NCAAB Odds, Best Bets | Top Picks for Michigan vs Northwestern, More
Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images. Pictured: Jett Howard (Michigan)
Four ranked teams on the West Coast are in action on Thursday night in college basketball.
But our staff is targeting the earlier games, including a top-25 squad heading on the road in the Conference USA and a Big Ten game on ESPN2.
Dive in below to get our four top college basketball odds, best bets and picks for Thursday’s slate.
Thursday’s 4 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.
|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.|
Northern Kentucky vs. Robert Morris
Northern Kentucky had a complete and utter meltdown at home in its last game against Milwaukee. The Norse went into the locker room for halftime up 47-27 and ended up losing the game by one.
That also snapped a four-game win streak in conference play for one of the best teams in the Horizon this season.
The Norse lead the conference in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and are turning opponents over at a top-10 rate in the country.
Robert Morris is eighth in the conference in turnover percentage on offense. Robert Morris also is near the bottom in offensive rebounding percentage and free-throw rate, which are two areas that Northern Kentucky is pretty weak at.
Robert Morris also runs 94% of its offensive sets in the half-court, but are only putting up 0.99 PPP in conference play, which is seventh in the Horizon.
Northern Kentucky is in the top four in the Horizon in defending in the half-court, so this is not a good matchup for the Colonials, just like their previous meeting on Dec. 3.
In that game, Robert Morris shot 46% from behind the arc and 50% from 2-point range, but it was only able to muster 56 points and 0.90 PPP.
The reason for that was because Northern Kentucky did what it does best; it forced a whopping 16 turnovers, which ended up being the difference in the game.
Northern Kentucky’s offense has sputtered at times, but it shoots 3s at high level and crashes the offensive glass at a good rate. The Norse are taking 3s on 41.4% of their field goal attempts during conference play and are third in the Horizon in offensive rebounding percentage.
Robert Morris is the top 2-point field goal defense in the conference, but is allowing 38.5% from behind the arc.
This is a good spot for the Norse to end Robert Morris’ three-game win streak, so I like the value on them at -2.
Pick: Northern Kentucky -2 (Play to -3.5)
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Rice vs. Louisiana Tech
By Brett Pund
These two teams first met at Rice on Jan. 5, which ended with an overtime victory for Louisiana Tech. The Owls closed as 2.5-point favorites in that matchup, and the line has now flipped to -4 in favor of the Bulldogs.
How do you explain this change?
Since that contest, Rice has won four of six in Conference USA, including a victory at North Texas. This is also the same program that has beaten WKU and UTEP away from home while also taking No. 10 Texas to overtime at the Moody Center.
Meanwhile, LA Tech has only covered this spread in conference play on four occasions, with two of those coming in overtime and the other pair coming against UTSA.
I also believe the Owls should have success offensively against a Bulldogs defense that has struggled this season, ranking outside the top 290 in EFG% (294th) and 3-point shooting defense (345th).
My rankings make this closer to a pick’em, so I’ll continue to back Rice on the road in C-USA.
Pick: Rice +5.5 (Play to +4.5)
Michigan vs. Northwestern
Michigan will look to bounce back from back-to-back losses when it travels to Evanston, IL, to take on a Northwestern team that has outperformed expectations.
After a close, five-point loss to No. 1 Purdue, the Wolverines were blown out by Penn State, 83-61.
During this two-game stretch, both Jett and Jace Howard missed time with injuries, which limited a Wolverines team that ranks 277th nationally in bench minutes.
Luckily, their leading scorer, Jett, returned against Penn State and led the team with 21 points.
In addition to its restored health, Michigan has been great in bounce-back spots this season. The Wolverines are 3-0 following back-to-back losses, with wins over Minnesota, Maryland and Northwestern by an average of 19 points.
On the offensive end, look for Michigan to be able to break down a Northwestern defense that has been the catalyst for this Wildcats team.
Northwestern ranks 26th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, as a result of turning its opponents over on 22.4% of their possessions (30th nationally). The Wolverines have not been susceptible to turnovers, ranking fifth nationally with just 9.8 per game.
In addition to taking care of the basketball, Michigan will see some outside shooting progression against a Northwestern defense allowing 39.5% of its opponents’ points to come from beyond the arc, the 10th-highest rate in the country.
On the other end, Michigan’s defense is primed to stall a Northwestern offense that has been inconsistent.
The Wildcats get 20.4% of their points from the charity stripe, which is significant against a Michigan team allowing its opponents to score just 15.3% of their points from this area.
Lastly, the Wolverines’ defense has been exposed against teams that can generate high-percentage shots from inside the 3-point line. They allow 53.8% of their points from the interior.
This is an area Northwestern has struggled, scoring just 45.8% of its points from 2-point range.
Overall, look for Michigan to take advantage of this opportunity given its newfound health and advantages on both ends of the floor.
Pick: Michigan +3.5 (Play to +2.5)
Florida Atlantic vs. UAB
I know we’re all sick and tired of fading FAU. But unfortunately, all the Owls do are cover, as they’re now a nation’s-best 15-4-1 ATS.
Sadly, we are fading the Owls again. Even better, against a potentially shorthanded UAB squad.
Hold your nose.
If you want to know just how overvalued FAU is, the ShotQualityBets model makes UAB a 9.5-point home favorite Thursday night. We’re getting almost 10 points of value based on the quality of shots taken and allowed.
Getting close to a PK here is a gift.
Specifically, ShotQuality projects the Owls for plenty of interior defensive regression.
And UAB deserves a win.
Four of the Blazers’ five C-USA losses have come by one possession, including two in overtime and one to this Owls squad in Boca Raton.
We might not get Jordan “Jelly” Walker, but I’m not sure how much that matters. UAB has a +13.6 Net Rating with Walker on the floor, but still has a +10.6 Net Rating with him off of it. The Blazers are seven points per 100 possessions better defensively with Walker benched.
It’s a good spot for FAU to drop one after its 20-game win streak, and UAB deserves a home win after some close losses in a revenge spot.
Expect the Blazers to lean on their defense to get that done, while forcing negative regression upon the Owls’ defense.
Pick: UAB -1
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