Thursday College Basketball Odds, Picks, Predictions: Our 6 Best Bets, Including Cal vs. UCLA (January 27)
Matt Cohen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Joel Brown.
- Thursday's college basketball slate is a big one, and our staff came prepared.
- Our college hoops experts came through with six best bets, including picks for Northeastern vs. UNC-Wilmington and Cal vs. UCLA.
- Check out all of our best bets for Thursday's slate below.
Thursdays in January are made for college basketball. With no Thursday Night Football on the docket, bettors’ heads have officially turned to the college hoops slate.
There is plenty of action on this fine Thursday, and our experts are taking full advantage by placing six wagers on five different games throughout the evening.
The action starts with Northeastern vs. UNC-Wilmington — a game in which two of our bettors are aligned — and continues through the evening when Cal and UCLA take part in a Pac-12 After Dark matchup.
Be sure to check out all six of our best bets below.
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 of 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.|
Northeastern vs. UNC Wilmington
Northeastern has burned me a few times during the past two weeks, but I still believe the Huskies remain undervalued after having some bad luck with roster availability throughout the season.
They sit alone in the cellar of the Colonial standings with an 0-8 record in conference play, which is shocking for a team some predicted would win the conference.
Now, Northeastern faces first-place UNC Wilmington, which sits at 6-0 in league play. Almost nobody would have predicted that as well.
I think the Seahawks have been playing over their heads and should come back down to earth soon. I also like this spot since UNC Wilmington just won at Northeastern earlier this week.
Yes, it’s a revenge spot. But more importantly, both teams have the same exact travel, which diminishes the home-court advantage edge a bit here.
Trust in Bill Coen to make some key tweaks that lead to Northeastern’s first league win in CAA play — or at least a cover.
Pick: Northeastern +4.5 (Play to +4)
Northeastern vs. UNC Wilmington
UNC Wilmington entered the season projected to finish near the bottom of the Colonial Athletic Conference. That seemed likely to become a reality after opening the season 3-5. But, the Seahawks have turned things around in a blur by winning nine straight games — including all six conference matchups.
The opposite may be said for Northeastern, who was projected to finish among the top teams in the CAA – and for a good reason. The Huskies have gone 45-19 in conference play during the previous four seasons. The program has started out this season an unthinkable 0-8 in Colonial play.
These two teams faced each other on Monday, and Northeastern jumped out to a 12-point first-half lead. That lead slowly deteriorated, and a late scoring drought by the Huskies ultimately doomed them. The box score was extremely even, with Northeastern hitting 46% from the field to UNC Wilmington’s 40%.
The slow start is nearly unimaginable for a coach as talented as Bill Coen. He has a well-balanced offensive attack with five players averaging in double-figures. Northeastern has historically been one of the top defensive groups in the conference under Coen. In fact, the group ranks fourth in the CAA in defensive efficiency despite the horrid start to the season.
UNC Wilmington is playing its first game at home after four consecutive road games in the last week.
The Seahawks lack a strong post defender, and Chris Doherty exposed that on Monday. Doherty went 6-for-11 from the field — including 11 trips to the charity stripe — and scored 19 points.
I anticipate Northeastern to lean on Doherty even more in Thursday’s rematch and find its first – long overdue – conference victory of the season.
Pick: Northeastern +4.5 (Play to +3)
Lipscomb vs. Jacksonville
The Jacksonville Dolphins return home looking not only to end a three-game losing streak, but also to defend their perfect record at home. Jacksonville is 8-0 at home with six more games to host. The Dolphins are 4-1 against the spread (ATS) inside Swisher Gymnasium as well.
Meanwhile, Lipscomb is coming off its second conference win of the season and now seeks its second road win. It’s been a rough start to the year for Bisons head coach Lennie Acuff, who is at risk of recording his first season below .500 since he arrived at Lipscomb three years ago.
Jacksonville’s offense is the worst in the ASUN in scoring, averaging just 66.5 points per contest. The Dolphins rank 306th in adjusted offensive efficiency (AdjO), and they also have problems with turnovers, giving up the ball on 21% of offense plays.
Jacksonville struggles around the basket and from the charity stripe as well, hitting 2-point shots at a paltry rate of 45.1% and making just 65.2% of their opportunities from the free throw line.
The Dolphins defense, on the other hand, is the best scoring defense in the ASUN, limiting opposing teams to 58.7 points per contest. Jacksonville has been particularly adept at limiting offensive rebounds and defending the 3, allowing opponents to shoot just 30.2% from deep. They also play at one of the slowest paces in the country, ranked 340th in adjusted tempo (AdjT).
Lipscomb is the second-worst scoring defense and the sixth-best scoring offense in the ASUN. Moreover, the Bisons play at an incredibly fast pace, ranking 62nd nationally. While I grant that they are the better offensive team, I don’t think they will have success against the Dolphins.
Jacksonville has been its best at home this season. The Dolphins offense has struggled, but Lipscomb’s defense is virtually non-existent — thereby erasing one of Jacksonville’s greatest deficiencies.
Jacksonville’s defense should be able to limit the Bisons considerably with their presence around the basket and ability to defend around the arc as well.
Back the Dolphins to stay undefeated at home.
Pick: Jacksonville -3 (Play to -4)
FIU vs. UTSA
This is a good matchup for Florida International, a team that attempts a crazy volume of 3-point shots. Over 48% of FIU’s field goal attempts come from behind the arc, which is the 15th-highest rate in the country. The good news for the Panthers is that tonight they face a UTSA defense that ranks 337th in 3-point FG% allowed, per KenPom.
FIU loves to get out in transition and loves to run pick and roll. In fact, the Panthers report the 17th-highest pick’n’roll rate in the country. That tendency projects favorably against UTSA, who ranks 251st in the country in PPP allowed in pick’n’roll defense, per ShotQuality.
UTSA is an absolute mess right now. The Roadrunners have lost six consecutive games and are down three starters for the rest of the season. Their offense is one of the worst in college basketball as well: The Roadrunners are among the bottom-10 teams in effective field goal percentage, three point FG%, and 2-point FG%.
The Roadrunners don’t shoot a ton of 3s, and a lot of their shots come from inside. But, that is where FIU is very good defensively, allowing approximately 48% from inside the arc and 56% on shot attempts at the rim. Each of those stats rank inside the top 125 in Division-I college basketball.
So, given UTSA’s offensive deficiencies and shorthanded roster, I love the Panthers at -2.5. I would play FIU up to -3.5.
Pick: FIU -2.5 (Play to -3.5)
Northern Colorado vs. Weber State
By D.J. James
Northern Colorado hosts Weber State on Thursday night, and both teams lack the defensive wherewithal to match up with most teams in the Big Sky. Moreover, neither team has the ability to crash the glass, particularly on the offensive end. Nonetheless, Northern Colorado is only a short favorite as an opener and this is much too short.
Northern Colorado ranks 21st in the nation in effective field goal percentage (eFG%), per KenPom. The Bears adeptly attack opponents from both 2-point and 3-point range. Collectively, they shoot over 55.0% inside the arc and 36.8% outside.
Essentially, everyone in the Bears lineup can at least make some shots from downtown. Dru Kuxhausen, Matt Johnson II, Daylen Kountz and Dalton Knecht all shoot 36% or higher from outside the arc.
Weber State is one of the worst 3-point defensive teams in the country. The Wildcats allow 37.3% of opponents’ 3s to fall – a defensive deficit that Northern Colorado will exploit constantly in this game. Thirty-nine percent of Northern Colorado’s points have come from 3-point land.
Granted, the Bears are one of the weakest defensive teams in the country. But luckily for them, the Bears run at a similar pace as Weber State, and the teams share similar weaknesses. Both squads struggle in the rebounding category, they take care of the basketball and thrive offensively.
The advantage goes to the home squad.
Pick: Northern Colorado -1 (Play to -3)
Cal vs. UCLA
We know what UCLA does offensively. The Bruins attack you with their three wings and shoot a bunch of long 2s. UCLA ranks 18th in Division-I in percentage of 2-point jump shots taken (35.1%).
Well, that’s fine. Cal is rather comfortable defending those areas of the floor – as you can see by their defensive shot-chart below:
Photo Credit: @CBBAnalytics
Plus, Cal even welcomes these shots, ranking top-60 nationally in percentage of 2-point jump shots allowed (29.3%).
But the Golden Bears are frisky on defense in general. They’re top-50 nationally in defensive eFG% (46.3%) and top-20 in defensive rebounding rate.
Furthermore, Cal has plenty of length, with the 18th-highest average height (78.5”) and a 2-through-5 that each stands between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-7.
All in all, I like this defensive matchup for the Bears. They’ll be able to switch onto and off of UCLA’s wings and will be comfortable defending the Bruins’ style of play.
Cal can’t score. But — it will take care of the ball (52nd in turnover rate), work through the interior (341st in 3-point rate), and eat up clock (337th in tempo; 345th in average offensive possession length).
The Bears’ style of play is perfect to back as a huge underdog, because we’re catching tons of points in a slow-paced game that should only feature about 60 possessions.
That’s exactly how the game played out three weeks ago, when UCLA beat Cal in Berkeley 60-52. Cal shot just 1-for-14 from 3 that night, too!
I can’t see UCLA getting across 16 in a Rock Fight like this, so give me the Bears to keep it within a big number — especially with UCLA coming off a beatdown of third-ranked Arizona.