College Basketball Odds & Picks: Our Staff’s 3 Best Bets for Thursday, Including Wyoming vs. Northern Iowa
Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images. Pictured: AJ Green (UNI)
With the mini holiday break beginning on Friday, today's games are part of the final full slate of college basketball — beyond four Diamond Head Classic matchups on Christmas Day — until December 28.
The value is plentiful throughout the day on Thursday, so our staff breaks down their three best bets across three different games.
Dive in below to make some cash on college hoops.
Thursday's 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 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.|
Liberty vs. Stanford
Stanford has scathed by the tail end of non-conference play, and Thursday provides the perfect opportunity to fade the Cardinal as they take on Liberty in Hawaii.
The Flames are live dogs for multiple reasons, but none more important than Ritchie McKay’s pack-line defense. The Tony Bennett disciple forces opponents to beat them via the 3 ball and gives up no easy 2s.
That is a problem for Stanford, which does not shoot particularly well. The Cardinal connect at a 32.6% clip, 204th in the country. They are the fourth-tallest team in the country and thrive on getting inside looks and grabbing second-chance opportunities. It’s what Jaiden Delaire and Harrison Ingram do best.
Liberty also won’t be giving up many offensive rebounds. If you try to force the ball inside, turnovers will be plentiful. Stanford has giveaway issues, too, ranking 292nd in the country, per KenPom.
On the opposite end, Liberty loves to slow the pace down, work out of the pick-and-roll and often find open looks. The Flames rank 73rd in 3-point percentage and an even better 67th in 2-point percentage.
Darius McGhee is the star of the Flames yet again, averaging 19.8 points per game and taking 36.5% of the shots when on the floor. Opposing defenses are forced to key in on him so much, it opens plenty of opportunities for other players to step up.
Those other players are mainly Keegan McDowell and Shiloh Robinson, who have doubled their production from a season ago. Tack on Kyle Rode’s passing out of the pick-and-roll and post, and this Liberty offense often gets solid shots off.
The Flames won’t get many second-chance opportunities, rather they get back on defense and settle into the pack-line. It’s why if Stanford is unable to push in transition, the game favors the underdog.
To me, this is the perfect spot to fade a Power 5 opponent against a lively mid-major. Sit back and watch McGhee cook.
Pick: Liberty +2.5 (Play to +2)
Wyoming vs. Northern Iowa
Sharp money has already moved this line from -1.5 to -2.5. But I love the Cowboys here, and I am willing to lay around 3.
Very few teams work through the post more than Wyoming, which posts up nearly a quarter of the time. Center Graham Ike is the third-highest usage player nationally, contributing on 36.1% of Wyoming’s possessions. He’s used effectively in both post-up situations (1.007 PPP, 79th percentile) and the pick-and-roll (1.105 PPP, 66th percentile).
Graham Ike puts Wyoming up 64-62! Huskies take a timeout with 53.5 on the clock! pic.twitter.com/yL6BTBNDM9
— Andy Dieckhoff (@andrewdieckhoff) November 19, 2021
Well, UNI can’t defend the interior. The Panthers’ frontcourt rotation stands at 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-6, and they’re bottom-30 nationally in FG% allowed at the rim (65.6%).
Also, UNI can’t defend ball screens. Not only is Ike great in the PnR, but Wyoming point guard Hunter Maldonado is savvy running it as well, scoring exactly 1.00 PPP in those sets (88th percentile). Meanwhile, UNI is allowing .893 PPP to PnR ball-handlers (seventh percentile).
Finally, while Wyoming struggled to create good perimeter shots against Stanford (4-for-23 from 3), that shouldn’t be a problem against UNI. The Panthers are allowing 1.028 PPP in spot-up situations this season (fifth percentile).
This is a bad matchup for UNI, and AJ Green will have to pop off for the Panthers to win. That’s possible, but I’ll fade them anyway.
Pick: Wyoming -2.5 (Play to -3)
George Mason vs. Wisconsin
By D.J. James
Editor's Note: This replacement game has been canceled due to COVID-19 within Wisconsin's program, according to Stadium's Jeff Goodman.
In a last-minute change of events, Wisconsin will now play the George Mason Patriots in Madison. Morgan State had to cancel on the Badgers due a COVID-19 outbreak on its team.
This now puts two of college basketball’s slowest teams on the floor in one arena. Wisconsin ranks 288th in adjusted tempo, per KenPom, while the Patriots rank 285th. Essentially, they both force opponents to use up much of their shot clock when on defense, while taking their time on the offensive end.
In addition, surprisingly, Wisconsin has one of the worst effective field goal percentages in the NCAA (45.9%). The Badgers do not turn the ball over much at all, but they shoot a collective 29.6% from beyond the arc and 46.9% inside the 3-point line.
George Mason is brutal at defending 3s (33.8%), but given Wisconsin’s lack of outside shooting — besides Johnny Davis and Brad Davison — it will likely have trouble.
George Mason’s strength is shooting. The Patriots hit around 36% of their outside shots, in comparison, but they tend to launch a ton of 3s. In their last three losses, they shot 21%, 33% and 22%, respectively, from beyond the arc.
If they do not hit outside shots, they are sunk, and Wisconsin’s defense is elite enough to stop them. Since 40.2% of their offensive scoring comes from downtown, look for Wisconsin to hold them to a similar percentage.
All of these signs point to the under, particularly in the early minutes of the game.