College Basketball Best Bets: Our Staff’s Top 5 Picks for Thursday, Including Loyola Marymount vs. San Francisco
Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: San Francisco Dons guard Khalil Shabazz (0).
On Wednesday in college basketball, Villanova swept Xavier, Duke bounced back after losing to Miami (FL) and LSU won and covered on the road at Florida.
Today, eight ranked teams are in action, including many critical games out west that include top-10 squads.
Our staff isn’t eyeing the biggest games, though. Instead, they’re looking for value, covers and betting victories. So, with that in mind, we put together our best bets below for Thursday’s slate in college hoops.
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.
|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.|
Seton Hall vs. DePaul
DePaul has a new coach and brought in a group of solid transfers that will make the Blue Demons more competitive in Big East play than the program had been in recent years.
This is, however, still DePaul we’re talking about. “More competitive than what they’d been” is a very low bar. Since 2018, DePaul is 14-46 in Big East games. Even with the points they’ve received from sportsbooks, the Demons are 23-37 (38%) against the spread in that span.
This season, after some encouraging signs in the non-conference portion of the schedule, it has been more of the same. DePaul is 0-5 to start Big East play and 1-4 ATS, with the lone cover coming by just half a point.
I have been fooled by previous DePaul teams, and I certainly was starting to see some mild amounts of promise for this one. Yet, quite simply, DePaul is DePaul until further notice.
There’s little reason to believe that the Blue Demons can keep this game close against one of the Big East’s best teams, even at home.
Pick: Seton Hall -5.5 (Play to -6)
Stanford vs. Washington State
Earlier, I wrote that Washington State is a team you should buy low on with Pac-12 Conference play underway.
This is a talented team that has gotten some unlucky bounces and faded in the second half of games.
The opposite can be said for Stanford, which has been on fire this past month.
The Cardinal have lost just one game since Dec. 12 — a loss to Texas — and upset USC after a near three-week pause on Tuesday. But this is a team that is inside the top 10 in luck rating, per KenPom, and has clear weaknesses that will be exploited as conference play progresses.
Enter the Cougars. This is a team that defends the perimeter well and the paint even better. Stanford ranks 320th in turnover rate and has relied on hot shooting to pull it back into games — think Liberty and the Trojans.
Tack on the fact that the Cardinal sit 249th in opponent eFG%, don’t force many turnovers and allow opponents to shoot nearly 53% from 2, and this has all the making of a double-digit Wazzu win.
Washington State should control the glass the entire night with its size in the paint, and should see positive regression in all facets of the game. It’s the eighth-unluckiest team, per KenPom, and it is due for a bounce-back statement win.
As of five hours prior to tip off, Washington State is receiving just 12% of the bets and 85% of the money. It’s the definition of a joes and pros showdown, and I’m backing head coach Kyle Smith and the Cougars to get the job done on Friel Court.
Pick: Washington State -7.5 (Play to -8)
Colgate vs. Navy
Navy is the best team in the Patriot League right now, starting off with four blowout wins in conference play. You may remember that this is the same team that beat Virginia on opening night of the college basketball season.
Now, Navy has been without starting small forward Greg Summers for the past three games, but I don’t think his absence warrants the Midshipmen being this small of favorites at home against a horrific Colgate defense.
Navy plays at a very slow and pragmatic pace. It looks to play a half-court game with its opponent, and it’s been very successful with that strategy, especially in post-up and in the pick-and-roll.
The Midshipmen are in the top 40% of college basketball in points per possession in those two sets, while Colgate is in the bottom 25% of college basketball in defending post-up and pick-and-roll situations.
Not to mention, Colgate is 273rd in defensive efficiency and won’t be able to exploit Navy’s main weakness offensively, which is turning the ball over. Colgate sits 322nd in turnover percentage, per KenPom.
On the flip side, Colgate loves to shoot 3s. Almost 43% of the Raiders’ points come from behind the arc, which is the ninth-highest rate in the country.
Well, Navy is a very good 3-point defense, allowing only 31% from behind the arc. Additionally, Navy is 52nd in defensive rebounding percentage, so there won’t be a lot of second-chance opportunities for Colgate.
If you look at BartTorvik, he has Navy projected at -9.9, and even when you factor in the loss of Summers — who is worth around two points to the spread — there’s still plenty of value on the Midshipmen at -2.5.
Pick: Navy -2.5 (Play to -4)
Oregon vs. UCLA
Those who counted out Oregon after a rough start to the year did so at their own risk. Dana Altman teams always get better as the year goes on.
Sure enough, the Ducks have won three in a row and are starting to get much more efficient on both ends of the floor.
Will Richardson has been fantastic in his final year and is really the key piece that drives this offense. The senior is shooting over 44% from 3-point range while dishing out 3.5 assists a game.
UCLA’s lone blemish remains the 20-point loss it took to Gonzaga in Vegas back in November. The Bruins have been really solid aside from that night, but with a long COVID-19 layoff earlier in December, they haven’t exactly been tested all that much.
I think 10.5 points is simply too many in this spot, which creates real value for Oregon on the spread. The Ducks have the offensive weapons to hang around in this game and keep pace with UCLA.
The Pac-12 presents limited opportunities to notch Quad 1 wins, so Altman is certainly aware of how big of an opportunity tonight is for his team.
I don’t know if Oregon will be able to pull off the road upset, but I like the Ducks to cover the number here.
Pick: Oregon +10.5 (Play to +10)
Loyola Marymount vs. San Francisco
By D.J. James
The San Francisco Dons are one of the most overlooked teams in college hoops at the moment. They currently sit as a 10-seed in Joe Lunardi’s most recent Bracketology.
Loyola Marymount will hit the road to take on the Dons on Thursday night.
At the moment, San Francisco is 14-2, with losses to only Loyola Chicago and Grand Canyon. Its most significant advantage over the Lions will be inside. The Dons shoot 58.4% from 2-point range, while LMU allows opponents an average of 51.0% from that range this season.
Yauhen Massalski will likely match up with Keli Leaupepe, but otherwise, the Lions lack depth in their backcourt.
In addition, San Francisco can hit shots from outside the arc. It shoots 36.7% from 3-point range. Jamaree Bouyea hits over 41% of his outside shots, so given how LMU defends the perimeter poorly, he should be poised for a large contribution to the box score.
Finally, LMU shoots only 32.8% from downtown, while San Francisco is elite at guarding 3s. The Dons have limited opponents to the 11th-best 3-point percentage (27.0%) in the country. Since the Lions are guard heavy, this may be their only option to score.
Building off of that, the size advantage is noteworthy. The Dons will own the rebounding margin.