College Basketball Odds, Best Bets: Top Picks for Thursday’s Late-Night Games, Including UNLV vs. Boise State & More (March 9)
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images. Pictured: Naje Smith (Boise State)
If you thought we were finished after the evening window, well you were wrong because there’s still plenty of value late into the night.
Our staff has five best bets across four different conferences for Thursday’s late-night games.
So, dive in now and get the top college basketball odds, best bets and picks, including UNLV vs. Boise State and more.
5 College Basketball Best Bets for Thursday’s Late-Night Slate
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college basketball staff is targeting from Thursday’s late-night 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.|
UNLV vs. Boise State (Mountain West)
UNLV runs a hyper-aggressive defense that attempts to force turnovers and run out in transition from those turnovers.
Boise State is quite good at playing under ball pressure, led by experienced point guard Marcus Shaver Jr. He’s not going to turn the ball over often, and the Broncos are very effective at controlling the pace and forcing teams to execute in the half-court against them.
That’s where UNLV really struggles offensively. Boise State doesn’t turn over opponents much, but it’s elite on the defensive glass and has a lot of length to get out on shooters.
Synergy grades out UNLV in the 80th percentile in transition efficiency, but just the 36th percentile when in the half-court.
The biggest flaw for the Broncos’ defense is stopping post-up bigs, but UNLV runs out of the post less than almost any team in the country.
UNLV managed just 0.96 PPP and 1.01 PPP in the two meetings during the regular season against this Boise defense. Both of those meetings had exactly 69 possessions, but I’d expect fewer in a postseason tournament setting.
If we’re only getting 65-to-66 possessions, then the under is the value side in this meeting.
UNLV’s defense concedes a ton of 3s, too, and the Broncos have shot two percent above expectation from long range this season, per ShotQuality.
I’d bet the under at 136.5 or better in this Mountain West quarterfinal.
Pick: Under 137.5 (Play to 136.5)
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TCU vs. Kansas State (Big 12)
Eddie Lampkin Jr.’s departure from the team is a long-term blow for TCU’s hopes at making an NCAA tournament run, but tonight still presents itself as a strong opportunity to back the Horned Frogs against Kansas State.
Even without Lampkin, TCU can run a nine-man rotation.
This is an incredibly disruptive defense that is relentless. The Frogs force turnovers at the 26th-highest rate and push in transition on nearly 18% of all their possessions.
That’s bad news for a Kansas State team that often deals with foul trouble (299th in FTA/FGA). The Wildcats also struggle with defensive rebounding, which is an issue against a TCU team that lives in the paint and on the glass.
Second-chance and transition opportunities should be plentiful here.
While the Horned Frogs are one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country, they’re inside the top 100 in offensive rebounding, 2-point% and free-throw rate.
Mike Miles Jr. is also back and fully healthy as the leader of the offense (17.2 PPG). He was a key piece that was missing in TCU’s loss to Kansas State earlier in the season.
Kansas State is 11th in 3-point defense, which doesn’t matter as much here against a TCU team that rarely shoots from the perimeter.
The Wildcats rely heavily on the two-man game of Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson — who have been nothing short of impressive all season long — which gives me hesitancy to back them here.
Instead, I think TCU has the edge. The Frogs’ physicality is draining and second-chance opportunities and free-throw trips should be consistent on Thursday night.
It’s hard to stop the Horned Frogs once they get going downhill, and I expect them to roll in the second round of the Big 12 Tournament.
Pick: TCU -2 (Play to -3)
I think TCU matches up really well with Kansas State. The Horned Frogs have one of the best transition offenses in the country, which should lead to success against a Wildcats defense that has struggled in that department.
Per Synergy, KSU ranks in the 19th percentile nationally in points per possession allowed in transition, per Synergy.
TCU should also live on the offensive glass when the shots aren’t falling in the half-court and can turn Kansas State over on the other end.
These teams split in the regular season, but star guard Miles didn’t start in the TCU loss.
Kansas State just isn’t the same team away from Manhattan, and I do believe TCU remains undervalued after dealing with key suspensions and injuries since the start of the season.
Pick: TCU -2 (Play to -2.5)
Alabama A&M vs. Southern (SWAC)
Alabama A&M (14-17, 10-8) and Southern University (16-15, 8-10) will square off this evening in first-round action in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Tournament in Birmingham, AL.
The Bulldogs entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed and swept the Jaguars in the season series, earning a 82-61 victory at home and then a more tightly-contested 68-65 victory on the road just last Saturday.
While No. 5 seed Southern came up short in both contests this season, there’s still value on the Jaguars as favorites in tonight’s matchup given the strength on their defense.
Southern has the third-ranked defense in AdjD, per KenPom, ranking in the top half of all teams nationally.
Southern plays at high tempo, with 71.3 possessions per 40 minutes, which is first in the SWAC and 26th in the nation. The up-tempo play hasn’t resulted in an out-performance offensively, but Alabama A&M has had equal problems generating points this season.
The combination of Southern’s strong defense and high tempo should be enough to advance it to the next round of the SWAC Tournament.
In each contest between the two this year, Southern has gotten better, and I think the third time will be a charm tonight.
In Saturday’s win, Alabama A&M shot lights out from the field, draining 56.5% of its field goal attempts, well in excess of its 44.3% make rate this season.
Meanwhile, Southern shot just 41.8% from the field, which was below its season average of 43.1%. It was still able to keep it very close, though.
Look for Alabama A&M’s field goal shooting to simmer down in tonight’s contest and for the Southern defense and tempo to be the differentiators tonight.
I’m projecting Southern as 4.5-point favorites, and I like it to move on as it finally gets past Alabama A&M.
Pick: Southern -4 (Play to -4.5)
NC State vs. Clemson (ACC)
Last night, the Wolfpack looked the part of a real contender to win the ACC Tournament.
Terquavion Smith was dynamite from behind the arc, and backcourt mate Jarkel Joiner pitched in plenty, as well.
They now face a Clemson team that swept them in the regular season.
While the Tigers torched NC State just a few weeks ago in Raleigh, I expect Thursday night to go much differently. North Carolina State should be much sharper from start to finish, and I don’t see Clemson lighting it up from beyond the arc the way it did in the most recent meeting.
Lastly, I expect the Wolfpack faithful to be out in full force for this one, giving their team a bit of a home-court advantage.
I know Clemson needs this game for its NCAA tournament hopes, but I’m rolling with the more talented backcourt in this one.
Pick: NC State PK
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