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Showdown looms for No. 1 Baylor, No. 3 Kansas

College basketball bettors can spend hours poring over data and breaking down matchups to find an edge. Or they could use a simpler strategy and just bet on Baylor.

The top-ranked Bears are 11-3 against the spread since the start of conference play. They also have become the first Big 12 team to win 23 games in a row overall.

But that streak will be severely tested Saturday when the Bears (24-1) host No. 3 Kansas (23-3). The analytics website kenpom.com projects Baylor as a 1-point favorite, and its lines tend to match sportsbooks’ eventual numbers. Las Vegas books won’t post lines on Saturday’s games until Friday afternoon.

Baylor won at Kansas 67-55 on Jan. 11 as a 7½-point underdog.

Despite the Bears’ No. 1 ranking, winning streak and previous road victory over the Jayhawks, the tight line reflects what the major publicly available power ratings show: Baylor has home-court advantage, but Kansas is the better team.

The Jayhawks are No. 1, according to kenpom.com and Jeff Sagarin, with Baylor Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. Kansas is No. 2 in ESPN’s BPI to Baylor’s No. 4. (Duke is No. 1 and Gonzaga is No. 3.)

Kansas is no slouch ATS, either. The Jayhawks are riding a four-game cover streak to get to 9-5 ATS since the start of conference play, with its only outright loss against Baylor.

Some other notes for Saturday’s games involving ranked teams:

— No. 4 San Diego State (26-0) continues its quest for perfection when it hosts UNLV. Only one team has played the Aztecs closer this season than the Rebels, who lost 71-67 on Jan. 26 at the Thomas & Mack Center. San Diego State is projected as a 17-point favorite.

— There are two other games pitting ranked teams: No. 2 Gonzaga at No. 23 Brigham Young and No. 14 Oregon at No. 24 Arizona. Both home teams will be seeking revenge from earlier this season. Gonzaga pounded BYU 92-69 on Jan. 18, and Arizona lost 74-73 in overtime to Oregon on Jan. 9. Gonzaga is projected as only a 2-point favorite Saturday, and Arizona is projected as a 5-point favorite.

— No. 10 Kentucky seems to be heating up at the right time. The Wildcats have won five straight (4-1 ATS), including a road upset of Louisiana State on Tuesday. Power ratings still don’t like Kentucky very much, though. The Wildcats are No. 28 on kenpom and No. 24 on BPI, but are up to No. 7 in Sagarin. Kentucky is projected as a 4-point home favorite Saturday against Florida.

No. 13 Auburn has lost four straight ATS, including two straight outright double-digit losses at Missouri and Georgia. The Tigers return home to face Tennessee and are projected as 6-point favorites.

— No. 19 Marquette has lost two in a row to ranked teams in Villanova and Creighton. The Golden Eagles now travel to Providence, which has pulled off back-to-back upsets as small underdogs to Seton Hall and Georgetown. Providence edged Marquette 81-80 in overtime on Jan. 7. Marquette is projected as a 1-point favorite.

Contact Jim Barnes at jbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twitter.

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