College Basketball Picks: Our Best Bets for Thursday’s Early Games, Including Wyoming vs. San Diego State (March 11)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images. Pictured: Jordan Schakel.
- College basketball conference tournament action continues through Thursday morning as our staff picks out more of their best bets for the early games of the slate.
- San Diego State vs. Wyoming should be quite the Mountain West battle, and Shane McNichol sees the Aztecs covering.
- Check out each pick complete with a betting breakdown below.
Thursday is upon us, which means we have another day full of watching college hoops and betting on college hoops.
Today's early slate starts in the Big Ten with Maryland vs. Michigan State and goes through the afternoon when Wyoming vs. San Diego State will close things out in the Mountain West Tournament.
So, enjoy these early games and get ready — because it's going to be a big day of college basketball at The Action Network.
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Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.
Maryland vs. Michigan State
Despite finishing conference play with losing records, both Maryland and Michigan State have had flashes of great play over the season.
This season, Maryland boasts victories over Wisconsin, Illinois and Purdue, while Michigan State has defeated Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan.
Both the Terrapins and the Spartans rank in the bottom four in the Big Ten in offensive efficiency, per KenPom. The two teams don’t shoot well and don’t score a lot, and therefore, have to rely on defense to win games — which they’ve had some success doing.
Michigan State ranks first in the Big Ten in defensive 3-point percentage, while Maryland sits fifth in the conference in defensive efficiency.
However, the betting trends really sell this pick to me. Both teams are 4-0 to the under in their last four games, and the under is 8-2 in the last 10 games between Maryland and Michigan State.
Pick: Under 130.5
Syracuse vs. Virginia
By Pat McMahon
The Cavaliers are simply a bad matchup for the Orange. The regular-season meeting in Charlottesville was evidence of this, as Virginia smoked Syracuse, 81-58.
Virginia shoots lights out from 3-point range, which is bad news for the Syracuse 2-3 zone. it hits at a 38.6% clip from downtown, the best mark in the ACC and the 12th-best nationally.
The Cavaliers also have the perfect personnel to attack the zone, starting with point guard Kihei Clark. Clark is a phenomenal distributor who rarely turns the ball over, and he’s surrounded by terrific shooters. Tony Bennett put him at the high post for long stretches in the last game, which was very effective.
From there, Clark could kick it out to Sam Hauser and Trey Murphy III on the wings for open 3s or lob it to Jay Huff on the baseline for an easy two. Hauser and Murphy were a combined 11-of-23 from deep against Syracuse in January, and both should be able to find plenty of good looks again on Thursday.
The Syracuse offense is full of weapons, but it’s been very streaky this season.
The Orange rely heavily on iso ball and 3-point shooting. They hope to draw double teams when attacking the basket so they can kick it out to their shooters for open looks.
This formula doesn’t work against the Cavaliers, who are extremely disciplined in their pack-line half-court defense. The Orange shot just 38% from the floor and 22% from 3-point range (5-of-23) in the first meeting with Virginia. They really struggled to get separation and clean looks all night, a problem that doesn’t just go away against the Cavaliers.
Syracuse comes in playing well and with a lot to gain, but it’s simply overmatched here. I like the Cavaliers to win comfortably and give Syracuse a stressful couple of days awaiting its NCAA Tournament fate.
Pick: Virginia -5
Northern Colorado vs. Southern Utah
By Ky McKeon
Northern Colorado was supposed to be a contender for the Big Sky regular-season title but ended up finishing just 6-8 in conference play, good for ninth overall.
A closer look at UNC’s recent games paints a rosier picture, though. The Bears have covered three of their past four contests, including a near-win against league power Weber State. Prior to that UNC split a two-game series with conference tourney favorites Eastern Washington. The point is, Northern Colorado is way better than its seed suggests.
On paper Southern Utah is the most talented team in the league. The T-Birds are stacked with athletes, including former Illinois wing Tevian Jones. UNC doesn’t have the athletes SUU does, but it does play very good defense. The Bears do everything right on this end of the floor; they box out and they run shooters off the 3-point line.
No team in the Big Sky is better on the defensive glass than UNC, which is huge against a SUU team looking to bully teams off the dribble and into the paint. UNC also allows the lowest 3PA rate in the Big Sky, key against the league leaders in 3PA rate. Despite shooting just 31.6% from deep, SUU chucks up more 3s than anyone in the Big Sky.
In addition to out-athleting opponents and trying to make 3s, SUU scores primarily in transition. UNC ranks in the top 65 in the country in preventing FGA in transition and ranks seventh nationally in effective field goal percentage allowed in transition.
Defensively, Northern Colorado has an answer for every single one of Southern Utah’s strengths.
Of course, the other side of the ball matters, too. UNC has generally been a bad offensive team this season, but yesterday’s game against Sacramento State proved the Bears have the ability to put up points. UNC scored a whopping 1.34 PPP yesterday thanks in large part to a 13-of-20 3-point clip.
Pick: Northern Colorado +7.5
Wyoming vs. San Diego State
Today’s MWC quarterfinals include three fairly big spreads and Nevada getting just four points against Boise State. If you like the Wolf Pack’s chances, I prefer the value in betting them to win the entire tournament at +2500.
Looking strictly at today’s games, the Aztecs stand out as the team most likely to cover. They will face a Wyoming team coming off a 76-possession, 111-point game yesterday against San Jose State.
The Cowboys will then need to turn around for a noon tip-off (local time) today. That’s a tall task against a San Diego State team that easily dispatched Wyoming in two meetings this year. The Aztecs swept Wyoming, winning those two games by an average of 27.5 points.
The hope for a Wyoming backer comes from behind the 3-point line. The Cowboys shoot a ton of 3s and San Diego State’s defense has allowed opponents to do so.
Coming off its scoring barrage yesterday, some regression should be in order for Wyoming, especially considering its conditioning in its second game in as many days.
Pick: San Diego State -14.5