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BYU vs. Utah: Odds, betting lines, and computer predictions

Using data from Las Vegas and computer predictors to get a hopefully-accurate preview for BYU's hoops rivalry bout with Utah.

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

It's been a long time since a basketball game between BYU and Utah felt this big. The Cougars and Utes tip tonight at 7 p.m. MT on ESPNU. Let's look at how BYU is expected to fare in the grudge match.

(This is, of course, for entertainment purposes only. While we don't encourage gambling, referencing predictions from the people who make money on predictions can be interesting.)

LINES AND ODDS

When sports books opened lines on the game, BYU was favored by 4.5 points. The line has moved a little, and now BYU is favored by 3.5. The over/under opened at 149 and has stayed put.

Vegas lines and odds aren't necessarily meant to predict, but to entice betting. However, combining the line and the over/under usually ends up close to some computer models. At the very least, it's fun.

Combining the line and the over/under, the Vegas combo has BYU winning 76-73.

PREDICTIVE RANKINGS

Some computer rankings are designed to provide a built-in predictive element by comparing the ratings of two teams. We'll be looking at Ken Pomeroy, college hoops guru, and Jeff Sagarin's basketball ratings.

POMEROY

Ken Pomeroy presents a ranking of teams, which has Utah at #23 and BYU at #42. But he also boils down his ratings into daily predictions at kenpom.com. He has BYU winning 75-73 with a win percentage of 57%.

He also assigns each game a thrill score, which anticipates how good/fun games will be to watch based on style of play and expected closeness of competition. The BYU-Utah thrill score is second tonight, behind only #9 Kansas at #20 Georgetown.

(Consider subscribing to kenpom.com. It's less than $2 per month to get some of the best advanced data that exists for college hoops and Ken is a pretty nice fellow. So Subscribe!)

SAGARIN

Utah is ranked #13 with a rating of 87.79
BYU is ranked #57 with a rating of 81.49

While standard home court advantage in basketball is 4 points, Sagarin's formula includes a value which is constantly changing based on this season's results. Currently, Sagarin has home court advantage worth 4.98 points.

Subtracting the difference, then giving BYU 4.98 points for home court, Sagarin has Utah winning by 1 (1.32).

NON-PREDICTIVE RATINGS

RPI

The oft-discussed RPI is referenced, among other things, by the NCAA tournament selection committee.
Utah is ranked #29
BYU is ranked #43

KPI

The KPI ranking is based on data and analytics compiled by Kevin Pauga, who is Michigan State's director of basketball operations.
Utah is ranked #25
BYU is ranked #65

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So in rankings, Utah is usually ranked well ahead of BYU, but when those apply to predictions, this is expected to be a very close contest.