Thursday College Basketball Best Bets: Our Top 6 Picks & Predictions, Including Vermont, Arizona State and San Francisco
Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Arizona, home of Arizona State Sun Devils basketball.
- Find college basketball picks and predictions for Thursday, Nov. 11 as our betting staff delivers their 6 best bets for tonight's NCAA hoops action.
- Two of our bettors are backing Vermont against Northern Iowa, hammering down on a line that opened at Vermont +2.5 and has since been bet all the way to +6 across the market.
- Check out the other games we're betting tonight, including Arizona State vs. UC Riverside and San Francisco vs. Prairie View A&M.
With Villanova vs. UCLA and Texas vs. Gonzaga on deck for this weekend, Thursday offers another rather calming slate before the storm.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no money to be made or value to find.
Our staff has you covered as they offer up their six top selections of the evening, including games that consist of Vermont, Arizona State and San Francisco.
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 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.|
Vermont vs. Northern Iowa
Some odd things are happening with this line. Northern Iowa opened as a -2.5 favorite, but has been bet up to -6 in the span of only a few hours this morning.
Northern Iowa is coming off a horrific loss to Nicholls, where its best player AJ Green, who was coming off of hip surgery, went 1-of-14 from the field. Green will improve as the season goes along, but this Northern Iowa team has some issues.
Last season, Northern Iowa was the worst 3-point shooting team in the Missouri Valley, as the Panthers only shot 30.8% from behind the arc during conference play.
They also weren’t that great against man defense, averaging only 0.86 points per possession. That is a problem when facing Vermont, which primarily plays man-to-man defense.
Vermont is one of the most experienced teams in the entire country, as nine of its top 10 are seniors, including the 2020 America East Player of the Year, Ryan Davis.
Side note: Davis vs. Austin Phyfe is going to be fascinating matchup in the post, but Northern Iowa was 310th in 2-point FG% allowed last season. Vermont shot 54.4% from inside the arc last season, so it’s going to be a really difficult matchup for UNI.
Vermont is a half court team that plays at a slow pace, but if it is able to get out in transition, it should be able to torch Northern Iowa. Why? The Catamounts had the 27th best eFG% and put up 1.17 points per possession in transition. Meanwhile, Northern Iowa had the worst transition defense in the MVC last season, allowing 1.07 points per possession, per Synergy.
KenPom only has Northern Iowa projected as a -2.05 favorite, so I think there is some value on the Catamounts on the road at the McCloud Center at +6.
Pick: Vermont +6 (Play to +5)
Vermont vs. Northern Iowa
Northern Iowa couldn’t catch a break in 2020 after losing its star point guard AJ Green for the year in the third game of the season. The Panthers’ season ended in the second round of the Missouri Valley Tournament due to a COVID outbreak.
Northern Iowa returns everyone from last year’s 10-15 squad, including a healthy Green.
In his first outing back, he didn’t look like the same player that averaged 20 points a game in 2019. Green went just 1-of-14 from the field against Nicholls, including 0-of-7 from downtown.
He wasn’t the only one that experienced shooting woes, as the team combined to go just 3-of-23 from 3-point territory, good for 13%. Northern Iowa shot 30% on its field-goal attempts on opening night.
The Panthers welcome Vermont, which played only American East opponents last season due to COVID.
The Catamounts return nearly their entire lineup of upperclassmen that went 10-5 last year.
Offensively they’re one of the more efficient groups as they ranked 29th in 2-point field goal percentage. The offense is played through 6-foot-8 forward Ryan Davis, who averaged 18.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last year.
They also own a dominant one-two punch at the guard position in Ben Shungu and Justin Mazzulla, who are capable of holding Green to another tough night shooting.
This game opened with Northern Iowa as 2.5-point favorites and has shot up to over six at some spots. That’s an overreaction to a UNI team that went just 6-15-2 against the spread last season and already lost outright as 14.5-point favorites.
I’m taking the six points in what I anticipate being a slow-paced game that comes down to the wire.
Pick: Vermont +6 (Play to +5)
Evansville vs. IUPUI
By D.J. James
Both of these teams will likely drag up the rear of their respective conferences.
IUPUI lost its best three scorers from the 2020-2021 campaign in Marcus Burk, Jaylen Minnett and Elyjah Goss.
Evansville is not in the same position, but it did lose Samari Curtis, who averaged 10.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.
Both teams have a few transfers coming through the pipeline, but this will not propel them to the top of the Horizon League and Missouri Valley, respectively.
IUPUI runs at a much faster pace than it displayed in its first game on Tuesday night against the Butler Bulldogs. The final score of that game was 56-47, as the Jaguars shot just 3-of-23 from 3-point range.
Transfer B.J. Maxwell led the way with 14 points followed by freshman Boston Stanton III. Losing Burk contributes to the lack of outside shooting, as he was the only player on the team over the 40% mark last season.
Evansville provided a similar roadmap. The Purple Aces lost to Cincinnati 65-43 on Tuesday night, but they played more in line with last year. They ranked 355th out of 358 NCAA teams in adjusted tempo, via KenPom, and also held the ball 21.5 seconds-per-possession in 2020-21.
Evan Kuhlman and Noah Frederking both averaged over 40% from downtown last season, but they struggled in the opening loss. That should provide some positive offensive regression for the Purple Aces.
Given how much of their team has returned, fans should expect a similar-paced game vs. IUPUI. Blaise Beauchamp could provide an offensive boost as a JUCO transfer, but this is one of the only jolts their offense will receive.
Evansville should dictate the pace of this game. The total remains at 136.5 and KenPom has it at 131, so there is some value here.
Sure, Evansville had one of the worst-rated defenses in 2020-2021 (315th in defensive efficiency), but IUPUI still has to discover its identity.
This should signal to the under.
Pick: Under 136.5 (Play to 132)
South Carolina State vs. Charleston
The South Carolina State Bulldogs will make the short 78-mile trip to the College of Charleston Thursday night.
In their first game Tuesday night, the Bulldogs had an impressive showing against Eastern Carolina. As a 22.5-point underdog, they kept the game close nearly the whole way and lost by just eight.
Forward Cameron Jones led SCST with 15 points and nine rebounds, as the transfer from Northwest Florida State made quite an impression for anyone who thought he would be just a role player.
The offense came from unlikely suspects, as Rahsaan Edwards and senior Deaquan Williams only combined for 11 points on the night. But the most impressive part of the Bulldogs’ performance may have been their defense. They limited East Carolina to an effective field goal percentage of just 35.6%.
The Charleston Cougars have yet to play a game and first-year head coach Pat Kelsey brings with him a lot of new faces — they only return one starter from last season.
One of the most important additions to the Cougars will be John Meeks, a graduate transfer from Bucknell who averaged 25.3 points in six games last season for the Bison.
While it may be just one game, the Bulldogs have played together as a team, whereas the Cougars will be playing in their first game. SCST was impressive against Eastern Carolina, who I believe is a better team than Charleston.
It may be a small sample size, but I feel like 17.5 is too many points here. I think the public will see a lower KenPom ranking and discount SCST as just a bad team from the MEAC.
I’m in no rush to bet this at 17.5. I think it will go up, but if it doesn’t, I would bet it as low as 17.
Pick: South Carolina State +17.5 (Play to +17)
UC Riverside vs. Arizona State
The Arizona State Sun Devils (1-0) are hosting the UC Riverside Highlanders (0-1) at home in Tempe, AZ after successfully defeating Portland earlier this week, 76-60. The Sun Devils failed to cover the season opener as 22-point favorites.
Meanwhile, the Highlanders lost to San Diego State, 66-53, and just missed covering by a hook.
After starting slow from the field, the Sun Devils found their rhythm later in the first half. After going 5-for-11 from beyond the arc in the second half, five Sun Devils finished the game scoring in double digits.
Graduate student Kimani Lawrence led the way for the Sun Devils with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Lawrence has been on fire since the end of last season, shooting nearly 60% from the field.
In the last four seasons under Bobby Hurley, Arizona State has been outstanding in the month of November, going 12-0 and winning 86% of its games.
The Highlanders are still looking to consolidate their new pieces after adding Temple transfer JP Moorman II and freshman Jhaylon Martinez. Center Callum McRae scored 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting in the losing effort against the Aztecs.
Arizona State has an adjusted offensive efficiency of 103.8 points per 100 possessions. On the opposite side of the court, the Sun Devils have an adjusted defensive efficiency of 93.1 points per 100 possessions.
After only one game, UC Riverside performs slightly worse than Arizona State in the same statistics, with an ADJOE and ADJDE of 102.3 and 94.8, respectively.
My model is projecting the Sun Devils as 14.5-point favorites in this game based on efficiency stats, which should be taken with a grain of salt at this point.
When incorporating a home-court advantage and a talent adjustment for a Pac-12 team versus a Big West team, the spread for this game approached nearly 20 in Arizona State’s favor.
The Sun Devils are well coached and have performed very well early in the season under coach Hurley. Additionally, they have a talent advantage that is being discounted in the current spread after failing to cover a large number in their first game.
Lay the points.
Pick: Arizona State -9.5 (Play to -10)
Prairie View A&M vs. San Francisco
By Mike Randle
Prairie View A&M is the class of the SWAC, coming off a perfect 13-0 regular season last year. The Panthers push the pace and force turnovers at an alarming rate, ranking second-best in the country last season.
Prairie View A&M competed well in its opening game at Saint Mary’s, trailing by only three points at the half. The Gaels shot a blistering 13-of-31 (41.3%) from 3, a surprising result given the Panthers’ prowess at defending the arc. They only allowed opponents to shoot 31.8% from beyond the arc last year.
They face a San Francisco team that had the fourth-highest percentage of points (43.5%) from the 3-point line last year. I expect the Panthers to adjust their perimeter defense against the Dons, needing to prevent a deep-ball barrage in a second consecutive non-conference game.
Senior DeWayne Cox totaled five steals against Saint Mary’s and can disrupt an offensive flow on his own.
The Panthers were 8-of-18 (44.4%) from 3 vs. Saint Mary’s and have four main players back from last year’s undefeated SWAC season.
San Francisco is brilliantly coached by Todd Golden and has a fantastic backcourt in Jamaree Bouyea and Khalil Shabazz. But with the explosive talent and veteran leadership of Prairie View A&M, this is too many points to lay against a San Francisco team that just allowed 64 points to an inferior LIU squad.
Prairie View A&M is on the second game of its West Coast trip, so it isn’t battling jet lag issues. The Dons should win, but 18.5 is a big number to lay against the SWAC’s best team.