Thursday College Basketball Odds & Picks: Our Staff’s 5 Best Bets, Including Minnesota vs. Northwestern, San Diego State vs. Boise State & More (Feb. 25)
Justin Casterline/Getty Images. Pictured: Marcus Carr.
- Conference tournament season is here with the Horizon League tournament kicking off.
- Our staff broke down five games to celebrate — including one Horizon League matchup — and shared a betting pick for each as their best bets of Thursday's slate.
- Check out each individual pick complete with betting analysis below.
The Horizon League tournament begins today, which means conference tournament season is officially upon us.
Check out the full analysis and picks for all five games, and feel free to navigate to any game by using the table below.
College Basketball Odds & Picks
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SIU Edwardsville vs. Tennessee-Martin
By Mike Randle
SIU Edwardsville just finished a brutal stretch of games against many of the top teams in the Ohio Valley. The Cougars are coming off a four-game stretch against Murray State (twice), at Austin Peay, and Morehead State.
They lost a close 56-48 home game to Morehead State despite being without leading-scorer Sidney Wilson (13.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG) for undisclosed reasons. If Wilson plays, this line immediately gains value, but I’m backing the Cougars even if Wilson is out.
UT-Martin has suffered through a difficult season that began with the sudden passing of head coach Anthony Stewart.
The Skyhawks have battled but lost their last four games by an average of 19.3 points per game.
UT-Martin’s defense ranks last in the OVC in almost every defensive category. It has allowed opponents to shoot over 38% from 3 and over 57% from the field. Offensively, it sits last in conference play in effective field goal percentage and 2-point percentage. It’s been a bad year for the Skyhawks.
Even without Wilson, the Cougars can rely on senior guard Mike Adewunmi (13.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG), who scored 20 points in their 76-60 win at UT-Martin on Jan. 30.
UT-Martin has yet to win a road OVC game, losing all seven contests by 12 points or more.
I’ll take SIU-Edwardsville and lay the small number with a Cougars team that finally faces an opponent with inferior talent.
Green Bay vs. Purdue Fort Wayne
The Horizon League conference tournament kicks off tonight with a barn burner of a matchup between 7-14 Purdue Fort Wayne and 8-16 Green Bay.
Purdue Fort Wayne is one of the streakiest shooting teams in the country but has been lighting up opponents from all over the floor during Horizon League play. It ranks second in the conference from behind the arc and No. 1 from 2-point range.
In the two meetings against Green Bay this season, the Dons shot the ball well below their season average from 3-point range, which was odd because Green Bay is well below average when it comes to defending the perimeter.
If the Mastodons can shoot somewhere close to their 39.6% average from 3-point range, we are going to see a very high-scoring game because their defense has been atrocious this season,
Green Bay absolutely torched Purdue Fort Wayne from beyond the arc in their two meetings this season, shooting over 42%.
Although that’s not really saying much, because the Mastodons allow a whopping 1.10 points per possession in Horizon League play this season.
Even though Green Bay lit up Purdue Fort Wayne from deep, the way teams gash its defense is by going inside. Purdue Fort Wayne allows 54.5% from 2-point range and 61.5% on shot attempts at the rim, per Hoop-Math.
So, I have a hard time seeing how Purdue Fort Wayne is going to drastically improve from allowing over 1.15 points per possession to Green Bay in their two meetings.
I have the total projected at 149.20, so I think there’s plenty of value on the over at 144 points.
Eastern Illinois vs. Southeast Missouri State
Back to the well with EIU for a third straight game.
Even after pulling off big outright upsets on the road over Austin Peay and Murray State, I think the Panthers still remain undervalued in the market.
EIU was just hammered by injuries and COVID-19 over the past two months and simply couldn’t get healthy. As a result, it had to use 19 different starting lineups and make do without multiple key pieces for a large portion of conference play. The results were ugly as you might expect, which is why a lot of pure mathematical projections still hate this team.
But the Panthers are now almost fully healthy and playing their best basketball of the season.
This is a senior-laden group fighting with three other teams (SEMO being one of those) for the final two spots in the OVC conference tournament.
I expect a fully-focused effort from the jump here against an SEMO team that embarrassed EIU by 30+ in their first meeting. However, George Dixon, Jordan Skipper-Brown, Mack Smith and Sammy Friday all didn’t play in that game. They have each since returned to the lineup.
Some of the season-long metrics may not reflect it, but there is a large talent discrepancy in this one. Give me the home Panthers -5.5. I wouldn’t go higher than -6.
Minnesota vs. Northwestern
On a neutral court, this point spread might seem more appropriate.
But Minnesota will be hosting Northwestern in Minneapolis, where the Gophers have been far better than on the road. Minnesota has yet to win a game away from the comfy confines of The Barn and has played noticeably worse on the road.
In eight games away from home, the Gophers are being outscored by more than 15 points per game. In 15 games at The Barn, however, Minnesota has lost just twice with an average margin of victory of over nine points per game.
Subtract a recent blowout loss to Illinois (which has pounded Minnesota in both meetings this season) and those numbers jump, with the Gophers winning home games on average by more than 12 points.
That Illinois drubbing came at a time when Minnesota was riddled by injuries. The Gophers certainly haven’t magically snapped back to full health, yet have made progress in that regard.
Facing a Northwestern team with nothing to play for and currently tumbling down a 13-game losing streak, the Gophers should be able to get back on track.
This game should be ugly, with Minnesota sporting the lowest-ranked offense in the Big Ten against Northwestern, owners of the worst defense in the league.
With the Gophers due for some shooting regression, after making just 29% from outside the arc to date in Big Ten play, Minnesota should have the upper hand and capitalize with a decisive victory in a must-win game.
San Diego State vs. Boise State
Boise State travels to Southern California on Thursday to face off against the leader of the Mountain West, San Diego State.
Boise leads the conference at 14-3, but the Aztecs are just on their heels having won eight games in a row. Those eight wins may have been against the bottom of the conference, but the Broncos dismantled those teams, winning by an average margin of 26.4 points per game.
These are the two most efficient offenses in the Mountain West, according to KenPom.
San Diego State is hitting 40.7% of its 3-point attempts this season, ranking first in the conference. Matt Mitchell serves as the leading scorer for the Aztecs and has hit the most 3s in the conference with 63 on the year.
This is an experienced SDSU team that starts four seniors and one junior. The Aztecs are a much more athletic group that applies defense pressure all over the court. They rank first in the conference in points allowed per game, defensive field goal percentage, and steals.
Boise hasn’t been the same team on the road as it has been at home this season, posting just a 6-4 record. The Broncos defense has allowed 12.1 more points per game on the road, where they have suffered all four of their defeats this season.
The Aztecs control their own destiny in the Mountain West.
A sweep of Boise and then a win against UNLV and San Diego State would secure the Mountain West Conference for the second year in a row.
I’m laying the six points with San Diego State, which I still feel is undervalued in this conference.