New Year’s Eve College Basketball Betting Odds & Picks: Our Staff’s Top Thursday Plays, Including Michigan vs. Maryland & Arizona vs. Washington (Dec. 31)

New Year’s Eve College Basketball Betting Odds & Picks: Our Staff’s Top Thursday Plays, Including Michigan vs. Maryland & Arizona vs. Washington (Dec. 31) article feature image
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Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: McKinley Wright IV (25).

  • New Year's Eve is typically a big day for college football, but don't forget about the quality college hoops games that are taking place.
  • Our staff picked out a few games from Thursday's slate to break down and share betting picks for.
  • Check out each individual pick for some of Thursday's best games below.

The ball in Times Square won’t be the only one dropping tonight. In fact, there will be plenty of basketballs dropping through nylon all night.

Because if one thing is true, it’s that nothing screams “New Year’s Eve” quite like a loaded slate of college basketball.

To celebrate the new year, our college hoops staff broke down three games from Thursday night’s schedule, including Michigan vs. Maryland, Arizona vs. Washington, and Colorado vs. USC.

Now, there’s one more thing to take care of in 2020: win these final bets so we can enter 2021 with more units in our bankroll than we had the night before.


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How to Bet the New Year’s Eve College Basketball Slate

Here’s a rundown of our favorite betting spots on Thursday’s slate of games:

Tip Time
Matchup
8 p.m. ET
No. 16 Michigan vs. Maryland
8 p.m. ET
Arizona vs. Washington
10 p.m. ET
Colorado vs. USC

All listed odds have been updated as of Wednesday night and via DraftKings. Specific bet recommendations at the end of each matchup breakdown 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.


CLICK THE DROPDOWN ARROW TO EASILY NAVIGATE TO ANY GAME
Tip Time
Matchup
8 p.m. ET
No. 16 Michigan vs. Maryland
8 p.m. ET
Arizona vs. Washington
10 p.m. ET
Colorado vs. USC

No. 16 Michigan vs. Maryland

By Tanner McGrath


ncaa-college basketball-best bets-december 31
Michigan Odds -1.5 [BET NOW]
Maryland Odds +1.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -125 / +102 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 142.5 [BET NOW]
Time 8 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
(Photo Credit: James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Maryland’s win over Wisconsin proves how wild the Big Ten is.

As CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein said, “The Big Ten has no bottom, but whatever was projected to be at the bottom is capable of eating the middle.”

The Big Ten has no bottom, but whatever was projected to be at the bottom is capable of eating the middle.

— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) December 29, 2020

In this conference, anyone can beat anyone on any given night, which is why this matchup between the Michigan Wolverines and the Maryland Terrapins opened as a pick’em.

This matchup is super appealing from a fan perspective, but it’s potentially even more appealing from a bettor’s perspective. One team’s roster is more talented than the other, but recent history and Big Ten dynamics make this game seem like a toss-up.

This may seem rather contrarian, but in this spot, it’s smart to ride with the better roster.

Roster Mismatches

Michigan and Maryland have been neck-and-neck in recent history.

The teams have split their last 10 games, with Michigan owning a 5-4-1 edge against the spread. It’s about as close as two teams can get.

However, Maryland lost its two biggest pieces from last year, while Michigan gained a very promising one.

The losses of Jalen Smith and Anthony Cowan Jr. might explain Maryland’s lackluster start. Per Sports Reference, the pair were first and second in Usage Percentage and Player Efficiency Rating for Maryland last season. Their absence was very noticeable in this season’s losses to Clemson, Rutgers and Purdue.

Meanwhile, Michigan has picked up a potential All-American in freshman Hunter Dickinson. Dickinson is averaging 15.3 points and 8.4 rebounds per game on almost 70% shooting. In the Wolverines’ win over Penn State, Dickinson scored 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting and added seven rebounds.

Moreover, the roster matchups as a whole favor Michigan. Michigan’s big-man duo of Dickinson and sophomore Franz Wagner is bigger, stronger and more talented than Maryland’s duo of Jairus Hamilton and Donta Scott.

Additionally, Michigan is starting three seniors to Maryland’s one. The Wolverines’ senior guards, Mike Smith and Eli Brooks, are competent ball-handlers who run the offense well and tally half of Michigan’s 18 assists per game.

Plus, senior Isaiah Livers is potentially Michigan’s best player, as he paces the team in scoring while shooting 51.4% from the field and 42.1% from 3.

Maryland’s attack is comprised of Scott, Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins. The three have played well, each scoring over 11 points per game and leading a very efficient Maryland offense. The Terrapins are 11th in Offensive Efficiency, per KenPom, shoot 48.3% from the floor and turn the ball over just 10.2 times per game.

However, I believe they’ll be outmatched in tonight’s game.

The three don’t have the experience or firepower to beat Livers, Wagner and Dickinson. Specifically, Livers against Wiggins is the biggest mismatch. Livers is an inch taller and 30 pounds heavier than Wiggins, and Wiggins is shooting just 41.8% from the field and 25.7% from 3.

Overall, Michigan is playing more efficiently — offensively and defensively — than Maryland.

Michigan shoots 61.1% from 2-point range to Maryland’s 56.6%, and Michigan’s opponents are shooting just 37.8% from inside the arc while Maryland’s opponents are shooting 45.8%. Michigan also outpaces Maryland in both rebounds and assists.


Betting Analysis & Pick

Maryland is coming off a huge win against Wisconsin, and Michigan has played a cookie-cutter schedule so far this season.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that the Wolverines are the better team with a more talented roster. Michigan is 7-0 SU and 5-2 ATS this season, while Maryland is just 6-3 SU and 5-4 ATS.

In conference play, Michigan is 2-0, and Maryland is 1-2.

Maryland’s most recent performance and this game taking place in College Park explain the opening line. But I think this line is wrong.

Michigan is No. 16 in the country and ranked 14th in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency, while Maryland is unranked and 37th in KenPom’s metric.

Furthermore, I mentioned the teams have split their last 10 games, but Michigan has won and covered in three of the last four.

Like every Big Ten game, this matchup will be hard-fought. However, I’m banking on Michigan’s talent to overpower Maryland’s and believe that Livers can out-duel Wiggins in crunch time.

I’m very comfortable playing Michigan in this spot and would bet it up to -2.

Pick: Michigan -2 or better.


[Bet Michigan now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 bonus, including a $500 risk-free bet]

CLICK THE DROPDOWN ARROW TO EASILY NAVIGATE TO ANY GAME
Tip Time
Matchup
8 p.m. ET
No. 16 Michigan vs. Maryland
8 p.m. ET
Arizona vs. Washington
10 p.m. ET
Colorado vs. USC

Arizona vs. Washington

By BJ Cunningham


ncaa-college basketball-best bets-december 31
Arizona Odds -7.5 [BET NOW]
Washington Odds +7.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -360 / +275 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 137 [BET NOW]
Time 8 p.m. ET
TV Pac-12 Network
(Photo Credit: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

The 7-1 Arizona Wildcats head to the Pacific Northwest on Thursday to battle the 1-6 Washington Huskies.

This is going to be a bittersweet season in Tucson, as the Wildcats announced on Tuesday they will self-impose a postseason ban this year.

Arizona has taken care of business except for a neutral-court loss to Stanford. However, the Wildcats’ other six wins came on their home floor, so this will be their first true road test of the season. It’ll be interesting to see how the Wildcats respond to the news of the postseason ban.

Washington was pegged to finish around the middle of the Pac-12 but after losing six of its first seven games, it looks like it is going to be closer to the basement instead. The Huskies’ two five-star recruits from last season, Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels, are gone. That leaves just two starters from last year’s team.

However, Thursday is a perfect opportunity for the Huskies to get their season back on track against Arizona.


When Arizona has the ball

Head coach Sean Miller has almost an entirely new roster from last season with all five starters gone. In fact, only three players from last year’s roster are back so Arizona is relying almost entirely on transfers and freshmen.

The Wildcats are the 11th-tallest team in the country and use that to their advantage, grabbing offensive rebounds at a 37.6% clip, which is the 16th-highest rate in the nation.

Arizona is shooting the ball well to the season, but it is really excelling at getting to the free-throw line. The Wildcats have the ninth-highest free throw rate in the country, but they are shooting under 70% from the charity stripe. Arizona will need to shoot a higher percentage if it is going to continue getting 23.3% of its points coming from the charity stripe.

Washington’s defense hasn’t been its issue this season, as the Huskies rank 70th in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. Head coach Mike Hopkins, who is a Jim Boeheim disciple, brought Syracuse’s patented 2-3 zone to Washington. It has done wonders in his first three seasons, turning the Huskies into a top 100 defensive team.

However, one big issue with the 2-3 zone is rebounding. Since everyone is guarding a certain zone, it’s very difficult to pick up opponents crashing the rim to grab offensive boards. The Huskies have struggled to keep their opponents off the glass, allowing a 37% offensive rebound rate.

Keys for Arizona on offense

How do you beat a 2-3 zone? Penetration and making outside shots. Arizona is shooting 38.6% from 3-point range to start the season, so it should be able to shoot a high percentage against the Huskies’ zone. Arizona also needs to crash the offensive glass given Washington’s rebounding issues.

Keys for Washington on defense

It’s pretty simple for the Huskies: keep Arizona off the glass. If Washington isn’t able to limit Arizona’s second-chance points, it has no shot at winning or covering this game.

When Washington has the ball

Washington really needs to shoot the ball a lot better if it is going to be competitive this season. The Huskies currently rank 289th in effective field goal percentage and are shooting only 25.1% from deep. Basically, all of their points are coming from inside the arc because they also have one of the worst free-throw rates in the country.

The Huskies actually have quite a bit of experience coming back this season, so it’s surprising that they’ve taken such a big step back offensively from last season.

Arizona has taken a small step back from ranking 14th in defensive efficiency last season but is still solid, ranking better than the NCAA average in pretty much every advanced metric.

Key for Washington on offense

The Huskies simply need to shoot the ball better. It’s going to be difficult trying to get to the rim against Arizona’s massive frontcourt, so Washington may have to settle for more 3-point shots and mid-range jumpers on Thursday.

Key for Arizona on defense

Defend the paint. If the Wildcats are able to keep the Huskies away from the rim and force them to shoot a lot of 3-point attempts, they should have no trouble shutting down Washington’s offense.

Betting Analysis & Pick

Even though Washington has struggled offensively, I think the 2-3 zone should be able to shut down Arizona. In these teams’ two meetings last season, Washington held a much better Wildcats offense to under 1.00 point per possession. With a lot of those players returning from last year, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that there could be similar results.

I have Arizona projected as only -6.03 favorites on the road, so I think there’s a small amount of value on the Huskies at +7.5. However, I wouldn’t play it any lower than that.

Pick: Washington +7.5 or better.


[Bet Washington now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 bonus, including a $500 risk-free bet]

CLICK THE DROPDOWN ARROW TO EASILY NAVIGATE TO ANY GAME
Tip Time
Matchup
8 p.m. ET
No. 16 Michigan vs. Maryland
8 p.m. ET
Arizona vs. Washington
10 p.m. ET
Colorado vs. USC

 


Colorado vs. USC

By BJ Cunningham


ncaa-college basketball-best bets-december 31
Colorado Odds +1 [BET NOW]
USC Odds -1 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -106 / -115 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 139.5 [BET NOW]
Time 10 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
(Photo Credit: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Colorado looks to rebound from its loss at Arizona on Monday when it heads to Los Angeles to take on USC to end 2020.

The Buffaloes have basically taken care of business against lesser competition and gotten blown out whenever they face a top-50 opponent. They had most of their core return for the 2020 season but are projected to finish near the bottom of the Pac-12.

Before their win over Santa Clara on Tuesday, it had been over 20 days since the Trojans had played a game.

USC had to go on pause due to COVID-19 issues within the program but is now healthy enough to play. The Trojans have plenty of talent to compete at the top of the Pac-12, but the question is whether or not they put all the pieces together.

When Colorado has the ball

Balance has been the key for Buffaloes this season, as they are shooting a high percentage from all areas of the floor. However, where they excel the most from 3-point range and at the free-throw line. In fact, Colorado is shooting over 85% from the charity stripe, which is the second-best mark in the country.

Losing their best player, Tyler Bey, was always going to make things difficult, but head coach Tad Boyle kept the core of McKinley Wright, D’Shawn Schwartz and Evan Battey together, which should keep Colorado competitive this season.

The Trojans made a big switch last year on defense, changing from zone to man-to-man, which paid off big time. USC went up 100 spots in the KenPom defensive efficiency rankings, and so far this season has been one of the best defenses in the Pac-12.

USC is the tallest team in the country, and that type of length has allowed it to excel at defending the opposing team’s shot. The Trojans are allowing an effective field percentage of only 41.3%, which ranks sixth in the nation. Outside of 7-footer Dallas Walton, Colorado’s next tallest player is 6-foot-8, so it’s going to be undersized against USC.

Key for Colorado on offense

The Buffaloes are going to need to shoot a high percentage from beyond the arc because there are not going to be many opportunities at the rim since USC allows under 40% from 2-point range.

Key for USC on defense

Keep Colorado off the offensive glass. Despite being the tallest team in the country, USC is below average at defensive rebounding. If the Trojans are able to keep Colorado off the glass and defend the 3-ball well, they should be able to win this game.

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When USC has the ball

If the Trojans are going to compete near the top of the Pac-12, it will be because of Evan Mobley. The 7-foot freshman was a consensus top-three recruit and might be the most talented player in the conference.

He’s already averaging almost 20 points through his first few games and will be a matchup nightmare for Colorado on Tuesday.

With Mobley in the lineup, the Trojans are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, hitting at a 38.6% rate, which is in the top 10 nationally. Like its opponents, USC is also shooting a high percentage from all over the floor right now.

Colorado’s defense has been above average all season, but it really struggled against Arizona on Monday, allowing the Wildcats to score 1.31 points per possession. The Buffaloes allowed the Wildcats to shoot over 47% from beyond the arc and will need to improve if they are going to contain USC, which shoots a similar percentage to Arizona.

Key for USC on offense

Get the ball inside and crash the offensive glass. If you’re the Trojans, the way you win this game is by playing to your strengths. Colorado is average across the board on defense, so Mobley should be able to dominate the Buffaloes down low.

Key for Colorado on defense

Force USC to shoot from deep. Colorado is going to have to double Mobley down low, so forcing the rest of the Trojans’ team to beat you is probably the only way it’s going to slow USC down.

Betting Analysis & Pick

USC has by far the best player on the floor on Thursday. As long as the Trojans utilize Mobley correctly offensively, they should be able to dominate the Buffalos with their size.

If Colorado is going to win this game, it’s going to have to shoot a high percentage from 3-point range and take care of the ball.

I have the Trojans projected as -2.89 favorites at home, so I think there’s some value on USC at -1.

Pick: USC -1 (up to -1.5).


[Bet USC now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 bonus, including a $500 risk-free bet]

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