College Basketball Best Bets: Our Staff’s Top 5 Picks, Including Iowa vs. Maryland and Arizona vs. Washington State (Thursday, Feb. 10)
James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Bennedict Mathurin (0) of the Arizona Wildcats.
Thursday’s college basketball slate is sneaky good, featuring a solid mix of high-profile matchup such as No. 3 Purdue vs. Michigan, plus several compelling mid- and low-major matchups such as Morehead State vs. Belmont and Grand Canyon vs. Utah Valley — just to name a few.
Our college basketball staff’s best bets today mirror the diversity of today’s slate — with two picks from more public matchups and three other games from the Northeast Conference, Sun Belt and West Coast Conference, respectively.
Below, you’ll find comprehensive analysis for all five of our staff’s top picks for Thursday, Feb. 10 — including links to the sportsbooks offering the best odds as of writing and strike prices for every bet in case the line moves between now and tipoff.
Thursday 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.|
Mount St. Mary’s vs. Wagner
Wagner has been running through the Northeast Conference, winning all 10 of its matchups to get to 16-2 overall on the year.
But now, it will experience life without Elijah Ford for the first time after a knee injury that will keep him out the rest of the season. Ford was a monumental piece for the Seahawks offense, averaging a dozen points per game while shooting 55% from the field.
Wagner does most of its offensive damage inside the perimeter, where the group hits 54% of its field goal attempts. But Mount St. Mary’s defense is built to stop a Wagner offense that is reliant on attacking the rim. The Mountaineers have a trio of forwards that stand 6-foot-9 or taller and have been stellar defending the paint.
Since starting the season 5-10, the Mount has found its groove by winning six of its last seven. The one loss was a one-point defeat to Bryant, which also sits toward the top of the conference.
During that seven-game span, the defense has held NEC opponents to 55 points per game, 37% shooting from the field and 26% from 3-point range.
Wagner’s offense has been prone to scoring droughts at times this season, highlighted by a 16-point second half against Central Connecticut last week. Now, the Seahawks will lose a pivotal scoring piece, and I anticipate some growing pains offensively.
Pick: Mount St. Mary’s +8 (Play to +7)
Georgia State vs. Coastal Carolina
By Doug Ziefel
Coastal Carolina may be known as a football school, but the Chanticleers have shown plenty of promise on the hardwood this season. Though they have most of their success in nonconference play, they face a Georgia State team that has had even more difficulties with Sun Belt opponents.
The Panthers are 4-6 in conference play, and one of their losses is to this Coastal Carolina team at home.
The significant edge for the Chanticleers is from behind the arc on both ends of the floor. Offensively, Coastal Carolina has been solid from deep, as it owns the 84th-best 3-point percentage in the nation.
It could be raining shots from deep, as Georgia State is one of the worst teams at defending perimeter shots. The Panthers are 356th in 3-point percentage allowed and have allowed the 44th-highest percentage of points from deep balls.
Coastal has been the exact opposite of the Panthers on the defensive end. It’s 13th in 3-point percentage allowed, and the Panthers have shown the tendency to take more outside shots than average.
Overall, the Chanticleers have been underrated on defense, as their adjusted defensive efficiency sits at 182nd, but their effective field goal percentage allowed is 26th.
KenPom has Coastal as five-point favorites here at home, which gives us plenty of value on this line.
The Chanticleers have also gotten the job done more often than not at home this season, as they are 6-5 against the spread in Conway. They’re in a great position to add to that record here.
Pick: Coastal Carolina -1 (Play to -2.5)
Iowa vs. Maryland
By D.J. James
Maryland hosts Iowa on Thursday after three straight losses.
Iowa has dropped two of its last three — one to Purdue and one to Penn State. Much of this has to do with a lack of defense. The Terrapins do not necessarily excel on the defensive end, but this is a strong spot to bet them.
The Terps defend relatively well inside, allowing opponents to hit only 47.3% from inside the arc. Over 50% of Iowa’s points this season have come from the interior, so the Terps will be able to limit it in some capacity.
Both Qudus Wahab and Julian Reese will have to play significant roles in doing so. They should be able to contain Patrick McCaffery, and hopefully, Keegan Murray in turn.
Iowa is a brutal defensive team.
It allows opponents to shoot 35.5% from behind the arc in conference games. Eric Ayala and Donta Scott should thrive in that area for the Terps, as they shoot the lion’s share of Maryland’s 3s.
Even if Maryland is shooting around 32% from deep on the season, there will be open opportunities to take advantage of on the perimeter.
Finally, Iowa has been the worst defensive rebounding team in Big Ten play. It will dole out multiple second-chance opportunities for the Terps on offense, making this a much tighter game down the stretch.
With the home-court advantage, it’s hard to not go with Maryland after three straight tough losses.
Pick: Maryland +4.5 (Play to +3)
Arizona vs. Washington State
The No. 4 Arizona Wildcats (20-2, 10-1 Pac-12) make the journey to Pullman, Washington, to face the Washington State Cougars (14-7, 7-3 Pac-12) in a Pac-12 battle this evening. The feline-themed teams will meet for the first and only time this regular season.
Arizona has a nine-game winning streak at Beasley Coliseum that dates back over a decade, but it took double OT last season to get past the Cougars, 86-82.
The Cougars come into the game as one of the hottest teams in the Pac-12 over the last month, winning six of their last seven games, including five straight.
Washington State has an outstanding defense that ranks 14th nationally with an ADJDE of 91.2 points. Shot contesting has been the key to Cougars’ defensive success, as they rank 19th in the nation in effective field goal percentage, allowing opponents to shoot just 45.2% from the field.
Offensively, the Cougars are led by captain and fifth year senior Michael Flowers, who is averaging 13.7 points per game. Flowers is coming off of back-to-back 20-plus point performances against Stanford and California.
Freshman forward Mouhamed Gueye has come on for the Cougars, earning his third Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honor.
Arizona is concluding a road swing and will face a serious test against a streaking Washington State program that is kicking off a homestand. This matchup will be a big test for the Cougars at home, where their top-ranked defense will need to slow down an Arizona team that ranks third nationally in adjusted tempo.
The chalk is too high in this one at 6.5 points. I am projecting Washington State as 1.71-point underdogs at home against the Wildcats. I recommend taking the 6.5 points for a two-unit play.
Take the points in Pullman, as the Washington State defense will do enough to slow down the Wildcats and secure the cover.
Pick: Washington State +6.5 (Play to +5.5)
Pacific vs. Gonzaga
OK. Take a deep breath everyone.
You guys ready to do this?
Pacific is the gambling world’s darling. The Tigers have been the biggest positive regression candidate in college basketball this season. While the Tigers are 7-16 overall, ShotQuality projects they should be 12-11 based on the quality of the shots they take and the shots they allow.
The regression train is starting to pull into Tiger station.
Over the last few weeks, Pacific has outright wins over Pepperdine and BYU (!!!) paired with an inspired effort against USC. Sadly, the Tigers couldn’t hang on to an eight-point halftime lead over the Trojans.
Pacific will now face Gonzaga, which has covered big numbers in four of its last five games.
There is no basketball-related reason to take Pacific. Gonzaga could win by 35 easily.
However, Pacific is 3-3 against the spread in its last six games against Gonzaga, but those spreads haven’t approached this astronomical number. The last time Pacific caught at least 30 points against Gonzaga was in 2017 — and our Tigers covered the 30.5-point spread.
Moreover, Gonzaga could be caught sleeping in this spot, relatively speaking. The Bulldogs have a showdown with Saint Mary’s less than 48 hours after this game tips. Mark Few’s squad will look to get in and get out with a 34-point win.
But the Pacific positive regression train is going to stop those plans in its track.
At the time of this writing, I’m seeing some minor line movement toward the Tigers. Therefore, I’ll grab the 33 points and would recommend taking our Tigers down to -30.5.
I’d also highly recommend keeping your eyes far away from this matchup. Just check the final score when it’s all over.
Pick: Pacific +33 (Play to +30.5)
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