College Basketball Odds & Picks: Our Staff’s 5 Best Bets for Thursday, Including UCF vs. Houston

College Basketball Odds & Picks: Our Staff’s 5 Best Bets for Thursday, Including UCF vs. Houston article feature image

Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Kyler Edwards (Houston)

After a Wednesday evening that featured Rutgers upsetting Illinois and Texas Tech taking down Baylor in a top-11 Big 12 battle, the Thursday slate in college hoops looks a bit calmer on the surface.

But that doesn't mean we're not diving into the schedule to find the best betting value.

In fact, our staff has five best bets for four different games, including two Big Ten affairs.

Meanwhile, we have a bonus for you today: "Stuckey's Spots." While our college basketball expert normally dives heavily into the Saturday slate, we are bringing you a special Thursday edition.

Here are his four top spots:

  • A young Portland team trending in the right direction at home with revenge against a San Diego team it lost to in overtime earlier this year.
  • UNCG catching double digits at Chattanooga after the Mocs upset Furman to essentially lock up the SoCon regular season title.
  • San Francisco with major revenge against Saint Mary’s after blowing a 20-plus point lead earlier this year.
  • New Mexico is trending positively and has been very good at home this year. This is a good time for it to get Colorado State at home after the Rams upset Boise with a revenge trip to Vegas on deck. It’s a decent matchup for the Lobos, who only lost by six at CSU earlier this year.

And now for the rest of our regularly scheduled programming!

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.

4 p.m. ET
Over 129.5
7 p.m. ET
Michigan +5
7 p.m. ET
Michigan +6
9 p.m. ET
Houston -13.5
10 p.m. ET
Over 146.5
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.

Minnesota vs. Penn State

Thursday, Feb. 17
4 p.m. ET
Big Ten Network
Over 129.5

By Patrick Strollo

Penn State (10-12, 5-9) and Minnesota (12-11, 3-11) are set to lock horns for the second time in five days for a matinee matchup in State College, Pennsylvania.

Penn State will be looking for revenge after dropping last Saturday’s matchup (76-70 for a combined 146 points) in Minneapolis.

Both programs have solid defenses, and that’s why we’re seeing a total that is skewing too low.

Penn State and Minnesota rank 56th and 132nd nationally in AdjD by allowing 96.3 and 100.8 points per 100 possessions, respectively. These defenses are good high-major defenses, but are not units that warrant a total in the 120s.

I don’t think either offense is getting the respect it deserves from oddsmakers in the desert. While both teams play with some of the slowest tempos in the country, this hasn’t impeded their ability to put up points.

The Nittany Lions rank 134th in the nation in AdjO at 104.5. The offensive story gets even better when looking at the Golden Gophers, who rank 91st in AdjO. Both teams have effective shot-makers and have an effective field goal percentage above 50%.

There are two angles to this game that favor the over.

Firstly, Minnesota shoots well from beyond the arc, ranking 51st in 3-point field goal percentage (36.3%). Secondly, Penn State is excellent on the defensive glass, and Minnesota ranks almost dead last in offensive rebound percentage.

Penn State will be able to increase its tempo above trend, given how bad the Gophers are on the offensive glass.

I’m projecting the total for this matchup at 135.01 points. I think it’s unlikely we get another 146-point performance out of the two schools tonight. However, I expect them to surpass the sub-130 line that is undervaluing Minnesota’s 3-ball on the road.

Lastly, per The Action Network PRO Report, early sharp action has been detected on the over.

Pick: Over 129.5 (Play to 130)

Michigan vs. Iowa

Thursday, Feb. 17
7 p.m. ET
Michigan +5

By Kody Malstrom

Oh boy, here I go trusting Michigan again.

After starting the season in love with the Wolverines’ potential as one of the best in the nation, I was flung back down to earth after backing them multiple times.

Let's try it again, as the Wolverines travel to Hawkeye country as an underdog.

This is a much-needed bounce-back game for the Wolverines after losing to Ohio State by double digits as a slight favorite. This is a buy-low, sell-high spot for the Wolverines after an embarrassing offensive output in that matchup against the Buckeyes.

Meanwhile, Iowa is in the midst of a three-game win streak.

Michigan is also a potential bad matchup for the Hawkeyes, as it has a clear size and rebounding advantage. Hunter Dickinson alone towers over everyone, and is poised for a monster game by taking advantage of Iowa’s near dead-last defensive rebounding rate.

Not only should he have a field day down low, but he has also emerged as a dual-threat from deep. He should force the Hawkeyes' defense to stretch out more than it wants. Iowa already has a shaky defense — ranking 121st in AdjD, per KenPom — and now, it needs to deal with Dickinson.

While Michigan will benefit from more opportunities on offense, it’s the defense that will really dictate this matchup. Michigan’s defense has been consistent of late, and it’s a unit that will look to keep it up on the perimeter against a dangerous Iowa offense.

If the Wolverines can shut down the deep threat, and Caleb Houstan can hold his own against Keegan Murray, then Michigan should cruise to an easy cover.

Pick: Michigan +5 (Play to +4.5)

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Michigan vs. Iowa

Thursday, Feb. 17
7 p.m. ET
Michigan +6

By Tanner McGrath

This is too many points.

Iowa is still projected as a 10-seed, while Michigan is projected as one of the “Next Four Out,” per Both are sitting at 7-6 in Big Ten play, but the Wolverines need this game more.

It also sets up as a good bounce-back opportunity after Michigan shot 4-for-18 from 3 in a gross loss to Ohio State.

Meanwhile, Iowa has ripped off three straight double-digit wins against three of the worst teams in the conference, possibly inflating the Hawkeyes' stock.

Plus, this is the Big Ten. Six points is always too many in this gritty conference.

Hunter Dickinson should have a field day against an undersized Iowa frontcourt — the Hawkeyes' center rotation runs just 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-9. Plus, look for Dickinson to grab plenty of offensive boards against the 250th-ranked defensive rebounding team.

While Iowa’s electric up-tempo offense should exploit a questionable Michigan defense, there’s reason for hope. Michigan’s defense was excellent against Purdue and held Ohio State under 70 — those are the two top teams in the conference in offensive efficiency.

The Wolverines just have to avoid turnovers, and this game will stay close.

Caesars is the only stale +6 in the market, but there’s also a +5.5 hanging at DraftKings. However, if your book is offering +5, I don’t love the value and would rather just stay away.

Pick: Michigan +6 (Play to +5.5)

UCF vs. Houston

Thursday, Feb. 17
9 p.m. ET
Houston -13.5

By D.J. James

Houston is somehow atop the latest AAC standings — even without stars Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark — as it hosts UCF on Thursday.

The Cougars are coming off of two straight losses: one to SMU on the road, and one to hot-and-cold Memphis at home. This is a great spot to back the Cougars.

UCF turns the ball over at an alarming rate of 20.1%, and Houston is one of the best defensive teams in the country. It turns opponents over at an average of 22.9%, so expect the Knights to cough up the ball on occasion in this one.

Also, UCF is one of the most abysmal defensive rebounding programs in the nation. It ranks 265th in offensive rebounding percentage allowed, while Houston is sixth in offensive rebounding percentage.

Josh Carlton will be a mismatch for the Knights, even if they have Cheikh Mbacke Diong to guard him.

Houston will own the key offensively. It shoots 54.9% from 2-point range versus the Knights’ defensive 2-point percentage of 50.6%. The Cougars will exploit this often, and UCF has very little to stop them.

Since Houston can rebound from both the wing and on the interior, it will have multiple 2-point opportunities.

Finally, UCF launches a ton of 3-pointers. Of all of its points this season, 32.7% have come from beyond the arc. But Houston can defend the perimeter successfully, forcing opponents to shoot only 29.4% from 3.

Pick: Houston -13.5 (Play to -15)

Santa Clara vs. Loyola Marymount

Thursday, Feb. 17
10 p.m. ET
WCC Network
Over 146.5

By Doug Ziefel

The Santa Clara Broncos have quietly become one of the best offensive teams in the nation. They are among the fastest and most efficient teams, as they rank 18th in tempo and 38th in adjusted offensive efficiency.

Not only do they play fast, but they can also shoot the lights out. The Broncos are 28th in 3-point percentage and 42nd in 2-point percentage.

Now, they get to face one of the worst defensive teams in the nation in Loyola Marymount. The Lions’ defensive metrics are hard to miss, as they show a sea of bright red. They rank 336th in effective field goal percentage, 306th in 3-point percentage and 317th in 2-point percentage.

As you can imagine, that kind of defense has led to plenty of points. Loyola Marymount surrenders an average of 73.4 points per game, but has allowed more than that in 13 of its 23 games this season.

Though, for an over to hit, you will likely need production from both ends of the floor. Luckily, the Lions are a willing dance partner for the fast-paced Broncos.

Loyola Marymount is 12-10 to the over and has been even more apt to score and surrender points at home, where they are 7-3 to the over.

So, let’s sit back and watch the scoreboard light up in this one.

Pick: Over 146.5 (Play to 148)

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