While many of the last several days of Championship Week have been focused on the smaller or mid-major conferences, the automatic bids get put on hold for today as more of the major or Power Five conferences play their second round or quarterfinal games. As a result, bettors have a loaded 57-game slate to attack, with 21 games tipping off at 3:00 p.m. ET or earlier.
Here are our best bets for Thursday’s college basketball action.
Best College Basketball Bets for Thursday
(Odds courtesy of DraftKings)
Rutgers vs. Michigan Spread
There may not be a more “bubblicious” conference tournament game than this early tip between Rutgers and Michigan. Many have hailed this game as a “play-out game,” with the loser likely destined for the NIT.
The Scarlet Knights have put themselves in these murky waters after losing six of their final eight games. Even the two victories in that span did not pass “the eye test,” as they were by a combined four points while scoring fewer than 60 points in each. The losing ways have coincided with guard Mawot Mag’s season-ending ACL injury, as the team misses his versatility on offense and defense.
Two weeks ago, Michigan stormed into Jersey Mike’s Arena, one of the best homecourt advantages in the Big Ten, and held Rutgers to its second-lowest scoring output of the season (45 points). And while the Scarlet Knights are struggling to find offense, Michigan has a path to easier offense with center Hunter Dickinson, who has averaged 18 points in his last three games against Rutgers (on a combined 21-of-36 shooting) and recorded double-doubles in two of those.
Rutgers’ poor free-throw shooting could be its undoing in a game that projects to be tight, as it has made just 38 of its last 60 attempts as a team (63.3%) over the previous four games. In addition, the Scarlet Knights are just 5-7-1 ATS when not playing at home this year, while Michigan is 12-7-1 ATS in league play and has covered 10 of its 18 games when favored.
Providence vs. UConn Spread
For much of the season, Providence was in contention for a Big Eat regular season title, while UConn was still putting the pieces together from a stretch of play where it went 2-6 SU in eight conference games. However, the two teams have completely different levels of momentum heading into the Big East tournament, and we expect that to carry over into this high-profile quarterfinal matchup.
UConn finished the regular season on an 8-1 tear and played some of the most impressive basketball of any team in the country in that span. As a result, many analytical sites took notice, like Bart Torvik’s customizable efficiency ranks, which pegs the Huskies as the second-best team in the country since the calendar turned to February.
Conversely, after not losing any of its first 15 home games, Providence dropped the final two home games of the season, including shockingly being blown out by 24 points by Seton Hall. The Friars’ advantage over most Big East teams is their ability to dominate the backboards (second in the league with a +6.9 rebound differential). However, the Huskies are the only team better than them on the glass (+9.0 rebounding differential) and will negate Providence’s biggest strength. In addition, UConn guard Jordan Hawkins has scored 20+ points in four of the last five games despite shooting 14-of-47 (29.8%) from 3-point range in that span, which is a testament to his efficiency in the mid-range and his ability to get to the foul line.
Providence’s only cover in the last four games was against bottomfeeder Georgetown, and we instead side with a Huskies team that has covered six of seven entering the day.
TCU vs. Kansas State Spread
Kansas State’s Jerome Tang deserves plenty of Coach of the Year votes, taking a team that was projected to finish dead-last in the Big 12 to 23 wins and an 11-7 league record. However, the worrisome thing about the Wildcats entering postseason play is its inability to consistently win away from Bramlage Coliseum, as their only road win since January 14th was against an Oklahoma State team that tied for the second-fewest home wins in the conference. Thus, while each team won by double digits on its home floor in the two regular-season meetings between these teams, we trust the Horned Frogs more at a neutral site.
TCU has won three of five games since getting leading scorer Mike Miles Jr. back healthy. The most impressive victory in that span was a two-point home victory over Texas when Miles was held to one point on 0-of-8 shooting. We expect the Horned Frogs to feast on a Kansas State defense that allows the highest percentage of offensive rebounds in Big 12 play (31.5%) and ranks in the bottom half of the league in 2-point shooting percentage allowed (51.3%). In contrast, TCU ranks fifth and first in those categories, respectively.
TCU has won three of its last four games that have been decided by four or fewer points, while Kansas State has lost its previous two such games. Thus, we are siding with Jamie Dixon’s squad in what should be a high-level basketball game.
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