season they’ll need to make plenty more if they want to force their way into the elite tier of the Big East.

As for today’s action...

Iowa State vs. BYU odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Spread: BYU -4.5
Total: 144.5
Moneyline: BYU -192, Iowa State +160

The Coogs needed a few bounces to get their first-ever Big 12 against Central Florida on Saturday after two losses to Cincinnati at home and Baylor on the road. BYU really struggles to get to the free throw line, ranking 360 out of 362 teams in free throw rate with 1060 field goal attempts, but just 222 free throws taken in 16 games.

That plays right into the hands of one of the best defensive teams in the country in the Cyclones, who force a turnover on a nation-leading 26.6% of possessions. ISU also doesn’t foul a lot, and coming off a pair of home wins over former No. 1 Houston and Oklahoma State, their ability to get stops should translate well on the road.

This is a good-on-good situation with BYU’s offense against ISU’s defense, but the last few games have exposed that the massive length of the team from Provo can only overcome so much; both Cincinnati and Baylor did plenty of damage from downtown, and the only reason the Knights went home losers is being a paltry 3-18 from three-point range.

Look for a big game out of freshman Milan Momcilovic for Iowa State, as the freshman will have plenty of chances to show his full battery on offense.

Pick: Iowa State +4.5

Utah State vs. New Mexico odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Spread: New Mexico -6
Total: 157
Moneyline: UNM -250 USU +205

You might not know the Aggies hold the nation’s longest active win streak at 15, and that forward Great Osobor from England and Montana State is emerging as one of the best players in the country after not even being a starter in the Big Sky Conference the last two seasons.

The Aggies escaped at UNLV on Saturday thanks to a second-half rally in Thomas & Mack. Osboor had 24 points, as did Ian Martinez who was 6-8 from three-point range. But what the Aggies don’t get enough credit for is their defense, which hold opponents to just 28.3% from long-range.

That should be a problem for the Lobos, who are coming off one of the biggest wins in The Pit in years, a nationally-televised 88-70 thumping of the San Diego State Aztecs. UNM plays really hard, with the 26th-best defense by KenPom efficiency in the country. When they can’t score, they’re still able to lock in and get stops with good old-fashioned grit and hard work. It’s why they’re undefeated at home this year, but just 1-3 on the road.

Expect both teams to get after it defensively, and hope that it’s not so close that there’s overtime in what will be a game with huge NCAA at-large implications for both teams.

Pick: Under 157