This article is part of our College Basketball Picks series.
Several notable Big Ten and Pac-12 matchups headline Thursday's college hoops slate, as Steve Peralta breaks down some of the action. Here are his best bets of the day.
Iowa at Michigan State
Iowa has earned a few quality victories in the past month, but it still has a major issue -- its defense. During conference play, Iowa has the worst defensive efficiency in the Big Ten, also ranking last in effective field goal percentage allowed and two-point field goal percentage allowed. Its offense has been able to make up for this atrocious defensive play, but it won't be an easy task in Thursday's matchup.
Michigan State has played exceptionally well at home lately, dominating Rutgers in its last home game before losing to Purdue by a single point on a last-second basket. Its key to success has mostly been its defense, ranked fourth-best in efficiency among Big Ten teams since the conference season started. Additionally, Michigan State's defense also ranks best in the conference in effective field goal percentage allowed, defensive rebounding rate, and three-point field goal percentage allowed. If Michigan State's defense can hold up to its typical standard, then the Spartans shouldn't have too much trouble defending their home court.
Overall, this matchup is extremely close on paper, although looking at how the teams compare against each other, it seems the Spartans have the edge. Their defensive prowess will likely keep Iowa in check, while their offense takes advantage of the Hawkeyes' leaky defense. Given a short line, I'm taking the Spartans in this matchup.
College Basketball Best Bet: Michigan State -2.5
Colorado at Oregon
Colorado has had many highs and lows this season, but its peaks cannot be overlooked. Earlier in the year, Colorado defeated Tennessee by double digits, easily the Vols' worst loss of the season. A week later, Colorado demolished Texas A&M, 103-75, again by far the Aggies' worst loss. This trend happened a third time in early-January, when Colorado crushed Oregon, winning 68-41, once again handing an opponent its worst loss of the season. The Buffaloes didn't look great during their recent trip to Southern California, but nonetheless, they have demonstrated their upside on several occasions throughout the season.
Similarly, Oregon has also played rather inconsistently, collecting a few noteworthy victories while also playing poorly at home on several occasions. Early in the season, Oregon hosted UC Irvine and lost by double digits, and then just over a month later, the Ducks lost to Utah Valley. More recently, Arizona State traveled to Eugene and completely dismantled Oregon, winning 90-73. Looking at all of Oregon's losses throughout the season, a common thread appears -- opponents with a stout defense. Oregon has played eight different opponents that rank top-50 in KenPom's defensive efficiency standings, and the Ducks are 2-6 in such games. Colorado's defense currently ranks No. 20 in adj. efficiency and, looking only at conference data, ranks second among Pac-12 teams.
Considering how easily Colorado won the previous matchup between these two teams, it's hard to pass on the points in this spot. Ultimately, I'm betting that the Buffaloes will continue playing well on the defensive end, which should keep them in the game. I'm taking the Buffaloes.
College Basketball Best Bet: Colorado +6.5
Arizona at Washington State
Arizona has looked nearly unbeatable for most of the season, although its three losses show that it's not invincible by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, there are a couple of trends that are somewhat disconcerting if you're the Wildcats. First, Arizona hasn't played well on the road, which isn't unusual, but the splits are drastic. In 12 home games this season, Arizona is averaging 85 points per game but is only averaging 72 points in true road games. Second, since the conference season started, Arizona's offense has substantially weakened. During conference play, Arizona ranks eighth in offensive efficiency among Pac-12 teams, a far cry from where it was perceived at the start of the season. Even more alarming, against conference foes, Arizona has the worst effective field goal percentage in the Pac-12, a stat that was unfathomable during the non-conference season.
Washington State, meanwhile, struggled to secure wins early in the season but has since played much better against Pac-12 opponents. At the end of December, the Cougars were on track to defeat UCLA, leading for almost the entire game until the last minute, when UCLA snatched the victory in the waning seconds, winning 67-66. Other teams might be deflated after blowing a potentially season-defining victory, but Washington State instead went back to work and defeated USC by double-digits in the next game on New Year's Day. A week later, the Cougars traveled to Tucson and beat Arizona by 13 points. So, despite the disappointing loss against UCLA, Washington State has proven itself to be a relentless and tenacious team.
All things considered, Washington State is in a great position to play a competitive game. The Cougars have played tremendously at home all season, losing just two games by a combined three points. They already handled Arizona without too much trouble the first time they met, so I'm betting they'll once again keep things close. I'm backing the home team.
College Basketball Best Bet: Washington State +5.5
Thursday College Basketball Best Bets:
Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Thursday:
- Michigan State -2.5
- Colorado +6.5
- Washington State +5.5
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.
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