Thursday’s Early College Basketball Best Bets

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Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images. Pictured: Kadary Richmond (Seton Hall)

Thursday's Early College Basketball Best Bets

GameTime (ET)Pick
12 p.m.
12:30 p.m.
2:30 p.m.
2:30 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.

We're getting closer and closer to Selection Sunday, but before we receive the NCAA tournament bracket, there's plenty of value on the board for Champ Week.

We have some of the top teams in the country in action on Thursday, and here's college basketball best bets for the early games to get your betting card started.


Minnesota vs. Michigan State

Thursday, Mar. 14
12 p.m. ET
Big Ten Network
Minnesota +7.5

By D.J. James

Minnesota is 24-7 against the spread this season, and the Golden Gophers have already beaten Michigan State once this year.

The Gophers like to shoot from deep, and MSU yields one of the highest 3-point attempt rates on defense in the nation. The Gophers could be without Joshua Ola-Joseph – who’s in concussion protocol – but they have multiple other efficient shooters, which has led to their collective 35.8% 3-point rate.

Adding on, MSU takes a ton of mid-range jumpers. Sure, the Gophers aren’t the best at defending these, but they’re fine with giving up mid-range shots in a trade for open 3s.

Michigan State can turn other teams over and takes good control over the ball itself. That said, Minnesota is more efficient in transition, and has shown it can minimize turnovers once against this MSU team this year.

Finally, Minnesota can get to the free-throw line — with Elijah Hawkins and Dawson Garcia — quite frequently. MSU fouls opponents often and doesn’t draw contact offensively.

With this game taking place in the Twin Cities, look for another cover for the Gophers. They could even upset the Spartans and knock them out of the NCAA tournament field.

Pick: Minnesota +7.5 (Play to +5)


BYU vs. Texas Tech

Thursday, Mar. 14
12:30 p.m. ET
ESPN2
Under 153

By Greg Waddell

These two teams combined for 163 points the first time they played this year, but we’re not expecting a repeat offensive affair.

For starters, Texas Tech shot the lights out, making 10-of-20 3-point attempts and 17-of-18 free throws. That level of shooting won't travel to the Big 12 tournament.

This is an early afternoon tip and Texas Tech’s first game of the tournament. The Red Raiders also like to play slow in general, ranking 247th nationally in tempo.

Against BYU’s run-and-gun style, Tech’s best chance will be to limit possessions and slow this game to a halt.

On the other side, we may see some tired legs. At the top of the draw, BYU has had to play the first game of the afternoon once already, and this is its second game in as many days.

On top of that, BYU big man Aly Khalifa is fasting for Ramadan. He spoke to reporters after playing 20 minutes against UCF, saying he was “a little tired.”

Add it all together, and a quiet offensive performance — compared to what we saw in the first matchup between the two — makes sense from both sides.

Pick: Under 153

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St. John's vs. Seton Hall

Thursday, Mar. 14
2:30 p.m. ET
FS1
Seton Hall +4.5

By Shane McNichol

This game is one I highlighted in my Big East tournament preview earlier this week. It’s hard for me to square this line with the state of these two teams and their matchup with one another.

St. John’s is being perceived as a team bouncing back to form after Rick Pitino’s grumpy press conference a few weeks ago following a loss to Seton Hall.

Yes, the Johnnies have ripped off five straight wins, but the schedule over that period leaves a lot to be desired. Those five wins include Georgetown twice and DePaul once — the dregs of the Big East — as well as the fifth loss in a five-game losing streak for Butler.

The lone impressive win was a home victory over Creighton, whose defensive scheme perfectly plays into St. John’s mid-range offensive attack.

Meanwhile, Seton Hall has won of five of its last seven, including a critical win over Villanova and the completion of a season sweep over this Red Storm team.

Usually, both of these teams are looking to outwrestle their opponents, winning with penetration and offensive rebounding. Both times they’ve met this year, the Pirates have handled the physicality better and have been rewarded for doing so.

In the two meetings, Seton Hall has attempted 69 free throws to just 27 for St. John’s.

An aggressive Pirates team is set up to take advantage of an overaggressive Red Storm defense.

Pick: Seton Hall +4.5

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Wichita State vs. Memphis

Thursday, Mar. 14
2:30 p.m. ET
ESPNU
Over 153.5

By Brett Pund

In the second game of the day at the AAC tournament, I’m expecting a lot of points between Memphis and Wichita State.

For starters, these are two teams that love to play at a high tempo. The Tigers come into this contest ranked in the top 20 in tempo by KenPom, while the Shockers sit fifth in the AAC.

There will also be a lot of shot attempts in this game. Both squads are in the bottom 40 nationally in giving up shots to opponents. On the offensive end, Memphis ranks in the top 65 in both field goals attempted and made per game. Meanwhile, Wichita is 56th in shots per contest.

So, the pace should be there from both sides to get this over.

The other trend I love is how the teams play in the opening half of games.

Penny Hardaway’s squad ranks 61st in the country in first-half scoring at 36.6 points per game. This is also the same team that ranks outside of the top 270 in scoring defense in the opening half.

If they keep the pace in the second half, expect this over to cash.

Pick: Over 153.5 (Play to 155)

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