This article is part of our College Basketball Picks series.
It's Thursday, which means the Big Ten and Pac-12 are once again taking center stage in the college hoops world. Steve Peralta analyzes some select matchups and offers his best bets of the evening.
Colorado at Arizona State
These two teams are incredibly similar. Both are great on defense, but pretty weak on offense.
Colorado's season has been defined by the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The Buffaloes have double-digit wins over Tennesee, Texas A&M and Oregon, although they've also lost to the bottom of the Pac-12, California, Oregon State and Washington. This inconsistency generally stems from their offensive struggles, as Colorado ranks ninth in the Pac-12 in offensive efficiency during conference play. Colorado's saving grace has been its stout defense, recording the second-best defensive efficiency rating among Pac-12 teams since the conference season tipped off, with only UCLA playing better defensively.
Arizona State has had a very similar season, logging wins over Michigan, Creighton and Oregon, while also losing to Texas Southern, San Francisco and Washington. The Sun Devils are also right next to Colorado when it comes to scoring, ranking eighth in the Pac-12 in offensive efficiency during conference play. Arizona State's defense is a few spots lower, coming in at fourth, but is also a strength of the team. One key difference, however, is rebounding. Colorado is among the best rebounding teams in the conference, ranking in the top four of the Pac-12 in both offensive and defensive rebounding, while Arizona State ranks in the bottom five of the conference in the same two categories during league competition.
These two teams previously played each other in Boulder back on December 1, and the rebounding advantage played out exactly as one might expect. Colorado dominated the glass with a rebound margin of 47-34. Despite outplaying the Sun Devils for almost the entire game, the Buffaloes lost the game after an epic collapse. With six minutes remaining in the game, Colorado was up by 12 points, giving them a 97 percent chance of winning the game, according to KenPom. The rematch will take place down in the desert, so exacting revenge won't be easy, but Colorado has already proven that it matches up favorably against Arizona State. I'm taking the points in this match-up.
College Basketball Best Bet: Colorado +2.5
Ohio State at Iowa
Ohio State has seen its offensive efficiency rating take a noticeable dip over the past few weeks, although a closer look at the schedule reveals an uphill climb over the past several games. The Buckeyes enter Thursday on a six-game skid, and all of the opponents have one thing in common -- a stout defense. All six of Ohio State's opponents during its losing streak rank in the top-65 of KenPom's defensive adjusted efficiency standings, with five of the teams ranking in the top-40. Ohio State hasn't faced a defense outside of the top-70 teams since January 21, when the Buckeyes thrashed Iowa by a score of 93-77. And even with the recent stretch of games, Ohio State still ranks No. 25 in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. It has a great chance of getting back on track in this matchup.
Iowa, meanwhile, is once again proving to be a scoring machine. If the season ended today, this would give Iowa a fourth consecutive season with a top-five finish in KenPom's adjusted offensive efficiency standings. The names might change over the years, but the scoring never stops. That being said, the consistency is also true on the defensive end, except for the wrong reasons. Iowa's defense has finished with a ranking worse than No. 75 in each of the last six years, and this season's current ranking of No. 145 would be its worst defensive finish since 2018. Furthermore, since the conference season tipped-off, Iowa has the third-worst defense efficiency rating among Big Ten teams, including the worst effective field goal percentage allowed. Not a good defense any way you look at it. Additionally, the Hawkeyes also create high-scoring games due to their style of play. Iowa consistently plays at one of the quickest tempos in the country, and this year is no exception, recording the fastest tempo in the Big Ten up to this point.
Whether it's the explosive offense, leaky defense or lightning-fast pace, Iowa provides all of the essential ingredients for hitting an over. Ohio State brings a similar style to this matchup, albeit not to the same extent as Iowa, but either way the winner of this game will inevitably score a ton of points in the prcoess. The over/under number is on the higher side, but the way these two teams play, I'm betting they'll still clear the bar. I'm on the over in this one.
College Basketball Best Bet: Over 153
Utah at Arizona
Utah has done quite well for itself this season. The Utes were picked to finish 10th in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, and here they are sitting in third place in the conference standings. As things stand now, Utah wouldn't hear its name called on Selection Sunday, but with Thursday's enormous matchup on deck, and with another pivotal game against UCLA lined up next week, the Utes undoubtedly still believe they have a shot at dancing if they can go on a run.
The Utes have already proven capable of beating an elite team when they dealt Arizona its first loss of the season back on December 1, so there's no reason to think they can't do it again. Utah currently has the third-best defensive efficiency in the Pac-12 during conference play, while also ranking first in the Pac in effective field goal percentage allowed and free-throw attempt rate allowed. The latter is particularly important in this matchup, as Arizona has the highest free-throw attempt rate in the conference during league competition. The ability to get to the charity stripe is usually a noticeable advantage for the Wildcats, although that edge is rendered moot against a smart defensive team like Utah.
Most college hoops fans know all about Arizona and its explosive offense. There's not much more to add, although it's worth pointing out that its defense is still a liability. The Wildcats are coming off a nine-point loss at Stanford, a game in which they allowed the Cardinal to score 88 points. Arizona only has four losses on the season, but it allowed over 80 points in three of the four losses, further emphasizing this vulnerability. Additionally, Arizona lost all four games by nine-plus points, so the Wildcats still clearly have flaws and are susceptible to disappointing performances just like nearly every other college basketball team.
The Utes might not win, but I'm betting they won't make this easy on Arizona. I'm taking the points.
College Basketball Best Bet: Utah +10.5
Thursday College Basketball Best Bets:
Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Thursday:
- Colorado +2.5
- Ohio State at Iowa - Over 153
- Utah +10.5
For up-to-date information on the latest college basketball odds and props from multiple sportsbooks, check out the College Basketball odds page on RotoWire.
If you're in Ohio where legal betting just launched, check out Ohio sports betting promos. With Massachusetts set to launch March 14, residents can pre-register now for many Massachusetts sports betting promos as well.