College Basketball Odds & Picks: Our Staff’s Best Wednesday Bets for Tulsa vs. Houston, Abilene Christian vs. Sam Houston State, & More (January 20)
William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Houston Cougars guard Quentin Grimes (24) & Tulsa Golden Hurricane guard Keshawn Williams (4).
- Wednesday sees a packed slate of college basketball action, as a number of under-the-radar games are taking place throughout the night.
- Our college hoops staff broke down five of them and shared betting picks with complete analysis for each.
- Check out each individual breakdown for Wednesday's college basketball slate below.
Wednesdays are for college basketball. At least that’s the case on this Wednesday.
Our college basketball staff broke down five of those games and shared a betting pick for each. Check out full breakdowns for each game below.
College Basketball Odds & Picks
All listed odds have been updated as of Wednesday afternoon. Specific bet recommendations at the end of each matchup breakdown come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing on Wednesday afternoon night.
Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.
VCU vs. St. Bonaventure
The 6-1 St. Bonaventure Bonnies may not be getting enough respect as just 2.5-point favorites when they host the VCU Rams on Wednesday night.
The Bonnies, who dropped their first conference game in a nail-biter to Rhode Island, have won four straight and are sitting atop the Atlantic 10 conference.
This is an experienced St. Bonaventure’s team that returns all five starters from last year including four juniors, all of whom averaged at least 10 points per game.
VCU, meanwhile, is in Year 1 of a rebuild after losing five of their top six scorers in the offseason. VCU has won eight of its last nine games, but only one of those opponents was ranked inside the KenPom Top 100. That 1 team was Rhode Island, which beat VCU, 83-68.
The Rams have taken advantage of a soft schedule recently and may be overvalued by the market, as they’ve only covered the spread once in their last 6 games.
This young VCU team runs a full-court press all game and looks to create offense through its defense. That playing style will not benefit the Rams against a Bonnies team that takes care of the basketball.
St. Bonaventure lost both games last year to VCU by margins of 28 and 30. This time around, it will be facing a much different roster in VCU, and I believe the Bonnies will do enough to cover the number in this revenge spot.
Pick: St. Bonaventure -2.5
Valparaiso vs. Loyola-Chicago
I always like getting big points with home dogs in conference matchups. Valparaiso (3-8) is 0-2 in Missouri Valley play, but has played the Ramblers tough in their past three games, losing by five, three, and two points.
Loyola-Chicago plays at one of the slowest paces in the country, ranking 319th in adjusted tempo per KenPom.
This is a nice buy-low/sell-high spot with the Crusaders coming off a 19-point loss at DePaul, while the Ramblers produced a 42-point home blowout of Northern Iowa.
If senior guard Nick Robinson is available (back), this line will likely drop, but it’s simply too many points to lay in a conference game.
Valparaiso has started to get hot from 3, making 11-of-27 (41%) in an 81-68 home loss to Missouri State, which ranks first in 3-point percentage allowed to opponents in conference play. Loyola-Chicago is vulnerable from deep, allowing 36.4%.
I’ll take the double-digits with a desperate Valparaiso team in a sleepy spot for the conference-leading Ramblers.
Pick: Valparaiso +11.5
Chattanooga vs. Samford
The Mocs started out their season a perfect 9-0 in their non-conference schedule but have since stumbled since entering SoCon play, going 2-4.
However, despite the losing record, their offense has been humming, as they’re putting up 1.08 points per possession in their last six games. The reason their offense is so good is that they excel at the fundamentals. Chattanooga has the lowest turnover rate in the conference and is shooting 86% from the free-throw line.
If they are going to excel on offense in this game they are going to have to do two things:
1. Hit a high percentage from beyond the arc.
The Mocs have shot over 37% in conference play, while Samford has allowed over 39%. When Chattanooga defeated Samford 14 days ago, it shot 44.4% from beyond the arc. So, if it can shoot a similar percentage, it should have no trouble winning on the road.
2. Get to the free-throw line.
Samford is allowing the second-highest free-throw rate in the conference, so the Mocs need to get to the charity stripe as often as possible, especially since they’re shooting 86 (!) percent.
In its win over Samford, Chattanooga only got to the free-throw line nine times. So, it will need to get there far more often if it’s going to pull off a sweep.
Samford’s offense has really sputtered since entering conference play, as it’s putting up only 1.02 points per possession, which is the lowest rate in the SoCon.
The biggest issue for the Bulldogs is they can’t hit the broad side of a barn from outside the arc. They are shooting under 30% from deep, which is a problem when over 38% of their field attempts come from 3-point range. In fact, they shot only 20.8% from deep in their loss to Chattanooga.
The difference in this game is going to come down to 3-point shooting.
Whichever team shoots a high percentage should walk away with the win. I have the Mocs projected as -1.98 favorites, so I’ll back them at +1.
Pick: Chattanooga +1
Tulsa vs. Houston
At 11-1, the Houston Cougars have performed like a top-ranked team this season, yet the 12.5-point spread in Wednesday’s matchup with Tulsa appears too generous.
Houston’s only loss this season came on the road against this Golden Hurricane team in a low-scoring, down-to-the-wire finish. The Cougars are used to winning that type of game, allowing the second-fewest points per game in the nation this season.
That grind-it-out type of game script has not allowed Houston to pull away and win by large margins. In eight games against top-100 KenPom competition, Houston has surpassed a 12.5 point margin of victory just twice.
Tulsa is also comfortable playing in a slow, defensive game – Frank Haith’s Golden Hurricane has played at the 335th-ranked tempo in college basketball so far this season. The expectation for a low-scoring game is reflected by an over/under total of just 122.
With sophomore guard Caleb Mills leaving the Houston program midseason after leading the Cougars in scoring last year, Tulsa has a chance to show that the gap has narrowed between Houston and the rest of the American Athletic Conference.
Even if Tulsa isn’t capable of beating Houston for a second time this season, we can expect the Golden Hurricane to stay within striking distance.
Pick: Tulsa +12.5
Abilene Christian vs. Sam Houston State
The Wildcats are one of the best stories going in college basketball this season. Abilene is 11-2 SU and 7-2 ATS, including near misses at Texas Tech and Arkansas as double-digit dogs.
Since they’ve hit the Southland portion of their schedule, ACU has been absolutely rolling with two blowout victories in its first three games in conference.
The Wildcats defense is elite by any standard, but just to put things in perspective, ACU is fourth in points allowed and steals per game, and have arguably the best 3-point defense in all of college basketball.
And the Wildcats are far from a flash in the pan thanks to the steady hand of veteran coach Joe Golding. Under the 2019 Southland Coach of the Year, ACU has finished second in the conference in back-to-back seasons and has won 11 of its last 12 in the SLC.
As for this game, Sam Houston State is sloppy with the basketball (15 turnovers per game, 266th) and overly reliant on the 3-point shot (9.2 3-pointers made per game). That’s playing right into ACU’s hands.
I like the Wildcats to win by close to 10 in this spot, and this spread represents the last time you’ll be able to grab the Wildcats at such a reasonable price before March Madness.
Pick: Abilene Christian -3