This article is part of our College Basketball Picks series.
Thursday brings us a small college hoops slate, but thankfully, we still have a few intriguing matchups on the board. Here are my best bets for Thursday's offering.
Liberty at Florida Atlantic
Here we have arguably the best game of the day, as two top-40 teams, according to KenPom at least, are set to duel down in Boca Raton. In addition to having a lofty overall efficiency ranking, each team is also ranked among the best in offensive efficiency, with Liberty coming in at No. 27 and Florida Atlantic coming in at No. 18. The way these two teams are set up, this matchup has all the makings of a high-scoring affair.
Coming off a 99-point performance against Maryland Eastern Shore, Liberty enters Thursday with a perfect 6-0 record and has logged at least 71 points in every game played this season. The Flames are proving to be a dangerous team because they can score in every way possible. They're making over 63 percent of two-point shots, the third-highest percentage among all D1 teams, and they're knocking down over 40 percent from behind the arc, the 12th-highest percentage in the land. This combination yields a 62.1 effective field goal percentage, which is the highest percentage among all 362 D1 teams. While we're at it, I should also note that Liberty is attempting three-pointers at the 18th-highest rate, giving us an explosive offensive team any way you look at it.
Florida Atlantic, meanwhile, effectively returns the entire team that made a Final Four run a season ago, so the Owls are locked and loaded and ready to go. They surprisingly dropped a home game to Bryant back on November 18th, but the Owls have since rattled off three straight games, all against tournament-caliber teams. Florida Atlantic scored 91 points on Butler, scored 96 on Texas A&M, and then dropped 84 on Virginia Tech to win the ESPN Events Invitational. All three were without starter Nick Boyd, who was sidelined by a leg injury. Based on its recent performances, and its run from a season ago, Florida Atlantic has helped erase any doubt that arose from its loss to Bryant.
Considering the offensive firepower of each team, and the extremely high level of productivity in recent games, all signs indicate we'll see a ton of points scored in this matchup. I'm taking the over.
College Basketball Best Bet: Over 146
Texas Tech at Butler
Under its first year with new head coach Grant McCasland, Texas Tech is once again emerging as an elite defensive team. This was the case since Chris Beard led the team starting several seasons ago, and the tradition is continuing under McCasland, which is unsurprising considering the latter had developed strong defensive teams at North Texas before leaving this last off-season to Join Texas Tech. The Red Raiders aren't great at scoring, but they're defense, ranked 15th in efficiency, has done the job in all but one game this season. Texas Tech allowed a season-high 85 points to Villanova in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis, but the Red Raiders bounced back and went on to defeat Northern Iowa and Michigan to take 5th place in the tournament.
Butler, in contrast, dropped games to Michigan State and Florida Atlantic and neither game was truly competitive. Since losing back-to-back games, the Bulldogs earned wins over Penn State and Boise State, decent victories but both of those opponents already have three losses. Butler completely overhauled its roster in the offseason, ranking 346th in returning minutes, so these early season results carry more weight than usual, as far as gauging the direction of the team. And considering how lackluster the Bulldogs played when going against tougher competition, I'm still not sold that they're substantially better than last season.
When looking at how these two teams compare against each other, one area that stands out is rebounding. Butler has recorded below-average rebounding percentages on both ends of the court, ranking 274th on offense and 203rd on defense, while Texas Tech has posted strong rebounding numbers thus far, ranking 91st on offense and 87th on defense. Needless to say, these discrepancies do not bode well for Butler. Without any other glaring mismatches, this area could be the key to the game.
They say that 'defense travels,' and in this case, I believe it will ring true. Texas Tech has had a history of elite defensive teams and its new coach fits right into the tradition. The Red Raiders might have some scoring draughts, but with a unit that ranks 15th in adjusted defensive efficiency, I believe they'll still score enough points to escape Indianapolis with a victory. I'm taking the road team and the points in this one.
Also, based on the profiles of the teams involved, I'm also taking the under. Texas Tech has held four of six opponents under 65 points this season. I'm betting they'll have a fifth one after Thursday.
College Basketball Best Bet: Texas Tech +1.5 and Under 139
Thursday College Basketball Best Bets:
Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Thursday:
- Liberty at Florida Atlantic - Over 146
- Texas Tech +1.5
- Texas Tech at Butler - Under 139
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