NCAAB Best Bets & Odds | 4 Top Picks for Thursday

NCAAB Best Bets & Odds | 4 Top Picks for Thursday article feature image
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Photo by David Dennis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Josh Pierre-Louis (UC Santa Barbara)

The highlight of Thursday night's college basketball schedule is No. 1 Purdue vs. Michigan on the road in Ann Arbor.

While we have that game covered in today's edition of our NCAAB staff's college basketball best bets, we also have two more picks bookending tonight's card.

So, dive in below and get the top college basketball odds and best bets for Thursday's slate.


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 Thursday's slate of games. Click the team logos for one the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.

Game
Time (ET)
Pick
7:30 p.m.
Austin Peay +11.5
9 p.m.
Michigan +5.5
9 p.m.
Michigan +5.5
11:59 p.m.
UCSB +100
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.

Austin Peay vs Kennesaw State

Thursday, Jan. 26
7:30 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Austin Peay +11.5

By Tanner McGrath

This is the ASUN sandwich spot of the day. Kennesaw State has just ripped off five straight wins, most recently picking up an overtime victory over Stetson and a two-point road victory over Florida Gulf Coast.

Kennesaw has shot up the standings and now sits in a tie for first with Darius McGhee’s Liberty team. Meanwhile, the Owls are looking ahead to a halfway-tough game against Lipscomb on Saturday (the Bisons have won four straight themselves).

In between stands a home game against the bottom-of-the-barrel Governors, who now sit at just 2-6 in the league following four straight losses.

I imagine the Owls sleepwalking through this home game, using Thursday as prep for their run to the ASUN title.

But if I were Kennesaw, I would not take my foot off the gas. The Owls are due for loads of negative regression in league play, specifically from the mid-range (48 FG%, 41% on ShotQuality) and from deep (37% from 3, 34% from 3 on SQ).

Unsurprisingly, ShotQuality has graded three of the Owls' last five wins as analytical losses. The regression monster is looming, and the Owls are on the cusp of an actual loss.

As such, ShotQualityBets makes the spread Kennesaw -1.3. While that’s extreme, most other projection systems I trust expect this game to finish in the single digits (EvanMiya makes the spread Kennesaw -8.3, VSIN’s Greg Peterson makes it Kennesaw -7).

It’s tough to find on-court reasoning to back Austin Peay, but at minimum, it’s hard for opponents to cover a big number against the Governors. Austin Peay plays slowly, takes care of the basketball and works mostly through the post.

That style of play could prove annoying to a Kennesaw team looking to get in and out with a win.

And the Owls haven’t been a great post-up defense this year.

Finally, this is the first meeting between these two in school history, given Austin Peay came over from the OVC in the offseason.

Add in unfamiliarity with the Governors’ slow-tempo, post-style to the Owls’ sleepy spot, and I bet Austin Peay keeps this one close for 40 minutes.

Pick: Austin Peay +11.5 (Play to +10)

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Purdue vs Michigan

Thursday, Jan. 26
9 p.m. ET
FS1
Michigan +5.5

By Stuckey

I love this matchup for a desperate Michigan club against a Purdue team I’ve been selling at what I think is the peak of its market value.

For one, the Wolverines actually have a 7-footer inside who can at least see the eyes of Zach Edey. Not many teams have that luxury.

More importantly, from a matchup perspective, Purdue almost never runs pick-and-roll offense. That’s important for the Wolverines, who still struggle to defend the PnR — just like last year.

Additionally, Michigan should have some success in transition and running pick-and-roll itself — even against Purdue’s improved pick-and-roll defense.

Also, when people talk about the best home court advantages in college basketball, they rarely mention Michigan. However, the historical against-the-spread numbers clearly show Ann Arbor belongs in the conversation.

Michigan is 96-67-2 ATS (58.9%) in home conference games since 2005. Only South Dakota State has been more profitable over that stretch.

The place will be rocking, as it was last year in an absolute blowout win over these Boilermakers.


Michigan +5.5

By Mike McNamara

Sitting at 11-8 and in desperate need of some quality wins on its resume, this is about as big as it gets for Michigan.

The best win to this point for Juwan Howard’s team is probably over Maryland, which is why the Wolverines are currently sitting on the wrong side of the NCAA tournament picture.

Enter 19-1 Purdue, the clear top dog in the conference and a team that remains undefeated on the road this year.

The matchup between Edey and Hunter Dickinson will obviously grab the headlines, but it will take a collective effort for Michigan on the boards to offset the size of Edey.

Jett Howard’s status is still up in the air for this one after suffering an ankle injury on Sunday against Minnesota, but I think it’s pretty likely that the heralded freshman will suit up.

I believe Michigan can use its athleticism to pressure the young Purdue guards and make things difficult for the Boilers in the half-court.

On the other end, Michigan should generate its fair share of clean looks from the perimeter, and it should be in line for some positive shooting regression.

Michigan has been the one team that has somewhat had Purdue’s number in the Big Ten in recent years, winning six of the last seven in the series.

Expect a max-energy effort from the Wolverines, which should allow them to hang inside the 5.5-point spread and give them a real chance at pulling off the upset.

Pick: Michigan +5.5 (Play to +5)


UCSB vs Hawaii

Thursday, Jan. 26
11:59 p.m. ET
ESPN+
UCSB +100

By Doug Ziefel

This Big West matchup has the potential to be one of the best on the slate.

The Rainbow Warriors have been a stout defensive club this season and enter fifth in effective field goal percentage allowed. But that’s primarily from their excellent perimeter defense, and their opponent tonight is not worried about shooting 3s.

UCSB has been on a tear this season, sitting at 16-3 with a 12-1 record in its last 13 games. That hot streak has been spurred by excellent play on the offensive end of the floor.

The Gauchos have had an effective field goal percentage of at least 60% in each of their last three games. One of those victories came on the road against UC Irvine, which just beat Hawaii a week ago.

They should continue to roll offensively against Hawaii by working the ball inside and scoring with relative ease. The Gauchos rank 23rd in the country in 2-point field goal percentage, and nearly 61% of the points Hawaii allows come from inside the arc, which is the highest distribution in the country.

I expect this line to move much more as it gets closer to the tip. We've seen some movement early today, but there are still books offering the Gauchos at plus-money.

Be sure to shop around for the best price.

Pick: UC Santa Barbara ML +100 (Play to -105)


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