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Thursday College Basketball Betting Breakdown, Odds, Picks: Historically Bad Shooting, Double Regression, More

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Abbier Parr/Getty Images. Pictured: Marcus Tsohonis

Handicapping every college basketball game can be intimidating, making our tools like public money percentages, PRO Systems and Bet Signals so important.

Each day in this space, I’m going to highlight a few interesting betting-related storylines from that night’s college hoops slate, some insights and systems from our Bet Labs database and some notes from our betting market data.

Here’s Thursday’s breakdown.


Odds as of Thursday at 12:30 p.m. ET and via PointsBet, where Action Network users can access an exclusive promotion to get a 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150). No strings attached. No rollover required.


1. A Historically Bad Shooting Team

Kennesaw State at Liberty (-25)

This is just the 13th time since 2006 there’s been a 25-point favorite in a game with a total lower than 120.

You’d think betting this big an underdog in a game where there aren’t expected to be many points would be a nice angle — limited possessions, hard for the favorite to cover such a big number. But you don’t know the underdog you’re dealing with on Thursday night.

We can thank Kennesaw State’s historically bad offense and shooting, plus Liberty’s pace (slowest nationally on offense) for this line and total.

Kennesaw State is 1-19 and ranks bottom five nationally in:

  • Effective FG%
  • 3P%
  • 2P%
  • Offensive Efficiency

Liberty is much, much better in all facets, at 19-3 and No. 63 overall in KenPom’s ratings, though the Flames have slipped up a bit lately with two straight losses as a favorite.

If I had to bet this game I’d probably take the under and pray, but I’ll do something better with my Thursday night.

2. Can Washington or Arizona Change Their Close-Game Fortunes?

Arizona (-3) at Washington

You may remember Washington as the only team to beat Baylor all season. Or maybe you don’t.

That’s probably because the Huskies have lost seven of their last nine games. But under the hood, things aren’t as bad.

They’ve lost these seven games by — 4, 2, 6, 3, 3, 1 and 14 points. That’s a median of 3 points and an average of 4.7, for those keeping track at home.

Per KenPom, Washington ranks 347th out of 353 teams in luck — the difference between their actual winning percentage and their expected record based on their true boxscore results.

Arizona is in the same boat, as well. The Wildcats rank 330th in luck and five of their six losses have come by five points or fewer. That includes close losses to Gonzaga and Baylor.

Maybe there is something about Washington’s zone defense or offensive style that isn’t conducive to closing out games. I don’t know.

But typically, teams losing close games don’t keep losing close games forever across all sports, not just college hoops. Trouble is, they’re both due for better luck on Thursday night.

Another interesting angle in this game is Arizona having to contend with Washington’s zone defense, especially early on.

Since Mike Hopkins arrived in Seattle from Syracuse, the Huskies are 43-35 to the first half under (including 27-17 in conference).

We got one Bet Signal on the full-game under, and I like the first half under at 64 or more.

3. Biggest Ticket/Money Disparities

As of 12 p.m. ET. Check out our public money page for updated percentages.

  1. IUPUI +5.5 at Cleveland State — 29% of tickets, 96% of money.
  2. Tennessee State +4.5 at Jacksonville State — 34% of tickets, 98% of money.
  3. UT Martin +3.5 at E. Kentucky — 36% of tickets, 91% of money

All three lines have moved in favor of the underdog at least half a point thanks to sharp support.

The only one I’m interested in betting right now is UT Martin, with its top-75 offense and historically bad defense.

The Skyhawks are giving up a 60.7% effective field goal percentage to their opponents, which would be the worst mark in college basketball since at least 2002. Their 42.5% 3-point percentage against is second worst in the last eight years.

While this defense is horrific on paper, they’re due for some positive regression on that end. Eastern Kentucky doesn’t have the offense to make UT Martin pay, so I’ll take the Skyhawks, who can actually score.

4. Debunking My Own Myths

There’s an angle I like to play in college football. The higher the total, the more variance.

Therefore, I’ll play underdog moneylines and adjusted point spreads in games that are projected to be high scoring, instead of just grabbing points with the underdog.

So I ran a similar idea through our Bet Labs database for college basketball to see if the same theory worked, with UT Martin as the inspiration.

And guess what — it doesn’t!

Betting single-digit underdogs in games with totals of 160 or more on the moneyline has produced a -5.1% ROI over the last 15 years. Underdogs of less than three points have been even worse with a -8.4% ROI and 42.4% winning percentage.

Because football is event-based — i.e. all your plays are building toward a few scoring events per game — it’s subject to more variance. In basketball, every possession is essentially the same. That levels things out.

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