Friday’s College Basketball Best Bets

Friday’s College Basketball Best Bets article feature image
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Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Mark Madsen (Cal)

While we get ready for our first college basketball Saturday slate without football, there's still betting value to be had on Friday.

Dive in below for college basketball best bets and Three Man Weave's three top picks for Friday, January 26. Jim Root, you're up!


College Basketball Best Bets

The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college basketball betting staff is targeting from today's slate of games. Click on the team logos for any of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.

GameTime (ET)Pick
8 p.m.
8:30 p.m.
10 p.m.
Specific betting recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.

Michigan State vs. Wisconsin

Friday, Jan. 26
8 p.m. ET
FS1
Michigan State +3.5

By Jim Root

I will first address the elephant in the room: bucking the trend of backing Big Ten home teams in league play is terrifying. So far this year, they're 32-22-2 against the spread, per BetLabs, and are 112-78-3 ATS over the last two seasons.

If I’m going to back a Big Ten road team, I better have a darn good reason.

Crucially, Michigan State has won four of its last five games at Wisconsin, and the Spartans are 7-3 against the spread in the last 10 visits to Madison. In fact, the road team has won outright in the last six meetings between these two foes.

That includes earlier this year, when Wisconsin went to East Lansing and knocked off the more-hyped Spartans. Seeking some degree of revenge certainly should help, but the more crucial factor will be the adjustments Tom Izzo makes.

The Spartans got punked on the glass in that meeting, losing the board battle 36 to 22. Izzo has harped on his team’s toughness in recent weeks, and Michigan State has shown some improvement on the glass during a three-game winning streak. Notably, the Spartans outrebounded physical Rutgers, 37-30, on Jan. 14.

Michigan State’s defense will be tested by a Wisconsin offense that leads the Big Ten in 2-point, 3-point and free-throw percentage. However, ShotQuality indicates that the Badgers should regress on that end in all shooting departments; they simply have been scorching hot to start Big Ten play.

I’ll trust Izzo to make the correct adjustments and continue the trend of the road team winning this rivalry.

Pick: Michigan State +3.5 (Play to +2)


Saint Joe's vs. St. Bonaventure

Friday, Jan. 26
8:30 p.m. ET
ESPN2
St. Bonaventure -2

By Jim Root

The A-10 campaign is off to a disappointing start in Olean. The Bonnies, picked third in the preseason poll and receiving a first-place vote, are just 2-4 in league play. For an extremely veteran roster – St. Bonaventure ranks No. 1 in the entire country in KenPom’s D-I Experience statistic – that simply is not good enough.

That makes this a strong spot to back the Bonnies. On national TV, their backs are against the wall, needing a strong home effort against a rising threat in the league.

Coach Mark Schmidt – arguably the best coach in the A-10 – should have his team’s attention. Star guard Mika Adams-Woods missed Tuesday's loss; the official word was illness, but rumors persisted that it was a disciplinary action.

A refocused Adams-Woods would go a long way towards earning the Bonnies a crucial home victory.

The spot also sets up as both a sell high and an emotional letdown for Saint Joe’s. The Hawks have won three in a row and are coming off an emotional buzzer-beating win at UMass on Tuesday.

A desperate, well-coached, veteran home team in a raucous environment should produce a strong effort on Friday.

Pick: St. Bonaventure -2 (Play to -3)

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Stanford vs. Cal

Friday, Jan. 26
10 p.m. ET
FS1
Cal -2.5

By Jim Root

All of the coaching attention this weekend will be on Ed Cooley returning to Providence (and for good reason – what a scene that will be).

However, the basketball version of the Big Game offers some intrigue, as well.

Mark Madsen, a Stanford basketball legend and rising coaching star, seemed like the obvious pivot for the Cardinal after going 48-21 in the last two years at Utah Valley and winning the 2023 WAC Coach of the Year award.

Jerod Haase had yet to make the NCAA tournament in seven years in charge, constantly mired in the middle of the Pac-12 pack.

Instead, the Cardinal retained Haase, and arch rival Cal swooped in to make Madsen its next boss. It’s hard to handicap extra incentive for a coach, but surely Madsen wants to prove to his alma mater that it should have made a move.

Fortunately for Madsen, he has a team that's trending up. After struggling with injuries in December, the Bears have rounded into form, going 4-0-1 against the spread in the last five games, including three outright wins as an underdog.

Stanford, meanwhile, is its usual erratic self under Haase, capable of a phenomenal performance or a dud, often in back-to-back games.

Cardinal point guard Jared Bynum’s status is worth monitoring. He's missed the last four games with a lower body injury.

Without him, freshman Kanaan Carlyle has become the primary creator, and he has more turnovers (11) than assists (eight) in his last two games – both of which were at home. Carlyle is talented, but his inconsistency could be an edge for Cal in this one.

In a huge Bay Area rivalry, I will ride with the rising home team and the better coach.

Pick: Cal -2.5 (Play to -3)

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