College Basketball Best Bets for Thursday Evening

College Basketball Best Bets for Thursday Evening article feature image

Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Wade Taylor IV (Texas A&M)

All six college basketball power conferences have their league tournaments in action, as Champ Week begins to heat up ahead of Selection Sunday.

But we're not searching for the biggest games; we're searching for the best betting value.

Here's college basketball picks and predictions, including six evening best bets for Thursday.

College Basketball Best Bets

The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college basketball betting staff is targeting from today's slate of games. Click on the team logos for any of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.

GameTime (ET)Pick
4 p.m.
5 p.m.
5:30 p.m.
6 p.m.
6:30 p.m.
7 p.m.
Specific betting 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.

Miami (OH) vs. Akron (MAC)

Thursday, Mar. 14
4 p.m. ET
Akron -8

By Matt Cox

Sweet, sweet brotherly revenge.

That, and much more, will be on the mind of John Groce, whose Zips fumbled away an outright MAC regular-season conference title thanks to a tumultuous late-season skid.

However, it was always about the MAC tournament, an arena Groce and the Zips have excelled in since Groce returned to the league in 2017. Groce is 6-3 against the spread in conference tournament games since 2019, headlined by the 2022 title run.

That same core is back intact, spearheaded by a ferocious frontline in Ali Ali and Enrique Freeman. Ali and Freeman were a two-man band in the regular season loss at Miami (OH), as their teammates left them high and dry, unable to finish anything around the rim.

Travis Steele, Groce’s brother, boasts a formidable forward tandem in Anderson Mirambeaux and Reece Potter, but they don’t explain a ghastly 9-for-26 conversion rate inside the arc, which doomed Akron in that 2-point loss. In fact, ShotQuality scored the game as a four-point Akron win.

Ali’s ability to stretch Mirambeaux and Potter away from the rim will be critical, as it should open up the paint for Freeman and others to operate freely.

This is simply the more experienced, more talented team, with a strong revenge angle working in its favor.

And, there’s a bonus familiarity with the venue. Akron played St. Bonaventure at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in late December, which should help expedite any funky shooting sightline adjustments.

Pick: Akron -8 (Play to -9)

St. Bonaventure vs. Loyola Chicago (A-10)

Thursday, Mar. 14
5 p.m. ET
USA Network
St. Bonaventure +2.5

By Kevin Rogers

Loyola Chicago made the biggest turnaround in Atlantic 10 play this season, going from last place in 2023 to second place in 2024. The Ramblers have elevated expectations heading into this tournament, and they face St. Bonaventure in the quarterfinals today.

The Bonnies held off La Salle, 75-73, on Wednesday, but failed to cover as 8.5-point favorites, marking their third straight ATS loss.

However, the Bonnies destroyed the Ramblers in their lone meeting this season, 79-64, as 3-point home favorites on Feb. 27.

St. Bonaventure definitely benefited from converting 26-of-29 free throws, but the Bonnies also limited Loyola Chicago to 46% shooting on 2-point attempts.

That marks the only loss for the Ramblers in their last 11 games. They’ve also posted a 6-1 record against the spread in their last seven opportunities as a favorite.

The last six ATS losses for the Bonnies came as a favorite of six points or more. St. Bonaventure owns several solid conference wins, beating Loyola Chicago, UMass and VCU twice.

Also, Loyola Chicago is only three spots higher than St. Bonaventure in the latest KenPom rankings but five seeds higher in the A-10.

Let’s back the underdog here and take the Bonnies to cover against the Ramblers.

Pick: St. Bonaventure +2.5 (Play to +2)

San Diego State vs. UNLV (Mountain West)

Thursday, Mar. 14
5:30 p.m. ET
CBS Sports Network
Under 132.5

By Anthony Dabbundo

UNLV typically wins by forcing a ton of turnovers, which makes it all the more interesting that UNLV beat San Diego State in the same arena on March 5, despite forcing just eight turnovers.

The market is clearly catching onto the fact that UNLV has slowed its pace dramatically down the stretch run. It played a 60-possession game with San Diego State and a 61-possession game with Nevada to close the regular season.

Five of the Rebels' last 10 games were played with 61 possessions or fewer, which happened just one time in the first 20 games of the season.

The first game of the season against the Aztecs finished with 67 possessions. Everything about this matchup screams to take the under.

Both defenses want to force opponents to shoot the ball from the outside, and both defenses are good at forcing turnovers. That means a lot of empty possessions and jump shots, which neither team has been good at making this season.

These are the two best perimeter defenses in the Mountain West, and we have a lot of evidence now of San Diego State going full boa constrictor defense in a tournament setting under Brian Dutcher.

San Diego State didn't have a single notable conference win against the other quality teams. In six meetings against the rest of the top seven away from home, the Aztecs were 0-6 straight up.

This game will be a grind in the half-court, especially down the stretch. The market is corrected for the low-scoring matchup, but I'd still bet the under at 132.5, I'll look to play a live under if there's early offense.

Pick: Under 132.5

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Morgan State vs. Howard (MEAC)

Thursday, Mar. 14
6 p.m. ET
Howard -4.5

By Patrick Strollo

The No. 4 seed Howard Bison will play the No. 5 seed Morgan State Bears in a continuation of the quarterfinal round of the MEAC tournament in Norfolk, Virginia.

Howard will look to keep a good thing going in the tournament, seeking a repeat of last year’s win and automatic bid, while Morgan State will look to break through after being bounced in the opening round last year.

The series was evenly split this year, with both teams getting victories on its home courts, however, I expect the neutral site to be in favor of the better team, which is the Howard Bison.

Defensively, both teams are evenly matched, but the differentiator between the two should be the superior Howard offense. The Bison have the second-ranked offense in the MEAC, according to Adjusted Offensive Efficiency.

Howard has two advantages: better shooting and excellent offensive rebounding.

The Bison rank 118th in the nation and first in the MEAC in effective field goal percentage, making 51.8% of their attempts from the field. This is largely driven by their excellent 3- point percentage, which is 25th nationally and tops in the conference at 37.1%.

When buckets aren't dropping, Howard can rely on its frontcourt to control the offensive boards for second attempts. The Bison rank second in the conference in offensive rebounds and should be able to chip away at the Bears, who rank second-to-last (361st) in the nation in defensive rebounds.

I like leveraging the combination of superior offense and last year’s tournament run to back the Howard Bison in this contest. I recommend laying the chalk here and laying this to -5.5.

Pick: Howard -4.5 (Play to -5.5)

Niagara vs. Marist (MAAC)

Thursday, Mar. 14
6:30 p.m. ET
Niagara -1

By Ky McKeon

A close game is expected tonight in Atlantic City, as the Purple Eagles take on the Red Foxes for a chance to battle Fairfield in the semifinals.

Niagara and Marist split the season series, each winning at home by thin margins.

Both teams defend at a high level — relative to the MAAC — so we’ll back the team that makes the least amount of mistakes and has the better offense.

That’s Niagara, which ranks fourth in the MAAC in turnover rate and leads the conference in free three-throw rate. The Purple Eagles should live at the line against one of the most foul-prone defenses in the league, and once there, they should capitalize with their solid free-throw shooters.

On the other end of the floor, look for Niagara to throw some pressure at Marist’s shaky ball-handling.

The Red Foxes turned it over 23 times over two games this season against the Purple Eagles — comparatively, Niagara coughed it up just 10 times.

Marist’s offense moves the ball well but ultimately relies on shooting. If the Purple Eagles can take away the 3 — which they do better than any team in the MAAC — it'll be difficult for the Red Foxes to score points.

Marist head coach John Dunne has more experience and can be a tricky opponent in a tournament setting, but Niagara’s Greg Paulus is no slouch. He’s won a good number of games without much talent.

Niagara should win in a tightly contested, low-scoring battle.

Pick: Niagara -1

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Ole Miss vs. Texas A&M (SEC)

Thursday, Mar. 14
7 p.m. ET
SEC Network
Texas A&M -4.5

By Charlie DiSturco

Texas A&M’s season is on life support and winning a couple of games in the SEC tournament is a must for any chance at an at-large bid. Not even a week after a 26-point drubbing of Ole Miss down in Oxford, the two square off again in the second round.

Ole Miss has been in a tailspin since the start of February. The Rebels ended the year losing 2-8 after a hot start in Year 1 of the Chris Beard era. It was only a matter of time before the overperforming Rebels fell to Earth, but this team is a pure corpse of itself.

Meanwhile, A&M needs this win and shouldn't let up.

The key here is the offensive glass. The Aggies are the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the country, grabbing 42% of second-chance opportunities. Ole Miss ranks 359th in defensive rebounding.

In that regular-season finale, Texas A&M grabbed 18 offensive boards. It also shot 13-of-26 from 3, a rare showing of offensive flare for an otherwise horrific shooting squad.

Wade Taylor IV finally scored above the 15-point mark for the first time since Feb. 13, a good sign for A&M’s leading scorer, who had been in a huge slump.

While Ole Miss is a good 3-point shooting team, its offense has fallen in love with the mid-range jumper (29% of shot attempts).

A lot of the Rebels' offense comes out of isolation play, looking to their ball handlers to create on their own. But they're often overpowered by more physical defenses — and A&M is one of them.

I'm looking to continually back A&M throughout this conference tournament. Motivation is a big key here in backing the Aggies over what seems to be a dead-man walking in Ole Miss.

Look for another double-digit victory here in the second round of the SEC tournament.

Pick: Texas A&M -4.5 (Play to -6)

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