College Basketball Best Bets: Our Staff’s 5 Favorite Picks for Cal vs. UCLA, Colorado State vs. Utah State, More (Thursday, Jan. 21)
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images. Pictured: Jaime Jaquez Jr.
- Thursday features another packed slate of college hoops action..
- Our staff broke down five games beginning at 8 p.m. ET and running through 11 p.m. ET for their favorite bets of the night.
- Check out each individual pick complete with full betting analysis below.
Once again, we have a night jam-packed with college basketball action.
Our college hoops staff broke down five games and shared a betting pick for each. Check out full breakdowns for each game below and feel free to navigate to any game by using the table below.
College Basketball Odds & Picks
All listed odds have been updated as of Wednesday afternoon. Specific bet recommendations at the end of each matchup breakdown come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing on Wednesday afternoon night.
Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.
Loyola Marymount vs. Saint Mary’s
It’s been a real struggle for Saint Mary’s offensively this season, as it’s averaging 0.89 points per possession in WCC play. The main issue is the Gaels are shooting the ball terribly, with the worst effective field goal percentage in the conference.
They also have shot only 40% from inside the arc, which is a major issue since 64% of their field goal attempts are coming from 2-point range.
One other thing that is not going to make things any easier for the Gaels is the status of guard Alex Ducas, who has missed the last five games and is averaging 10.9 points and 5.3 rebounds on the season.
Their offensive struggles are likely going to continue because Loyola Marymount has the second-best defense in the WCC and has allowed only 0.86 points per possession in their last three games.
There is no sugarcoating it, the Lions offense has been terrible this season, as they’re scoring only 0.95 points per possession for the season and shooting only 30% from deep.
However, Loyola Marymount mainly likes to get the ball as close as possible to the basket, as 42.8% of its shots come at the rim, per Hoop-Math.
The Lions shoot over 60% on shots in close, so the Gaels’ stellar paint defense is going to be put to the test. Despite coming into conference play as one of the best defenses in the WCC, the Gaels have taken a step back, allowing 1.02 points per possession in conference play.
I have Saint Mary’s projected as only a -0.24 favorite, so I think there’s some value on the Lions at +2.5.
Pick: Loyola Marymount +2.5
Austin Peay vs. Tennessee Tech
Tennessee Tech is 5-1 ATS in its last six games, but the Golden Eagles have found themselves in deep water when facing prohibitive favorites this season.
In Tech’s seven games in which it closed as an 11-point or larger underdog, it’s 2-5 ATS, including three losses in a row at the betting window.
Austin Peay, meanwhile, is comfortable playing the role of a home favorite. Since 2018, the Governors are 14-6-1 as a home favorite, which is the 12th-best ATS home winning percentage in the entire country.
But if recent history leaves you unmoved, there’s always Terrible Terry Taylor.
Austin Peay’s walking double-double is on track for his second straight 20 & 10 season and has finally cleaned up his act at the foul line (65.2% last year, 83.3% this year).
The Golden Eagles allow opponents to shoot better than 55% from inside the arc, which means Taylor is in line for another one of his monster OVC performances.
Taylor also gives the Governors a major advantage on the offensive glass, evidenced by their 12.3 offensive boards per game (10th). Even if their shots aren’t falling early, the Govs can rely on second-chance buckets against these OVC cellar dwellers.
In the Govs-Golden Eagles last three meetings, Austin Peay has bested Tennessee Tech by 11, 13, and 25 points, with two of those runaway wins coming in Cookeville. I expect more of the same here, with Austin Peay winning by close to 20.
Pick: Austin Peay -11.5
Jacksonville State vs. Murray State
By Mike Randle
Murray State has not been performing at its usual elite level coming off three consecutive 20-win seasons.
The Racers are just 5-6 overall and 2-4 in Ohio Valley Conference play. They are just 2-7 ATS this season and have failed to cover five of their past six games.
This will be played at a slow pace, with both teams ranking 258th or worse in adjusted tempo, per KenPom, making the extra point even more important.
Jacksonville State has been a strong road opponent, losing in overtime at Eastern Kentucky and by one at Morehead State.
North Carolina 6-foot-10 transfer Brandon Huffman was averaging 15.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game prior to a tough matchup with Nick Muszynski and Belmont.
Jacksonville State is holding opponents to just 48.2% from inside the arc, which will cause trouble for a Murray State group that generates 56.4% of its points from inside the arc (most in the Ohio Valley Conference).
I’m taking the points with a Gamecocks team that has been a feisty road dog.
Pick: Jacksonville State +7
Cal vs. UCLA
UCLA has been playing stellar basketball of late, rising into the AP Poll for the first time since the preseason.
The Bruins are the Pac-12’s most efficient offense, rattling off more than 81 points in each of their last four conference games.
I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking UCLA will continue to roll through the conference, yet the Bruins are ripe for a bout of regression.
In seven Pac-12 games, UCLA is shooting a blazing, and unsustainable, 44.6% from outside the 3-point arc. Of late, the Bruins have been particularly hot, shooting 45.8% from long range in their last four games.
Mark Fox’s Cal Golden Bears may look particularly unprepared to defend UCLA’s perimeter shooting, sitting at the bottom of the conference in 3-point percentage allowed.
That stat would be troubling if the Bears were allowing a ton of 3-point attempts, yet that hasn’t been the case.
Cal’s opponents are averaging just 19.1 outside attempts per game, second-lowest in the conference — yet shooting a conference-high 42.2 percent on those looks. That suggests bad luck more than Cal struggling to close-out defensively on shooters.
With potential regression working in both directions here, the 9-point spread is enough to bet on Cal to keep things close at home in Berkeley.
Pick: Cal +9
Colorado State vs. Utah State
The Utah State Aggies look to remain undefeated in the Mountain West Conference as they welcome the Colorado State Rams on Thursday night.
These teams match up for the second time in three days after an 83-64 Utah State win on Tuesday.
Utah State opened the season losing three of its first four games. Since then, it has ripped off an 11-game win streak, including a perfect 8-0 conference record.
Although, I think this may be attributed to the fact eight of those 11 wins are against teams ranked 200th or worse, according to KenPom.
The Aggies did pull off two wins over San Diego State, although SDSU was missing its leading scorer in Matt Mitchell in one of those affairs. Taking out those two games against SDSU, Utah State’s opponents have an abysmal 2-22 record in Mountain West play.
Colorado State has also had a strong season, sitting at 10-3 overall and 7-2 in the Mountain West.
This is a good spot for Colorado State, which wants to avenge its 19-point loss on Tuesday and move to 8-3 in conference play.
The Aggies shot lights out from 3-point land in that game, making 10 of their 19 attempts, which is 17.2% higher than their season average.
Utah State averages only 13 trips to the free-throw line per game this year, while on Tuesday, it doubled that number by taking 28 free throws. That was a double negative for Colorado State, which had three players — including two starters — in foul trouble throughout the game.
I think Utah State may be overvalued due to beating up on subpar and injured teams. Colorado State should respond strongly after laying an egg last game and keep this game close.
I am backing the Rams +8.5 and still see value on them down to +8.
Pick: Colorado State +8.5