Thursday’s college basketball slate is a weird one.
For starters, Iowa vs. Ohio State, SMU vs. Wichita State and Memphis vs. Cincinnati were all scheduled to be played Thursday night but have since been postponed.
While all three games would have attracted quite a few eyeballs, there’s still plenty of college hoops action on the board for Thursday, starting with Liberty vs. Bellarmine as early as 1:30 pm ET and rolling through USC vs. Arizona State (and others) at 10 pm ET.
Despite all of the postponements, our staff came through with seven of their best bets from Thursday’s college basketball slate, including a revenge game in Tucson and a tight West Coast Conference battle late in the night.
Check out all seven of our staff’s top picks and breakdowns below.
Thursday College Basketball Best Bets
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college basketball staff is targeting from Thursday’s slate of games. Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.
St. John’s vs. Georgetown
It’s weird to say we can buy low by fading a team that has lost nine straight games. Nevertheless, I think we’re getting a cheap price with St. John’s on Thursday.
The Red Storm has lost four of its last five games – and seven of its last 10 dating back to 2021. Those mounting losses are particularly strange for a team that has a road win over Seton Hall during the same stretch.
Luckily, today the Red Storm will be playing Georgetown, which I consider barely a basketball team. Yet, Georgetown has covered in four of its last five opportunities, which may have slightly inflated its market price.
More importantly, I’m eyeing two big matchup issues in this contest.
St. John’s is active defensively, ranking first in the Big East and top-20 nationally in defensive turnover rate. Meanwhile, the Red Storm contends against a Hoyas offense that ranks among the nation’s bottom-100 teams in turnover rate.
Put differently — St. John’s ranks second in the Big East in turnover margin (+4.55); Georgetown is dead-last at -3.73. Look for St. John’s to force turnovers early and often against a lackadaisical Hoyas offense.
Second, St. John’s has gotten crushed at the charity stripe and from the 3-point line, ranking below 275th in opponent free-throw rate and opponent 3-point percentage. However, the Red Storm will be facing a Georgetown team that doesn’t get to the line frequently (228th in free-throw rate) and doesn’t want to shoot from deep (235th in 3-point rate).
There are plenty of other reasons to back St. John’s and fade Georgetown, but it’s most important that we take advantage of the number we’re getting. Sharp money has realized the market inefficiency and pushed the line up from -4 to -5.
I’m looking to buy St. John’s at anything better than -5.5.
pick: St. John’s -5 (up to -5.5)
Troy vs. Georgia State
By DJ James
Troy (11-7 ATS) travels to play Georgia State on the road. The market has not caught up yet to Georgia State, as it’s 5-10 ATS and 8-9 overall.
Troy is not lethal from deep, but it has a couple of shooters in Duke Deen and Desmond Williams. These two have shot the best of the bunch, and this should loom large for the Trojans.
The reason is Georgia State is egregious when it comes to defending the perimeter. It allows 42.7% of 3s to fall for opponents this season, which ranks second-to-last in all of college basketball.
In addition, the Trojans are a far better rebounding team. They rank 94th and 196th in offensive and defensive rebounding, respectively, compared to Georgia State, which ranks 103rd and 303rd, respectively.
Eliel Nsoseme, Georgia State’s best rebounder, averages 10 boards per game. Jalen Thomas and Ja’Heim Hudson average around six before it drops off significantly from there for the team.
Meanwhile, Troy has Zay Williams and Efe Odigie in the paint to counteract the Panthers’ bigs.
Finally, BartTorvik puts this game at +1.6 while the line sits at +6. This is enough of a reason to take the Trojans, given how even these teams play. The line should be much closer to a pick ’em.
pick: Troy +6 (Play to +2.5)
Wagner vs. Central Connecticut
Wagner has proven to be head and shoulders above the rest of the Northeast Conference. The Seahawks are 14-2 on the season and 8-0 in Northeast play. They will travel to match up with Central Connecticut, the bottom team in the NEC.
Wagner has improved his KenPom ranking by nearly 100 spots since the beginning of the year, currently slated at 104th. It owns the top offensive and defensive efficiency ranking in the conference.
The Seahawks take 73% of their shots from inside the perimeter — and for good reason, as they shoot 55% on such attempts. They will dominate inside against a Central Connecticut defense that ranks 324th in the country in defending 2-point shot attempts.
Central Connecticut allows offensive rebounds on 32% of its opponents’ misses. Wagner will take full advantage of that, as they find extended possessions at the 39th-best rate in the country.
The Blue Devils are in full rebuild mode and rank outside the top 300 in most statistical categories. They own the 345th offensive and 319th defensive efficiency rankings. They shoot just 46% from the field (302nd) and allow opponents to hit at a 53% (313th) clip.
Central Connecticut is coming off a 20-point loss to Fairleigh Dickinson, who ranks 344th in the country. Wagner beat the same opponent by 31 just two weeks ago.
Wagner is a team that is destined to make the NCAA Tournament this season. It’s poised for a massive blowout victory against the bottom team in the Northeast Conference.
pick: Wagner -12.5 (Play to -15)
UCLA vs. Arizona
Finally, it’s time. Revenge spot. Very rarely do I have a game circled on my calendar that involves the Pac-12, but this is definitely one of them.
After touting Arizona before its last matchup against UCLA — only for me to have my pants down and laughed at the result of a horrific shooting night from Arizona — I have been waiting for this day to exact my revenge.
This is not UCLA slander, I do think the Bruins are a top-10 team. I just believe Arizona is far superior and a hell of a lot better than what it showed in the last matchup.
Arizona shot an uncharacteristic 30.7% from the field and 25% from 3. It also coughed up the ball 14 times, shooting itself in the foot with any momentum it would garner.
Frustrating, sure, but a majority of these misses were open shots and layups. Arizona’s offense was clicking, ranked 13th in AdjO, per KenPom, and was excelling once again — except the ball refused to go through the hoop.
Star guard Bennedict Mathurin still got his, scoring 16 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and dishing out two assists. His teammates, very capable scorers, will need to step up, which I assume they will because it will be tough to shoot that poorly twice in a row against the Bruins.
Grab Arizona in a revenge spot to remind the nation why it’s one of the favorites to cut down the nets come March. The Cats had open looks all game last time. Now, let’s just turn them into buckets.
pick: Arizona -6 (Play to -7)
North Florida vs. Jacksonville State
The Jacksonville State Gamecocks (15-6, 8-0 ASUN) look to continue their hot streak as they host the North Florida Ospreys (5-17, 1-7 ASUN) this evening in Alabama.
Jacksonville State is an impressive 12-7 against the spread this season. The Gamecocks are 7-1 at home and are 3-3 against the spread at home (there were no state odds available for two of their home contests). They have won their last 10 games outright.
North Florida has had massive problems on the road this season, failing to register a win on away hardwood. Things have been better against the spread, however, as the Ospreys have covered in six of their 13 road games.
The tech trends are where the good news ends for North Florida. The Ospreys rank outside the top 250 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency. They’ve been hampered by poor shooting all season, recording a 46.5% effective field goal percentage season to date, which ranks 296th in the nation.
The Ospreys own an offensive turnover percentage and defensive rebound percentage that rank almost last in the nation.
Jacksonville State has a significantly better offense and defense than North Florida, ranking 113th and 162nd in ADJOE and ADJE, respectively.
The Gamecocks have been shooting lights out all season, ranking 35th in the nation with a 54% effective field goal percentage. They love the deep ball, and rightfully so. They make 40.6% of 3-balls, which ranks sixth in the nation.
Jacksonville State is an excellent offensive team, and its backcourt play has propelled it to first place in the ASUN.
I am projecting the Gamecocks as 17.04-point favorites against North Florida at home this evening. I recommend laying the 11.5 points and making a two-unit bet on one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country.
pick: Jacksonville State -11.5 (Play to -12)
UC San Diego vs. Cal State Northridge
UC San Diego is a tad undervalued here on the road and is a very efficient offense in the Big West Conference.
Per ShotQuality, the Tritons have the seventh-highest Rim & 3-point rate in the country, which are the two most valuable shots in half-court offense. They’re shooting a little over 34% from behind the arc and a little over 58% on shot attempts at the rim, per Hoop-Math.
Getting to the rim will be important for the Tritons because Cal St. Northridge is outside the top 300 in both 2-point FG percentage and FG percentage allowed on shot attempts at the rim.
Additionally, Northridge will not be able to exploit the one main weakness of the UC San Diego offense, which is turning the ball over. The Matadors are outside the top 300 in turnover percentage on defense, per KenPom.
Cal St. Northridge has a horrible offense. It’s one of the bottom 10 teams in college basketball in effective FG%, 2-point FG%, and 3-point FG%.
Also, starting center Onyi Eyisi missed the last game against Hawaii. He will be a big loss, because without him, Northridge doesn’t have another player over 6-foot-6.
So, I love UC San Diego on the road tonight at -4 and would play it up to -6.
pick: UC San Diego -4 (Play to -6)
San Francisco vs. BYU
This is a massive game in the West Coast Conference during its deepest season in years.
The WCC has received three NCAA Tournament bids only once this century, but it has four teams with a real chance to find their way into the Big Dance in 2022.
BracketMatrix currently has all four of Gonzaga, BYU, Saint Mary’s, and San Francisco somewhat safely in the tournament field right now.
The remaining schedule for those four teams offers two starkly different types of games. When they play each other, a crucial resume building win is on the line. When they play the rest of the WCC (except a plucky Santa Clara team), they face a minefield of possible debilitating losses.
BYU has the danger of looking ahead, with its home chance at highly-ranked Gonzaga looming on Saturday. Mark Pope is too talented a coach to allow his team to fall into that trap, especially when the Cougars recently fell victim to the WCC minefield, dropping games to Santa Clara and a dreadful Pacific team.
The Cougars also know tonight’s opponent is dangerous. BYU stole a win at San Francisco last month, thanks to a 3-of-23 outside shooting night by the Dons.
This game will be decided by the backcourts, and with apologies to San Francisco’s Jamaree Bouyea, Alex Barcello should be the best player on his home floor.
Since BYU joined the WCC in 2012, the Cougars have won 54% of their games ATS at home and been even better (55%) as a home favorite ATS.