College Basketball Odds & Picks: Our Staff’s 3 Best Bets for Thursday, Including Merrimack vs. Gonzaga
Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Chet Holmgren
Before we dive into the first weekend of college basketball without a full slate of college football games, there is value to be had on Thursday evening in the sport.
In particular, our staff is eyeing a top-25 matchup at the Prudential Center in Newark, an ACC team that is an underdog at home against a mid-major and the No. 5 team in the land.
Below, three best bets will help you pad your wallet before a massive weekend.
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.|
Texas vs. Seton Hall
Chris Beard takes his Longhorn team out east to take on Seton Hall in what should be a fun non-conference battle between two teams that are a combined 13-2 to start the year.
Texas’ only loss came in its second game of the year at Gonzaga. Since then, the Longhorns have rattled off five wins in a row and are starting to play some really solid basketball.
Beard’s team comfortably goes 10 deep, and the new faces are starting to gel together on the court.
It’s been a nice start to the year in South Orange for the Pirates. Seton Hall went into Ann Arbor and upset Michigan early in the season and also added wins over Cal and Yale. The Pirates’ lone blemish came at the buzzer to Ohio State, when Meechie Johnson Jr. drilled a 3 at the horn.
Bryce Aiken’s status for this game is up in the air, which is significant given his importance to the Pirates’ offense. Texas is elite defensively and Seton Hall really struggles to shoot it from distance.
Texas has the deeper and more talented roster, and I think you’ll see a focused Longhorn squad come out and really get after the Hall on the defensive end.
Marcus Carr has started to get it going in his last couple of outings and I like the move Beard made to insert sharpshooter Jase Febres into the starting lineup. Expect Texas to grab control of this one early and come away with the road win.
This line opened with Texas as a two-point favorite on FanDuel on Wednesday night and has since crossed zero. It currently sits at Texas +1.
I like the Longhorns to win this game and cover the number.
Pick: Texas +1
Colgate vs. Pitt
There’s some reason to trust Pitt in this spot. There’s some sharp money hitting the Panthers, pushing the line from +3.5 to +3, and it’s always nice trusting a home dog. Plus, Pitt just picked up one-point losses to Virginia and Minnesota.
But let’s look a bit at the basketball.
Colgate is an offensive force and the pride of the Patriot League. The Raiders led the Patriot league in every meaningful offensive statistic last season and they’re on pace to do it again.
Specifically, Colgate likes to space the floor, move the ball and chuck it from 3. Colgate ranks 20th nationally in 3PA/FGA (47.6%) and 19th in 3-point shooting (39.3%). Over 65% of the Raiders’ made shots come on assists (fifth nationally) and they are scoring 1.193 spot-up PPP (fourth nationally).
Enter Pitt’s defense, which will get shredded by Colgate’s style of play. Pitt allows the 36th-most 3PA/FGA in the country (44.9%) and sits 230th in defending 3-point attempts (34.3%).
The Panthers rank in just the 23rd percentile in spot-up PPP allowed (.953) and force almost no perimeter turnovers in the process (340th in defensive turnover rate, 14.3%).
Pitt could zone up, which would give the Panthers more of a chance considering they’re average in zone-defense PPP allowed (48th percentile, .896).
Plus, it worked against Virginia. But UVA doesn’t shoot 3s and Colgate’s space-it-and-shoot-it offense is perfect against zone — hence why the Raiders rank in the 90th percentile in PPP vs. zone (1.218).
There’s also a chance Femi Odukale won’t play. The 6-foot-5 Pitt guard is the Panthers’ second highest-usage player and would be Pitt’s best offensive weapon Thursday night. Colgate’s undersized backcourt is susceptible to lengthy downhill wings and Odukale has the slashing skills to take advantage of that.
If Odukale is out, I’d play Colgate up to -6. If Odukale ends up playing, I’d look to play the Raiders closer to -2.5. I like the Raiders to win outright either way, but I’d keep a close eye on the injury report.
Pick: Colgate -3 (Play to -6 if Femi Odukale is Out)
Merrimack vs. Gonzaga
Merrimack College is 4-6 on the season with its four victories coming against teams ranked outside the top 260.
When facing Power Five competition, the Warriors scored 35 points against Rutgers and 43 points against Virginia Tech. Now, they fly across the country to play one of the top teams in the nation in Gonzaga.
The Warriors have relied on their 6-foot-8 forward Jordan Minor, who averages 14.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He’s a force in Northeast Conference play but will be outmatched by the bigs of Gonzaga.
Drew Timme and 7-foot center Chet Holmgren have dominated the paint and there will be no easy buckets for the Warriors. The two have assisted in Gonzaga’s 64.2% shooting on 2-point attempts, which ranks first in the nation.
The Zags are going to dominate the boards against the Warriors, who rank outside the top 300 in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage.
Merrimack has lost three games in a row, including a 20-point loss to Brown in its last time out. It owns the 323rd-best offensive efficiency ranking and Gonzaga will shut it down with its 20th-ranked defense.
Gonzaga isn’t afraid to keep its foot on the gas pedal, running up scores at any opportunity it gets. When facing teams that rank outside the top 200 in the nation, the Zags have outscored their opponents by an average margin of 89-56.
It’s going to be a long night on both ends of the floor for Merrimack, so this one should get ugly early.