Thursday College Basketball Betting Previews: Texas-North Carolina, UCLA-Michigan State

Thursday College Basketball Betting Previews: Texas-North Carolina, UCLA-Michigan State article feature image
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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Michigan State Spartans coach Tom Izzo

  • Eli Hershkovich breaks down a solid slate of Thanksgiving college basketball games.
  • See where the value lies in tonight's Texas-North Carolina and UCLA-Michigan State matchups.

The NFL normally dominates families’ televisions on Turkey Day, but don’t discount college basketball Thursday night.

Three top 25 programs take the floor in the Las Vegas Invitational semifinals, with No. 7/6 North Carolina facing Texas before No. 11 Michigan State takes on No. 17 UCLA in the night cap.

Which teams present more value? Let’s probe through this Thanksgiving feast.


>> All odds as of 7:30 a.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time college basketball odds and track your bets


Betting odds: Texas-North Carolina

  • Spread: North Carolina -7
  • Over/under: 153.5
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: FS1

The Tar Heels (3-0-2 against the spread) are just 1-6 in their past seven matchups against the Longhorns (1-3 ATS), and four of them were decided by three points or fewer.

Viewers should expect another entertaining affair, as both squads boast a top 50 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. North Carolina even owns the the fifth-best AjO in the nation.

Roy Williams’ bunch will be without its assist-leader Seventh Woods (40.4 Assist Percentage), who is set to miss both of the Tar Heels’ games in Vegas with a concussion.

Texas’ pressure defense, which has generated the 34th-highest Turnover Rate (24.0%) in Division I, will frustrate UNC’s backcourt as a result. To make matters worse, freshman point guard Colby White has racked up a 22.6 Turnover Percentage.

Despite the Tar Heels’ 29th-ranked Effective Field Goal Percentage (56.9%), the Longhorns are yielding just a 45.1 eFG%. Kerwin Roach, Matt Coleman and Elijah Mitrou-Long’s sound on-ball defense should frustrate UNC aplenty, generating fast-break opportunities in the process.

The Longhorns also have a slight size advantage and will be able to limit the Tar Heels on the offensive glass.

Texas doesn’t possess the perimeter scoring to get into a shootout, yet Roach’s (15.3 ppg) playmaking prowess should be enough for his team to hang around throughout.

According to our Bet Labs‘ data, the Longhorns are 12-5-1 ATS (70.6%) when getting at least 7 points in Shaka Smart’s three-plus regular seasons with the program.

THE PICK: Texas +7

Betting odds: UCLA-Michigan State

  • Spread: Michigan State -6
  • Over/under: 158.5
  • Time: 10 p.m. ET
  • TV: FS1

The Bruins (2-2 ATS) own the 18th-highest average scoring margin (plus-22) after four games, but their opponents haven’t exactly measured up to the Spartans’ non-conference slate.

Michigan State (2-2 ATS) fought back in a five-point loss to Kansas in its season-opener, and its offense (No. 10 AjO) still appears lethal despite the losses of Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges to the NBA draft.

UCLA has an advantage in the paint with 7-foot-1 center Moses Brown and could present an issue for the Spartans’ 6-foot-9 Nick Ward. But Ward has exhibited an improvement with finding the open man when faced with double teams, following his struggles against the Jayhawks’ Udoka Azubuike.

Michigan State runs 32.7% of its offense through the big — the 38th-highest rate in the country.

Tom Izzo’s group should find success from its backcourt, notching the 49th-highest eFG% (55.7%) in the nation. Cassius Winston (17.3 ppg) and Joshua Langford (17.0 ppg), who’s been much more aggressive in his junior campaign, will take advantage of the Bruins’ lackadaisical defensive guard play.

On the flip side, Spartans’ wing Matthew McQuaid — their best perimeter defender — should do just enough to frustrate UCLA’s leading scorer Kris Wilkes (17.5 ppg) down the stretch.

Per Bet Labs, Michigan State is 15-16-1 ATS (48.4%) when favored by at least 6 points in the past two-plus regular seasons, including its remaining core from the 2016 recruiting class.

Expect the Spartans to jump back to .500 in that department after their ensuing matchup.

THE PICK: MSU -6; Under 158.5

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