College Basketball Odds & Picks: Our Staff’s Top 5 Best Bets, Including Rutgers vs. Michigan, Colorado vs. Oregon & More (Thursday, Feb. 18)
Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Oregon Ducks guard Chris Duarte (5).
- Thursday night's college basketball slate features a number of high-profile matchups, including No. 4 Ohio State vs. Penn State and Rutgers vs. No. 3 Michigan in the Big Ten.
- Not only is Thursday rich in entertaining basketball matchups, but it's also rich in betting value.
- Our college basketball staff breaks down their top 5 best bets on Thursday. Check out their full analysis and picks below.
The weekend is almost here, but before we get to Friday, we have plenty of college basketball to watch, plenty of bets to win, and plenty of money to make.
That’s our goal here, and our staff broke down five different games from Thursday’s college hoops slate in an attempt to make that happen.
The action starts with No. 4 Ohio State vs. Penn State in the Big Ten, plus BYU vs. Pacific on the West Coast at 8 p.m. ET. Then, the attention shifts to No. 3 Michigan vs. Rutgers and Tennessee State vs. Tennessee Tech at 9 p.m. ET before Colorado and Oregon wraps up our best bets at 11 p.m. ET.
Check out our full analysis and picks for all five games, and feel free to navigate to any game by using the table below.
College Basketball Odds & Picks
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#4 Ohio State vs. Penn State
Ohio State has been on quite a roll of late, but I’m willing to step in front of the train here in a great buy low/sell high spot.
Winners of six straight, the Buckeyes will travel to Happy Valley to take on a desperate Penn State team just a few days before a highly-anticipated showdown with Michigan on Sunday. Chirs Holtmann’s bunch could get caught looking ahead a bit here against a Penn State team it just beat a few weeks ago.
Meanwhile, while Ohio State has maneuvered itself into the discussion for a potential No. 1 seed, the Nittany Lions are living squarely on the bubble — most likely on the outside looking in after a horrid home loss to Nebraska last weekend. A win here over Ohio State would do wonders for their resume. You should get a max effort game from a veteran PSU squad.
And while the Ohio State offense is humming under Holtmann, who runs beautiful sets, the defense does have holes.
The Buckeyes have simply been very fortunate when it comes to opponent 3-point shooting. In Big Ten play, teams are only shooting a paltry 31% from beyond the arc against OSU. The regression monster looms in that department.
Keep in mind that Penn State had Ohio State on the ropes in Columbus in the first meeting, leading by eight with eight minutes left. It’s actually a pretty decent matchup for it.
Close losses have haunted this PSU team all year. It has two overtime losses against Indiana and Seton Hall. It lost by four at Michigan and at Ohio State — and its two most recent conference losses came by a combined three points. You can count on it to be in most games.
It’s also not a very deep Penn State team, and I think it was starting to feel the effects of a cluster of games earlier this month. This will mark only its second game in nine days, which could help with its legs.
BYU vs. Pacific
By Mike Randle
There is talk that BYU and Gonzaga may opt out of the WCC Tournament, instead choosing to prepare for the NCAA Tournament. For the Cougars, that would be a mistake.
BYU has enjoyed a solid season with a 15-5 record and 6-3 mark in conference play. It has earned quality non-conference wins over St. John’s, Utah State, and San Diego State but has shown vulnerability in recent matchups.
BYU suffered a 76-73 loss at Pepperdine followed by a narrow, double-overtime home victory over this exact Pacific team.
Pacific head coach Damon Stoudamire has the Tigers playing their best basketball of the season with the following results over the past two weeks:
- 95-87 2OT loss at BYU
- 76-58 loss to No. 1 Gonzaga (led 32-31 at halftime)
- 84-57 win over Portland
- 80-76 loss at Loyola Marymount
The Tigers are an impressive 3-1 during that four-game stretch.
Junior forward Jeremiah Bailey has caught fire over the past two games, averaging 24.5 points, five rebounds, connecting on 10-of-18 (56%) of his 3-point attempts. His accuracy has been a huge boost to a Pacific offense that is only shooting 30.5% from 3 overall as a team.
Pacific also has the rebounding ability to match the Cougars, ranking 63rd overall in defensive rebounding percentage. The Tigers also grabbed 12 offensive rebounds in Provo, more than the Cougars allowed in their past two games combined to Portland and Gonzaga.
Over the past two seasons, conference home underdogs of 5 to 5.5 points have covered at a surprisingly strong rate. Per BetLabs, those teams are 65-50-2 (57%) ATS.
Rutgers vs. #3 Michigan
Who is the third-best team in the country behind Gonzaga and Baylor?
Iowa, Kansas and Villanova have all tried to fill that slot before falling apart, relatively speaking. Is it Michigan’s turn to take a few lumps with the No. 3 next to its name?
Michigan’s best wins this season were a pair of victories over Wisconsin.
Rutgers, meanwhile, out-dueled Illinois in a high-scoring affair back in December. After that, Ron Harper Jr. suffered an ankle injury in late December, and the Scarlet Knights endured a five-game skid that saw just about everyone in the college basketball universe exit their bandwagon.
But since Harper has regained his form, he’s rebounding and defending at a high level once again. His improved play has coincided with a 5-1 SU and 4-2 ATS run by Steve Pikiell’s team.
This is also just Michigan’s third game in a month, which explains its slow start against Wisconsin on Sunday. The Wolverines scored just 27 points in the first 20 minutes while shooting just 40% from the field for the game.
Hunter Dickinson came to the rescue, posting his fourth career double-double while nabbing five offensive rebounds and rejecting five shots. He is the X-factor that makes this team elite, but I’m banking on a special night from Rutgers’ center Myles Johnson.
The junior big is playing the best basketball of his career, with three double-doubles in his last five games, including a dominant 12-point, 14-rebound, four-block performance against Northwestern. I think he’ll challenge Dickinson in the paint, making Rutgers a live dog in this one.
Tennessee Tech vs. Tennessee State
These are two of the worst offenses in the Ohio Valley, especially Tennessee State, which is averaging 0.88 points per possession. Tennessee Tech walked away with a 74-71 victory back in January, but both teams shot way above their season average.
Tennessee Tech shoots 3-pointers on 46.6% of its field goal attempts, which is more than any other team in the conference. The problem is it shoots only 32.2% from 3-point range, and living and dying by the 3-ball isn’t a good strategy if you can’t hit a high percentage.
To make matters worse in this matchup is the fact that Tennessee State is one of the best teams in the Ohio Valley at defending the perimeter, allowing coincidently only 32.2% from deep. So, I think the Golden Eagles are going to struggle offensively if they rely too heavily on the 3-point shot.
Tennessee State is one of the worst offenses in the country, ranking 352nd in offensive efficiency, per KenPom.
It struggles at almost everything, shooting 26.1% from 3-point range and 48.9% from 2-point range. It also has one of the highest turnover rates and lowest offensive rebound rates in the Ohio Valley, so the Tigers really can’t do anything well offensively.
Tennessee Tech has one of the worst 2-3 zone defenses that opponents have been gashing, but even it should be able to keep Tennessee State’s offense in check.
Colorado vs. Oregon
The Ducks and Buffaloes have been two of the hardest teams to nail down in the Pac-12, or in college basketball as a whole.
Some days, Colorado plays like a top ten team. Other times, it can’t get anything right, like in Saturday’s loss at Cal.
Oregon, meanwhile, seems to have had a more direct reason for its failings of late. The Ducks have been without the services of a healthy Chris Duarte.
The senior swingman is Oregon’s best defender and one of its most surefire offensive playmakers. When he missed two recent games and was limited in a third, his absence was felt. The Ducks dropped games they should have won against Washington State and Oregon State.
With Duarte healthy, Oregon has lost just twice all season. It dropped its season opener to a strong Missouri team on a neutral court and lost to Colorado, its opponent on Thursday evening.
That first meeting came in Boulder, where the Buffaloes still enjoy one of the sport’s most helpful home-court advantages. Most home courts have flattened out with no fans to affect the games.
COVID-19 or not, Boulder is still located well above sea level and gives the Buffs a leg up. In the rematch in Eugene, with Duarte back in the Ducks’ lineup at full strength, the smart money is on the Ducks to even up the season series.
Pick: Oregon -3