College Basketball Odds, Picks: Our Staff’s 5 Best Bets for Thursday (Jan. 19)
Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Mitchell Saxen (Saint Mary’s)
After a wild Wednesday in college basketball consisting of Xavier, TCU, UConn and Arkansas getting beaten on the road, we turn to Thursday's slate.
Our staff has five best bets, including one Big Ten matchup featuring No. 3 Purdue.
So, dive in now to get the top college basketball odds and picks for Thursday.
Thursday's 5 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.
|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.|
Purdue vs. Minnesota
In my most recent Big Ten betting update, I wrote about Purdue being the conference’s best sell-high team.
Lucky for us, we immediately get the perfect opportunity to fade the Boilermakers as a double-digit road favorite. What a treat!
Purdue is a great basketball team, but there is a simple way to beat the Boilermakers: you contain Zach Edey as much as possible to try and make the other players beat you. Then, you attack the young guards off the dribble.
Matt Painter-led teams can’t stop the dribble, no matter how you slice it. The Boilermakers just don’t feature any elite perimeter defenders, and guys like Tyson Walker and Cam Spencer have exposed that.
I expect Ben Johnson to draw up plenty of high screens with Ta’Lon Cooper and Dawson Garcia/Jamison Battle, exposing Painter’s on-ball defense and getting Edey out in space where he’s known to be a little lackadaisical.
Minnesota is bad, but the Gophers are tough, lengthy (18th nationally in average height), and low-key are trending upward. The Gophers have covered three of their last four games and are now 6-5 ATS as an underdog on the season.
Meanwhile, there isn’t a team in the nation I am selling more than Purdue. The Boilermakers are 3-7 ATS over their last 10 games and now just 4-11 ATS as a favorite on the season.
The ShotQualityBets model recognizes the market inefficiency between the two teams, making Minnesota just a 10.2-point home dog Thursday evening.
Additionally, it’s obnoxiously tough to play road games in the Big Ten (see: Ohio State's road losses to Minnesota and Nebraska), and Purdue is playing its fourth in five games.
Put it all together, and I see this finishing as a single-digit affair. I’d play Minnesota down to +11 (-110).
Charlotte vs. Middle Tennessee
By Brett Pund
I believe the wrong team is favored in this Conference USA matchup in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which is why I’m backing Charlotte to pick up the road victory.
The 49ers have already shown that they can be a profitable team away from home in conference play, covering as underdogs at Florida Atlantic and UAB.
You also can’t ignore the fact that Charlotte won the first meeting by 15 points just three weeks ago.
Meanwhile, the 49ers also match up well with Middle Tennessee’s strengths and weaknesses.
For starters, Charlotte is 20th in the country in EFG% offensively, which is an area where the Blue Raiders are outside the top 200 in defensively, according to Bart Torvik.
MTSU thrives in causing turnovers, but the 49ers do a great job of taking care of the ball (70th TO%). Middle Tennessee also likes to crash the glass and create second-chance points, while Charlotte ranks in the top 10 in defensive rebounding.
If this spread ends up getting to +3.5 or better, I would rather take the 49ers on the spread. With this number under the key number of three, I’ll go for visitors to pick up the win on the moneyline with a plus price.
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Maine vs. Vermont
Chris Markwood has already changed the culture in Orono. The Black Bears are a legitimately competitive team in the America East, and they crushed their non-conference competition.
Unfortunately, much of that was smoke and mirrors. The underlying issues were masked by hot 3-point shooting from Gedi Juozapaitis and other big men.
Now that the shooting has regressed, the Black Bears have lost seven straight games, including their first four conference games. And the biggest underlying issue has reared its ugly head: defense.
I see Dylan Penn having a huge breakout game against a lackadaisical interior defense and downright poor isolation defense.
On the opposite end, you attack Vermont by posting it up, as it has zero interior defensive presence. But Maine is a heavy pick-and-roll offense with Kellen Tynes and Jaden Clayton, and Vermont has numerous perimeter defenders that can blow up the sets Markwood tries to run.
And if Maine tries to get out in transition, it'll be staring down one of the best transition defenses in the country.
I am usually not one to lay double digits with a home favorite, but this is a good situational spot for Vermont. The Catamounts will be fired up after back-to-back road losses against New Hampshire and UMass Lowell, and they’re looking for a “get-right” game against a team floundering.
Also, Vermont might be undervalued in general. The Cats are just 2-2 in league play, but are still KenPom’s top America East team by adjusted efficiency. The ShotQualityBets model makes Vermont almost a 19-point favorite in this game.
Sharps have recognized the inefficiency and attacked this number, so grab the best one you can, and #GoCats.
UTRGV vs. UT Arlington
I’m just going to jump right into it here and get it off my chest: five points is too many for this conference game.
Bart Torvik ranks UTRGV No. 256 in the nation and Arlington at No. 274. KenPom has Arlington reversed, but with less separation, featuring Arlington at 275th and UTRGV at 281st.
Either way you interpret the rankings, five points appears to be too many. But beyond the rankings, I like backing the Vaqueros because of their offense.
Namely, UTRGV senior guard Justin Johnson is the guy to keep an eye on. In 18 starts, Johnson has an impressive stat line of 20.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 0.9 steals per game. Johnson is making a name for himself on the national stage as well, ranking 16th in the nation in scoring average.
UTRGV does have an Achilles’ heel, and that’s its defense. The Vaqueros rank 314th in the nation in AdjD, per KenPom.
While the defense may be cause for concern, UTGRV draws a favorable matchup here against an Arlington offense that’s worse than the UTRGV defense.
UT Arlington ranks near the bottom of all teams nationally in KenPom’s AdjO at 324th by averaging just 95.8 points per 100 possessions. Given the lackluster Mavericks offense, I don’t think the Vaqueros will have a tough time keeping this game close.
In fact, an outright win may be in the cards for UTRGV.
My model is projecting UTRGV as two-point favorites, offering seven points of relative value to the available markets. I love taking the points here, and at +18.5, I think there’s a case to be made to place a few shekels on the moneyline, too.
Both teams are evenly matched, but I think the UTRGV offense will cash the ticket tonight.
Perhaps spotting UTRGV a couple of points for being on the road makes sense, but five points is entirely too many. Play this to UTRGV +4.
Saint Mary's vs. Pepperdine
By D.J. James
Saint Mary’s ranks 352nd in Adjusted Tempo, so these two teams could not be more different when it comes to styles of play. The Gaels use up 20 seconds per possession. They are holding opponents to 30.8% from deep and 43.7% on 2-pointers.
Pepperdine hits 36.5% of its 3s and 51.2% of its 2s. However, per ShotQuality, it ranks 320th in Open 3 Rate and 323rd in Rim & 3 Rate. Since the Gaels are strong with forcing opponents to take poor shots, that will likely be the case in this game.
The Gaels rebound extremely well defensively. They hold opponents to 20.9% on the offensive glass. Pepperdine ranks 284th in offensive rebounding, so at least on one side of the court, there should be only one shot opportunity.
The Gaels can crash the glass offensively, so they might get some second chances.
Now, neither of these teams get to the free-throw line much. Saint Mary’s only shoots 64.9% from the strike, so this should not be a concern for the total. Pepperdine only shoots 69% from there.
Lastly, Pepperdine’s defense may be a concern for the total, but Saint Mary’s slows the pace so much that it should control how this game is played. This is more important because there will be fewer possessions for both teams.
With a wide margin of victory, this under should clear without much fouling late, either.