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College Basketball Best Bets: 4 Top Picks for Thursday’s Slate

College Basketball Best Bets: 4 Top Picks for Thursday’s Slate article feature image
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Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: Jaime Jaquez Jr. (UCLA)

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge is complete, but the Big East-Big 12 Battle rolls on and is the center of the college basketball universe on Thursday.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t betting value elsewhere.

Our staff touches on the biggest game of the evening (Creighton vs. Texas) below, but also has three other best bets in the world of college hoops on Thursday evening.

Dive in now!


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.

Game
Time
Pick
7 p.m. ET
Over 138.5
7 p.m. ET
Youngstown State -1
8:30 p.m. ET
Arizona State +4.5
10:30 p.m. ET
Under 136.5
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.

Creighton vs. Texas

Thursday, Dec. 1
7 p.m. ET
ESPN
Over 138.5

By Shane McNichol

I can understand being a little wary to bet an over while talking about this Texas team and the defense that Chris Beard has built in Austin, especially when the Longhorns are playing in a rocking atmosphere at the new Moody Center.

Looking back on the seasons that both of these teams have played so far this year, though, I think this number feels low to me.

Early in the season, it can be hard to normalize the total scoring output of teams, given the number of cupcakes on the early schedules. Creighton has played three games against power-conference opponents. Each of those games has totaled 141 or higher, with an average total final score of 159.3.

Texas has actually not played an opponent from a power conference yet, though it has played a “power program” in its win over Gonzaga. The Longhorns won that game, 93-74, as the final score totaled 167 points.

Even against lesser opponents, Texas has been nearing this number, averaging 135 total points through five games. Exclude the game against lowly Houston Christian — which managed to score just 31 points — and that average pops up to 140.5.

Even then, we’re including blowout wins over Northern Arizona and UT Rio Grande Valley, who combined to shoot 4-of-26 from outside the arc against Texas.

I’ll believe this Texas team is a grind-it-out brawling team like Beard’s previous squads when it shows it to me against an elite offense like Creighton.

Pick: Over 138.5 (Play to 141.5)

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Youngstown State vs. Northern Kentucky

Thursday, Dec. 1
7 p.m. ET
ESPN+
Youngstown State -1

By Patrick Strollo

The Youngstown State Penguins (5-2) will head to Highland Heights, Kentucky, to face the Northern Kentucky Norse (3-4) as they kick off Horizon League play.

Youngstown State is looking to match its best start since the 2014 season behind a powerhouse offense that ranks first in the Horizon League, scoring an average of 83.9 points per game.

The Penguins’ offense is making its presence known nationally as well (ranking 47th in AdjO) behind a quartet of upperclassmen who are all averaging double digits this season.

Graduate student Adrian Nelson — a Northern Kentucky transfer — is leading the stat line for the Penguins so far this season, with an average of 14.4 points, 9.9 boards and 0.7 blocks per game.

In addition to scoring well, Youngstown State has been excellent on the offensive glass, ranking 33rd nationally in offensive rebound percentage while creating additional scoring opportunities 36% of the time.

The Penguins have been susceptible to allowing points this season, but they do have a favorable matchup against a Norse offense that ranks eighth in the Horizon League by scoring just 68.7 points per game.

Like Youngstown State, Northern Kentucky has an equally porous defense, ranking in the bottom half of the league in AdjD, allowing 102.9 points per 100 possessions.

So far, the Penguins have been one of the best teams against the spread nationally, covering in five of their six contests.

Look for the veteran Youngstown State squad to continue its success against Vegas behind the best offense in the Horizon League as it faces a middle-of-the-road defense.

I’m projecting the Penguins as five-point road favorites and recommend laying the points at 2.5 or better.

Pick: Youngstown State -1 (Play to -2.5)


Arizona State vs. Colorado

Thursday, Dec. 1
8:30 p.m. ET
FS1
Arizona State +4.5

By Charlie DiSturco

I’ve talked about my love for the Sun Devils before. They’re a team of transfers littered with talent.

Chemistry and coaching are the two biggest question marks when it comes to if this team can put it all together and contend for a Pac-12 title, and so far they’ve answered the challenge.

After a let-down loss to Texas Southern, Arizona State bounced back with a win against VCU and a blowout over Michigan.

The success has come with the ultra-talented Marcus Bagley sidelined because of a team-issued suspension, too.

Arizona State’s defense is disruptive. While it doesn’t force a lot of turnovers, it’s second in eFG%, third in defending the perimeter and sixth against 2-point attempts.

Offensively, the Sun Devils love to drive and finish through contact in the paint, getting to the free-throw line at the 12th-highest rate in the country.

Bobby Hurley’s squad can go 9-or-10 players deep at any point in time, consistently bringing in fresh legs and wearing down the opposing team. This is a perfect matchup against a Colorado offense that relies heavily on KJ Simpson.

The Buffaloes are outside the top 200 in eFG% and 240th in 3-pointers. They struggle at the free-throw line and are outside the top 175 in turnover rate.

Simpson is the engine of the offense and is used on 30% of possessions. But I expect Arizona State to be able to contain the do-it-all point guard and disrupt him with constant pressure.

Included in Colorado’s struggles have been losses to both Massachusetts and Grambling State. Defensively, the Buffs are about average and don’t force many turnovers.

The key here is limiting Colorado’s second-chance opportunities behind Warren Washington and Alonzo Gaffney. The duo will be relied on heavily to rebound and remain out of foul trouble if Bagley remains sidelined.

This is just too many points for an Arizona State team that has the potential to make some noise in the Pac-12 this season, and I would back the Sun Devils down to 3.5 in a game where I believe they hold all the cards — aside from home court advantage.

Pick: Arizona State +4.5 (Play to +3.5)


UCLA vs. Stanford

Thursday, Dec. 1
10:30 p.m. ET
ESPN2
Under 136.5

By D.J. James

UCLA and Stanford come together for a Pac-12 Conference opener. UCLA ranks in the top 10 in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and the top 25 in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, while the Cardinal are primarily defensive-oriented (41st in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency).

Stanford does not have much going for it offensively. The Cardinal have a 48.4 eFG% and shoot under 29% from deep, while ranking 72nd in the NCAA with a 43.1% 3-point attempt percentage.

However, they crash the glass with the best of them, holding the opposition to 19% in offensive rebounding. The Cardinal have plenty of length on the wings and down low to contest with Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Adem Bona.

UCLA does one thing well, and that is get the ball inside the arc and down low. The Bruins rank 329th in 3-point attempt percentage and 334th in free-throw point distribution.

Stanford can contain the middle of the floor and holds opponents to an eFG% of 47.9%. UCLA has the same mark on defense, so scoring will not come easy for either program.

UCLA does have a tendency to open up the paint on defense, allowing opponents to shoot over 50% on 2-pointers. Still, Stanford has not proven to be much of a threat from deep, so the Bruins can drop down when needed.

Lastly, Stanford can only score efficiently from the free-throw line. UCLA does not foul often, so this eliminates one reliable option for the Cardinal to rack up the points.

With that being said, look for this game to be played at Stanford’s pace. The Cardinal are now 5-2 on unders this season.

Pick: Under 136.5 (Play to 134.5)


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