College Basketball Best Bets: Our Staff’s 5 Top Picks for Thursday, Including Purdue vs. Indiana

College Basketball Best Bets: Our Staff’s 5 Top Picks for Thursday, Including Purdue vs. Indiana article feature image

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: Trevion Williams (Purdue)

We are one step closer to the college basketball weekend, but let's not forget about the value that is being offered on Thursday evening.

While the Pac-12 and mid-majors are mostly dominating tonight's slate, let's not forget about a critical Big Ten battle in Indiana and a Big East affair in Rhode Island.

Our staff dives into four different games and offers up five total picks to help you formulate your college hoops betting card for Thursday evening.

Thursday's College Basketball Best Bets

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

5 p.m. ET
Under 145
7 p.m. ET
Under 124
7 p.m. ET
Under 142.5
7 p.m. ET
Purdue -3.5
7:30 p.m. ET
Stephen F. Austin -1
Specific bet 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.

Georgetown vs. Providence

Thursday, Jan. 20
5 p.m. ET
Under 145

By Kyle Remillard

Providence has been nothing but impressive when it’s taken the floor this season. The issue is it hasn't done so in 12 days due to COVID-19 interruptions within the program.

The Friars are 14-2 with several marquee victories, including Wisconsin, Texas Tech and Connecticut.

They match up with Georgetown, which has been reliant on its outside shooting this season, hitting 37% of its 3-point attempts. But recently, the Hoyas have cooled off from downtown, hitting 16-of-60 (22%) over their last three games.

Scoring inside the arc has been a major issue, with the group hitting 45%, ranking 313th in the country.

The defensive pressure when Ed Cooley’s squad is playing at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center is a staple of the program. The group has been strong in defending the perimeter — holding opponents to 31% — and has been even better inside the arc, ranking 25th in defending 2-point shots.

In Providence’s last two games, it held St. John's and Marquette to a combined 8-for-35 (23%) mark from 3-point range.

Providence plays with the 280th-fastest tempo in the country, according to KenPom, while Georgetown ranks 28th. The last thing that Providence wants is to get into a run-and-gun competition after not playing in nearly two weeks.

Expect a slow-paced defensive battle where Providence takes the air out of the ball and forces Georgetown to score in a half-court offense.

Pick: Under 145 (Play to 142)

Chattanooga vs. UNC Greensboro

Thursday, Jan. 20
7 p.m. ET
Under 124

By D.J. James

In a battle of the two slowest teams in the Southern Conference, UNC Greensboro will play host to Chattanooga on Thursday.

Chattanooga leads the way in the SoCon with a 14-4 overall record and 4-1 conference record. Although UNCG has not had the start it has wanted, it does play at a similar pattern.

The Mocs are 334th in adjusted tempo, per KenPom. Greensboro ranks 349th. Each takes 19-20 seconds per possession on offense, so this will be a slow, methodical game.

One area of concern for the over could be Chattanooga’s offensive skill, but the Spartans of Greensboro have the antidote. In fact, they carry a top-85 defensive efficiency and can rebound on both sides of the ball. Chattanooga cannot. This should negate any second chances for the Mocs.

Now, UNCG is the polar opposite. It has little offensive wherewithal, except for De’Monte Buckingham, who is lethal from 3 and averages over 13 points per game. If Malachi Smith and David Jean-Baptiste can hold him in check for the Mocs, there will be very little opportunity for the Greensboro offense to get its engine going.

If UNCG does turn the ball over, which it tends to do with a 22.4% turnover rate, Chattanooga will still maintain its typical pace.

These variables all lean to the under. There should not be room for the Spartans to be effective on the offensive end, and Chattanooga will play at a pace comfortable enough for both teams.

Pick: Under 124 (Play to 120)

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Purdue vs. Indiana

Thursday, Jan. 20
7 p.m. ET
Under 142.5

By Shane McNichol

This is a massive game in America’s most basketball-crazed state.

The Hoosiers have lost nine straight to Purdue, encapsulating the entire Archie Miller era. Both fan bases are well aware of this streak. The last time Indiana beat Purdue came in February 2016, which feels like lifetimes ago.

In those nine meetings, the two teams have tended toward grind-it-out slogs, which is typical of rivalries across the Big Ten and college basketball. They have topped tonight’s total of 142.5 just twice in that nine-game span, including just once in the last eight meetings.

Both of these teams are middle-of-the-road in terms of tempo, with neither looking to particularly push the pace or slow things down, which can make betting the total feel risky.

Purdue has the nation’s top offense in terms of efficiency, but on the road against an in-state rival with a top-15 defense, there shouldn’t be an expectation for the Boilers to put a big number on the scoreboard.

I expect this one to be a closely-contested wrestling match, staying safely below the total.

Pick: Under 142.5

Purdue vs. Indiana

Thursday, Jan. 20
7 p.m. ET
Purdue -3.5

By Tanner McGrath

It sure does suck betting a road favorite – especially in the Big Ten, where home-court advantage is stronger than almost anywhere.

It also sucks betting a team coming off of an emotional, double-overtime win against a huge rival. But I have good reason to fade the home dog in this “situational” spot.

Indiana has quietly become one of the best defensive teams in college basketball this season. The Hoosiers have snuck up to 12th in defensive eFG% and are allowing less than 0.8 PPP in the half-court.

But Mike Woodson’s team is carried by its frontcourt. Trayce Jackson-Davis is arguably the best two-way big in college basketball. Meanwhile, Race Thompson is a great interior defender and Miller Kopp ranks in the 84th percentile of D-I in PPP allowed (0.676).

As a result, the Hoosiers are 18th nationally in block rate and sixth in post-up PPP allowed.

But, like the Archie Miller-led teams before, the Hoosiers have pathetic guard play. Indiana is 280th in steal rate and ranks way below average in defending the pick-and-roll. Xavier Johnson, their top guard, ranks below the 40th percentile of D-I players in PPP allowed.

Indiana will likely neutralize Trevion Williams and Zach Edey. But Purdue can and will attack every which way.

In this case, Jaden Ivey is going to have a field day against the Hoosiers’ backcourt. Plus, Indiana is just average defensively in spot-up situations, and Sasha Stefanovic is currently averaging almost 1.3 PPP in those situations.

Indiana is also 0-2 this season as an underdog, and I don’t expect it to pull off the upset against the best team in the conference.

Finally, I’ll side with the sharp money that’s pushed this line up from the -2.5 opener.

Sometimes it comes down to the actual basketball being played on the court. And the Purdue mismatches are too much for me to ignore.

Give me Purdue at anything better than -4.

Pick: Purdue -3.5 (Play to -4)

Grand Canyon vs. SFA

Thursday, Jan. 20
7:30 p.m. ET
Stephen F. Austin -1

By BJ Cunningham

This is a fantastic sell-high spot on a Grand Canyon team that is due for some regression.

Sure, it’s 15-2, has an incredible defense and allows only 24.5% from behind the arc, but that’s not sustainable or relevant to this matchup because Stephen F. Austin shoots a low percentage of 3-pointers.

Stephen F. Austin loves to get out in transition, spending over 20% of possessions in that area. It boasts a 61.7% eFG% in transition, which is 22nd in college basketball, per Hoop-Math.

That is bad news for Grand Canyon, which is an elite half-court defense but really struggles to defend in transition, ranking in the bottom half of college basketball in PPP allowed, per Synergy.

Grand Canyon, offensively, loves to shoot 3-pointers. In fact, over 40% of its field goal attempts come from behind the arc. That’s not really going to work against Stephen F. Austin, which allows under 31% from deep.

Also, the Antelopes shoot only 62% from the free-throw line, which is one of the worst marks in college basketball.

Even if we look at ShotQuality’s adjusted efficiency, Grand Canyon is 130th, while Stephen F. Austin is 154th. So, there really isn’t much to separate these two teams in terms of the quality of looks they're getting and allowing.

I love the Lumberjacks at -1 at home.

Pick: Stephen F. Austin -1 (Play to -1.5)

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