College Basketball Odds, Picks: Our Staff’s 3 Best Bets for Thursday (Dec. 22)

College Basketball Odds, Picks: Our Staff’s 3 Best Bets for Thursday (Dec. 22) article feature image

Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images. Pictured: Ryan Nembhard (Creighton)

On Thursday, we're treated with a pre-holiday treat as there are college basketball games from 11:30 a.m. ET to the final tip-off of 11 p.m. ET.

That's nearly 12 hours of hoops before the schedule lightens over the new few days.

Our staff has three best bets for the slate, including a Big East tilt featuring a team going backwards.

Dive in now for your best college basketball odds and picks for Friday.

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 Thursday's slate of games. Click the team logos for one the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.

7 p.m. ET
Western Kentucky ML -140
8 p.m. ET
Creighton 1H -4
8 p.m. ET
Under 124.5
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.

Western Kentucky vs. South Carolina

Thursday, Dec. 22
7 p.m. ET
SEC Network
Western Kentucky ML -140

By Cooper Van Tatenhove

In its first game since a 94-83 loss to Louisville, Western Kentucky travels to Columbia, SC to take on a struggling Gamecocks team .

Offensively, Western has all the tools to return from Columbia with a victory.

The Hilltoppers rank 54th nationally in effective FG%, due in large part to a 38.8% 3P%.

Although, Western has been effective from outside, it does not rely on its 3-point shooting for all of its offensive success. The Hilltoppers record an assist on over 60% of their scoring plays, which is top-30 nationally.

This sound offense scheme will shine against a South Carolina defense that has had zero answers defensively this season.

Defensively, the Gamecocks are one of the worst teams in the country, ranking outside the top 275 in 2P% and 3P% allowed.

Offensively, South Carolina has relied heavily on five-star freshman GG Jackson to produce at a high level night in and night out.

Jackson struggled in the Gamecocks' last contest against ECU being held to just 13 points. That resulted in a 64-56 loss.

I expect an experienced Western Kentucky team to out-pace South Carolina offensively in what will be a dulled Colonial Life Arena.

Pick: Western Kentucky ML -140 (Play to -145)

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Butler vs. Creighton

Thursday, Dec. 22
8 p.m. ET
Creighton 1H -4

By Charlie DiSturco

It cannot be stated enough just how positive of an impact Ryan Kalkbrenner’s return has on Creighton.

The 7-foot-1 big man has missed the previous three games due to an illness — all losses — and returns on Thursday night. While he may not play a full workload, his presence alone makes all the difference in the world.

For starters, he deters opponents from attacking the rim. He’s a force on the glass and is a talented shot-blocker. It also allows for Creighton to utilize its depth by replacing Kalkbrenner with Fredrick King (10.7 block%) when needed.

Two strong interior defenders will shore up a defense that has given up 69+ points in each game without Kalkbrenner. When healthy, Creighton allowed this many points in just three of its nine games — all against teams inside KenPom’s top 10.

Now the Bluejays draw a Butler team that relies on success inside the perimeter. That’s how the Bulldogs get the majority of their production — by attacking and using their athleticism — but Creighton is more than apt to handle that aggressiveness.

The Creighton offense should also see a huge boost with Kalkbrenner back. The junior averages 15.9 points per game and ranks sixth in offensive rating, per KenPom.

The backcourt of Ryan Nembhard and Trey Alexander will be able to open the offense more with attention now directed toward the 7-foot-1 big. That finally gives the Bluejays an opportunity to bounce back in dominant fashion.

Creighton holds all the edges in this game. It'll get more efficient looks on offense than Butler, and it has the length to disrupt the Bulldogs inside. It’s the Bluejays' first home game in nearly a month and an opportunity, at full health, to make a statement win in a Big East bout.

Rather than laying the full game, I like Creighton to start out hot and take home the first half.

I’m not sure about Kalkbrenner's playing time, and to avoid the possibility of a late backdoor cover, I’m backing the Bluejays to open up hot at home and roll to their first win since Nov. 22.

Pick: Creighton 1H -4 (Play to -5)

North Texas vs. UTSA

Thursday, Dec. 22
8 p.m. ET
Under 124.5

By D.J. James

North Texas, yet again, is trending to hit a majority of the unders in its games this season. The Mean Green are 6-3 on unders so far and look to lock up another low-scoring contest on Thursday night against the UTSA Roadrunners.

North Texas ranks 362nd in KenPom’s Adjusted Tempo metric. It averages 21.3 seconds per possession on offense and 18.4 seconds per possession on defense. The Mean Green are a savvy defensive team, ranking 35th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency.

The Roadrunners are a below-average program, with their best win coming against Texas State in mid-November. This team predominantly scores by getting to the foul line and from the 3-point mark.

North Texas does a decent job of holding opponents to less than 33% from outside the arc, but it does a great job of limiting chances inside. Opponents are shooting just 42.4% from 2-point range on the Mean Green.

That said, one hindrance to an under can come from North Texas’ propensity to foul. The Mean Green rank 345th in free-throw attempt percentage and UTSA ranks 32nd (on offense). They need to limit this and essentially, the Roadrunners are left to only hitting 3s.

Now, North Texas hits about 33% from downtown and only 41.2% from inside the perimeter. It has a tendency to produce outside shots and get to the strike.

UTSA does keep opponents to around 32% from outside, so look for similar numbers to come through in this game.

Expect North Texas to control the pace.

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