College Basketball Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Thursday, February 23rd

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College basketball schedule today has 58 games

We’ve got a healthy set of games to pick from on Thursday, including several quality matchups across a handful of conferences. Conference tournaments start next week, so a lot of the remaining regular season games are meaningful for seeding. We’ve also got a lot of rematches, so keep in mind how important it is to see how the first game went and if there are betting angles that apply to the second game. (Tracking sheet)

Also, check out the latest edition of the VSiN College Basketball Betting Podcast, which features Matt Youmans with host Tim Murray.

 

Here are some thoughts on the February 23 card (odds from DraftKings):

Rice Owls at UAB Blazers (-12, 158.5)

In what should be an up-and-down affair with two top-40 teams in adjusted tempo, Rice is looking to avenge its worst loss in Conference USA action with a visit to UAB. The first game was a big-time outlier for the Owls. They only managed .786 points per possession. They had .887 PPP in their second conference game against UTEP, but managed to win 72-67 in overtime. In every other C-USA game, they’ve had at least 1.025 PPP.

The Owls, who rank 48th in the nation in 2P%, were only 11-of-31 on 2-pointers in the first meeting. They’re also a team that shoots the 3 at 36.1%, but only went 8-of-26 in that game. UAB is a solid defensive team, but Rice had a really big outlier in terms of their offensive statistics in that first meeting. I’m really banking on a regression to the mean here.

UAB didn’t have Jelly Walker in the first game and won by 18, so I’m sure there are some skeptics out there about Rice in this spot, but the Blazers, who do shoot the 3 at 37.4%, only take a 3 on 31% of shot attempts. As long as Rice shoots the ball close to their season averages, they should be able to keep this close with a 12-point head start. UAB doesn’t have an offensive profile for blowing teams out, as they struggle on 2s and don’t take a lot of 3s.

The Owls are 15th in the nation in FG% on Close Twos. I think they’ll perform better in this game and cover a big number.

Pick: Rice +12

Southern Utah Thunderbirds (-5, 145) at UT Arlington Mavericks

This is a pretty standard-issue handicap for me from the wiggity, wiggity, wiggity WAC, as we’ve got Southern Utah on the road against UT Arlington. Let’s start with shot selection, as Southern Utah has a shot share of 47.6% on Close Twos, which ranks third in the nation. UT Arlington’s shot share against on Close Twos is 37.4%, which ranks 226th.

You can get to the rim a little bit against Southern Utah and UT Arlington ranks 112th in shot share on Close Twos, but the Mavericks don’t finish well at the rim. They are 339th in FG% on those types of shots. So, that should give Southern Utah an advantage at the tin, along with the fact that SUU’s high shot share on Close Twos is part of the reason why the Thunderbirds have the eighth-highest FT Rate in the nation. This is also a conference that fouls a lot.

UT Arlington is 350th in the nation in 2P% offense and 274th in 3P% offense. They don’t shoot the ball well and make matters worse by having a 21.5% TO% on offense, which ranks 336th in the nation. Also, opponents are shooting 36.5% from 3 against them (303rd) and Southern Utah is a “rim & 3” team, meaning 85% of their shots are Close Two attempts or 3-point attempts. They’re shooting 35.1% with a shot share of 37.3%.

I don’t see UT Arlington keeping up offensively. Southern Utah also likes to push the tempo and turnovers would allow them to do that at an even higher level. I’ll lay the road price with the Thunderbirds.

Pick: Southern Utah -5

 

 

Portland State Vikings at Montana Grizzlies (-6, 145.5)

It wouldn’t be a Thursday without a Big Sky game from me, would it? We’ve actually seen this line tick down from -7 to -6 with the Grizzlies at home after losing last weekend to archrival Montana State, but I saw a lot of positives in that loss and think this is a good matchup for Montana.

The last game was filled with fouls. Montana had one player foul out and had four more players that had four fouls. Foul trouble was the story throughout the game, as Montana State went 32-of-41 at the free throw line, outscoring Montana by 17 points at the stripe. The Grizzlies still only lost by four, even though it could’ve been a lot worse.

This is a rematch against Portland State from Montana’s 73-67 win on Jan. 28. The Grizzlies didn’t play their best, but still came away with the win. Portland State is 351st in the nation in eFG% defense, ranking 345th in 2P% defense and 329th in 3P% defense. Montana shoots a 3 over 40% of the time and connects on 37.7% of those shots. Portland State has allowed opponents to shoot 37.1% from 3. That’s a big advantage to Montana.

While Portland State has a good shot share of 40.1% on Close Twos, Montana’s shot share against is just 33.7%. Portland State had 32 attempts at the rim in the first meeting and still lost. I wouldn’t expect them to have nearly as much success getting inside here. If Montana does decide to go to the rim (28.6% shot share ranks 354th), Portland State is 338th in shot share against on Close Twos and 345th in FG% against.

I think this is a good matchup for Montana in a bounce back spot.

Pick: Montana -6

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