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

College Basketball Best Bets: Our Staff’s 4 Top Picks for Thursday article feature image

Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images. Pictured: Wayne Tinkle (Oregon State)

monster Saturday college basketball slate is right around the corner, but don't overlook Thursday night from a betting perspective.

Our staff is eyeing four games — including two late-night duels — to provide best bets for.

So, dive in now to get your top college basketball odds and picks from Thursday night's slate.

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
Wagner -6.5
7 p.m. ET
Under 133.5
10:30 p.m. ET
UC Irvine +2
10:30 p.m. ET
Oregon State +1.5
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.

Stony Brook vs. Wagner

Thursday, Dec. 15
7 p.m. ET
NEC Front Row
Wagner -6.5

By Patrick Strollo

The Wagner Seahawks (4-4) host the Stony Brook Seawolves (3-7) in what will be a defensive showcase between the two New York domiciled schools.

Wagner comes into this game with a significant edge in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency relative to Stony Brook, ranking 190th and 332nd in the metric, respectively.

The Seahawks' competitive advantage can be broken down into three subcomponents that constitute our edge to the available market:

  1. Defensive turnover percentage: Wagner 181st vs. Stony Brook 350th
  2. 3-point defense: Wagner 104th vs. Stony Brook 218th
  3. Defensive rebound: Wagner 89th vs. Stony Brook 147th

Defensive-minded Wagner’s style of play has yielded excellent results this season. The Seahawks rank first in the NEC in scoring defense and rebounds per game.

Offensively, neither team is a powerhouse, with Wagner scoring just two points more per 100 possessions.

Where the Seahawks do standout on offense is their ability to protect the rock, ranking 56th in the nation with a turnover rate of just 16.8%. Wagner will get a very favorable matchup against a Seawolves team that ranks a lowly 350th in defensive turnover rate.

As an added bonus, Wagner may get senior forward Ja’Mier Fletcher back from injury for tonight’s game. Fletcher’s return will be welcomed, but if he does not make an appearance, his absence will not change our thesis.

Wagner has a material advantage on defense in this matchup, featuring the 190th-ranked unit in the nation against the 319th-ranked offense.

Look for the Seahawks to pull away with a conservative game plan on offense behind excellent ball-handling.

My model is projecting Wagner as 10.5-point favorites, joining both the Ken Pom and Bart Torvik models in offering an edge to the available market.

Back the better defense at home on Staten Island. I recommend a two unit play at -6.5 or better.

What is QuickSlip?

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Lehigh vs. Wisconsin

Thursday, Dec. 15
7 p.m. ET
Big Ten Network
Under 133.5

By D.J. James

The Lehigh Mountain Hawks may run at the 24th-quickest Adjusted Tempo in the country (per KenPom), but they own the 332nd-ranked Adjusted Offensive Efficiency.

They play the Wisconsin Badgers on the road in Madison on Thursday night.

The Badgers, conversely, rank 327th in Adjusted Tempo. They use up 19.4 seconds per possession on offense and 17.7 seconds per possession on defense. Their Adjusted Defensive Efficiency is the kicker, coming into this game ranked 14th.

They hold opponents to under 29% from 3-point land. 36.2% of Lehigh’s points this season have come from beyond the arc, where the Mountain Hawks are shooting a collective 37.7%.

Wisconsin will be able to eliminate one of the only areas this putrid offense can be productive.

The Badgers are 5-5 on overs and unders this season. That said, they held Maryland to fewer than 60 points, Iowa to 60 points in regulation, Marquette to 70 points in regulation and Kansas to 63 points in regulation.

All of these teams listed above have top-25 offenses, so Wisconsin has been able to hold the best of the best in check. The Badgers will do the same here with Lehigh, which can only score from beyond the arc.

The Badgers sometimes have some foul trouble, so they may give the Mountain Hawks a few free points here and there.

Still, the under should be in play from tip to finish.

UC Irvine vs. Santa Clara

Thursday, Dec. 15
10:30 p.m. ET
WCC Network
UC Irvine +2

By Cooper Van Tatenhove

Santa Clara will host UC Irvine tonight in what will be its fifth straight home game. During this home stand, Santa Clara is 4-1, with its only loss coming last Saturday to San Jose State, 75-64.

For UC Irvine, this will be its second road game in a row after defeating South Dakota, 83-71, last Saturday. The victory against South Dakota snapped a two-game losing streak for UC Irvine, and will give it some much-needed momentum.

UC Irvine has derived much of its success this season through its defensive play. The Anteaters have only allowed 70 points twice this season, and both came against competent Fresno State and San Diego State teams.

The Anteaters rank 47th nationally in effective FG% on defense as a result of allowing teams to shoot just 29.1% from beyond the arc.

On the other side of the ball, UC Irvine has been extremely effective from distance, ranking 10th nationally in 3P% at 40.4% per game. This level of 3P% will continue tonight against a Santa Clara team that has allowed opponents to shoot 34.8% from beyond the arc (228th nationally).

For Santa Clara, it will need to be much more efficient offensively in order to keep up with UC Irvine’s 3-point ability.

The Broncos rank outside the top 200 in effective FG% and 2P%. These numbers will have to improve against a UC Irvine defense that ranks inside the top-80 nationally in both categories.

Ultimately, UC Irvine’s defense will allow for its clinical outside shooting to outpace Santa Clara.

Seattle vs. Oregon State

Thursday, Dec. 15
10:30 p.m. ET
Pac-12 Network
Oregon State +1.5

By Doug Ziefel

On paper, this appears to be a matchup between two teams trending in opposite directions. The Redhawks have started off the season in impressive fashion, while the Beavers have been beaten down by tough competition.

That tough schedule is what gives Oregon State the edge tonight, though.

The Redhawks have made their living from behind the arc, as they rank 26th in 3-point attempts per field goal attempts. Oregon State has done a decent job at defending 3s by holding opponents to 32% from behind the arc.

When the Beavers begin contesting 3s, that's where the Redhawks will run into trouble. Oregon State has a significant size advantage, as it’s the 17th-tallest team in the country. That size advantage will allow the Beavers to control the paint and the boards on both ends of the floor.

In turn, this will also lead to the Beavers penetrating consistently, as they'll look to convert high-percentage buckets or get to the line. Then on defense, they’ll be able to smother Seattle wherever its shot attempts come from.

Back the undervalued Beavers to get the job done tonight.

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