College Basketball Odds & Picks: Our Best Bets for Thursday’s Games, Including Oklahoma State vs. Baylor, Oklahoma vs. Texas, More (March 4)
John E. Moore III/Getty Images. Pictured: Brady Manek.
- Thursday's college basketball slate is a big one with plenty of top-25 action.
- The Big 12 has No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 17 Oklahoma State and No. 15 Texas vs. No. 16 Oklahoma going while the Big Ten offers No. 2 Michigan vs. Michigan State.
- Check out all of our staff's seven best bets for tonight's games below.
It’s a big college basketball day.
We have a number of top-25 matchups in the Big 12 on this fine Thursday, including No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 17 Oklahoma State and No. 15 Texas vs. No. 16 Oklahoma.
Four of our staff’s seven best bets of the day come from those two games, while the in-state rivalry game between No. 2 Michigan and Michigan State adds another layer of fun.
Come for those games, and stay for Jacksonville State vs. Murray State and Nicholls State vs. McNeese State.
Check out each individual pick below, and feel free to navigate to any game in the bunch by using the table below.
College Basketball Odds & Picks
All listed odds have been updated as of Thursday morning. 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.
Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.
#17 Oklahoma State vs. #3 Baylor
What a roller coaster the past two nights for my favorite bet.
On Tuesday, Youngstown (+3) missed at the end of regulation before losing by 4 in overtime. Fortunately, Abilene Christian (+1) did win it in the final seconds to avoid dreaded overtime. Let’s hope for less sweat tonight.
Two of my favorite bets are in the OVC games, which you can find in our daily conference tournament primer. But I’ll touch on another one I fancy in Oklahoma State +12.
You could argue the Pokes could have a letdown after sweeping rival Oklahoma last weekend, but it’s also not an ideal spot for Baylor. On Tuesday, the Bears clinched their first Big 12 regular-season title in 70 years with an overtime victory in Morgantown.
Not only could they potentially come out flat after making program history, legs could be an issue in their third game in six days in three cities, especially after recently coming off an extended break due to massive internal COVID-19 issues.
The defense just hasn’t looked the same since that hiatus. That could be problematic against Cade Cunningam and company. While Cunningham is the star of the show and one of the best players in the country, I’ve been really impressed with the supporting cast during Oklahoma State’s current five-game winning streak.
This team is really clicking and oozing with confidence. Also, I’m not banking on Isaac Likelele returning from injury, but there’s a chance he does, which would only help.
Oklahoma State will also mix up its defensive looks with some zone and press, which may slow down a potentially fatigued Baylor squad. The Pokes do turn it over a bit too much, which is worrisome against Baylor.
However, I’m not convinced this Baylor defense is all the way back to its peak just yet. I think Cunningham and company can have some success off the dribble and clean up on the offensive glass.
These teams met earlier this year, but both Cunningham and Rondel Walker didn’t suit up against a Baylor team that was rolling at the time. Even so, the Pokes still hung around for a while and actually led at the half. Still, it’s’ hard to put much stock into that result.
The Pokes have been fortunate in close games with an 8-4 record in games decided by five points or fewer — or in overtime, where they’re a perfect 4-0.
But I don’t need or expect an outright win.
We also could have a perfect opportunity to sneak in the backdoor if Baylor extends its lead to 15ish late. Don’t forget Baylor also struggles from the line at 68.7% for the season (247th) and dead last during league play at 66.3%. A few free-throw misses could end up deciding the cover.
Pick: Oklahoma State +12 (Play to +11)
#17 Oklahoma State vs. #3 Baylor
For starters, I had this game at 155, according to my power rankings.
Oklahoma State has been one of the most profitable over bets in major college basketball this season, cashing over 68% of the time. It also speeds teams up, which is music to Baylor’s ears.
The Bears are the nation’s second-most efficient teams offensively, and they’re coming off of a 94-point explosion against West Virginia in which they scored 81 in regulation. It was the kind of performance Baylor needed to finally shake off the rust of a three-week February layoff.
Defensively, Baylor is still allowing teams to score in bunches since returning to Big 12 play. Even lowly Iowa State reached the 70s, and Oklahoma State is feeling it offensively behind Cade Cunningham. The future lottery pick dropped 40 on Oklahoma two games ago and followed that up in the rematch with an impressive final 10 minutes in which he scored 13 points.
My only concern here is these teams foul shooting stroke, which leaves a lot to be desired. But given both teams’ offensive ceiling, I feel confident I won’t need 10+ from the line in the final minutes to sew this one up.
#17 Oklahoma State vs. #3 Baylor
Baylor has not looked like the same team since returning from the 21-day layoff due to COVID-19 precautions. The Bears have allowed opponents to score an average of 77.3 points in the three games since returning to play.
Last game out, Baylor let West Virginia shoot 46.4% from the field, 39.1% from 3-point range and committed 22 fouls, leading to 38 free-throw attempts.
But they’re still the Baylor Bears and own the third-most efficient offense in the country, scoring 123.2 points per every 100 possessions, according to KenPom. They rank first in the Big 12 in both 2-point and 3-point field goal percentage.
Oklahoma State’s offense has also been fantastic over the last four games, averaging 80.8 points. The Cowboys look to have taken a page out of Baylor’s playbook by dominating on the glass.
Oklahoma State out-rebounded Oklahoma, 81-57, in the two-game series over the weekend. The Cowboys have been extremely aggressive in driving to the basket recently, which should expose the tired legs of Baylor, causing even more fouls.
Oklahoma State connected on 58-of-115 2-point field goal attempts while getting to the line 53 times, hitting 81.1% of those two games.
In the first matchup, there were 147 points scored in the game. Oklahoma State was shorthanded and played zone in much of the game, which slowed down the pace a bit.
But that’s not the Cowboys’ bread-and-butter, as they own the fastest tempo in the Big 12.
They will look to catch the tired Bears off-guard and pick up the pace in this one. I’m playing the over in the rematch of these two teams, and I’m expecting an up-and-down game that will be played in the 160s.
#2 Michigan vs. Michigan State
Recent performance may be the reason for the discount on a team that can easily win the national championship.
Michigan’s loss to Illinois can be directly attributed to early foul troubles with the bigs, namely Franz Wagner and Hunter Dickinson. Once Michigan continued to play on the same side of the court with Austin Davis, it was all Illinois and Kofi Cockburn needed to dominate.
The result was shocking in that Michigan does not foul often, ranking first in the Big Ten in defense free-throw rate. The Wolverines are a team that does not send their opponent to the line. That is a key metric against a Michigan State team that relies on free throws as its highest source of point distribution.
Michigan State is on a heater after victories against Illinois, Ohio State and Indiana twice in the past two weeks. Those three teams all came to East Lansing giving the Spartans an advantage in a conference that has a home winning percentage of 59.8%.
Throwing the buy low-sell high approach with these two teams, this is a game between a Michigan team that gets to the free-throw line at the highest rate in the conference and a Michigan State team that fouls more than other team in the Big Ten.
Nicholls State vs. McNeese State
Nicholls State is on a fantastic run in the Southland, winning 13 of its 14 games and is tied for the lead in the conference with Sam Houston State.
The Colonels are the most fundamentally-sound offense in the conference, as they have the lowest turnover rate, block, and steal rate allowed, per KenPom.
Where they do most of their scoring is inside, as they are shooting a blistering 56.1% from 2-point range and 61.9% on shot attempts at the rim, per Hoop-Math.
However, surprisingly in their first matchup with McNeese State, they torched the Cowboys from behind the arc, shooting over 40%. They also grabbed 13 offensive rebounds in that game, so McNeese State will need to improve defensively if it’s are going to hang with Nicholls State in the second matchup.
McNeese State actually shoots the ball really well, ranking second in the conference in effective field goal percentage and first in 3-point percentage at over 39%.
The problem for the Cowboys is they do everything else quite poorly.
They are near the bottom of the conference in turnover rate, offensive rebound rate, and free-throw rate, so they truly do rely solely on the jump shot.
The main reason Nicholls State is 13-2 in conference play is because of its defense, which allows only 0.97 points per possession. The Colonels do pretty much everything well, so unless McNeese State gets really hot from the floor, I have a hard time seeing how it’s going to consistently break down Nicholls State’s defense.
I have Nicholls State projected as a -8.11 favorite on the road, so I think there’s value on the Colonels at -5.
Jacksonville State vs. Murray State
By Mike Randle
I have been much lower than the market on Murray State all season.
After years of dominance in the Ohio Valley Conference, the Racers have stumbled to a 13-12 overall record. Murray State’s defense has been well below its normal standards.
Last season, Murray State ranked first in effective field goal percentage allowed, 3-point percentage allowed, and 2-point percentage defensive efficiency. This season, the Racers’ defense has regressed, and they were swept by Jacksonville State twice.
The Gamecocks are playing their best basketball of the season, with seven wins in their past eight games. Their offense has generated 75 or more points in five of their past six games. Their 3-point efficiency is superb, with Darian Adams (15.6 PPG), Jalen Finch (11.2 PPG), Amanze Ngumezi (8.6 PPG), Kayne Henry (7.6 PPG), and Demaree King (6.4 PPG) all shooting above 36% from beyond the arc.
The Racers run their offense through 6-foot-10 forward KJ Williams (15.3 PPG, 8.4 RPG), but he has struggled against the Gamecocks’ 6-foot-10 senior, Brandon Huffman (10.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG). In their last matchup, Huffman outscored Williams, 15-8, while holding Murray’s State’s big man without an offensive rebound.
This is a matchup of two teams trending in opposite directions. The Racers have failed to cover three of their past four games, and are just 10-13 ATS on the season. Jacksonville State is an impressive 13-9-1 ATS, and have covered seven of its last eight contests.
While it’s a challenge to defeat a team three times in one season, I’m taking the Gamecocks with the points against a Murray State team they have clearly outclassed in the prior two meetings.
#16 Oklahoma vs. #15 Texas
Both of these teams have very specific game plans to find a win.
Texas wants to out-rebound its opponents and win offensively by prioritizing 3-point shots. Oklahoma looks to control the ball by avoiding turnovers and keep opponents off the foul line on defense.
The first time these teams played, most of those plans played to a wash, save for one exception. The Sooners absolutely dominated at the free-throw line. Oklahoma attempted 34 free throws to the Longhorns’ 19 attempts. Oklahoma’s free-throw rate in that game was over 55, its highest this season.
While the Sooners converted only six more makes at the charity stripe than Texas, their constant aggressiveness made a major effect on the game in the form of foul trouble. Three Longhorns fouled out, and two more reached four fouls in the game.
The Sooners don’t just attack off the dribble. Lon Kruger looks to exploit mismatches.
He’ll have an even easier time doing so in tonight’s game with Brady Manek back in form. He was limited in the first meeting after missing time with COVID-19. His ability to pick-and-pop will challenge the Texas bigs and create matchup advantages for the Sooner guards to attack.
Coming off a three-game losing streak, Oklahoma is in a good spot to earn a win at home.
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