College Basketball Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Thursday, January 26th

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College basketball schedule today has 70 games

It is a girthy card in college basketball on Thursday with 140 of the nation’s 363 Division I teams in action. That means we’ve got a ton of conferences and a ton of games to handicap. The same will be true of Saturday, as I’ll do my first edition of a Saturday college basketball best bets piece this week, just before hitting the airwaves to do Live Bet Saturday with my long lost “step brother” Danny Burke. Previously, I had only done Monday-Friday, but with the NFL solely on Sundays now, it’s time to sink my teeth into the enormous Saturday slates.

If college hoops aren’t enough, we’ve got 15 games spread out across the NBA and NHL with six in the Association and nine on the ice for a nice little Thursday. Check out daily NBA best bets from Jonathan Von Tobel and daily NHL picks from Andy MacNeil.

 
 

 

Here are some thoughts on the January 26 card (odds from DraftKings):

Old Dominion Monarchs at South Alabama Jaguars (-2.5, 132.5)

Old Dominion’s first season in the Sun Belt hasn’t really gone to plan, but there are some signs of positive regression in their statistical profile and tonight’s matchup against South Alabama is a good one for some of those to take place.

The Monarchs are 302nd in the nation in 2P%, but they have been obscenely bad on mid-range jumpers. I don’t like teams that shoot a lot of mid-range jumpers and they do shoot far too many for my liking. One of the biggest culprits, Ben Stanley, is out for another week with a hand injury. But, what I like about this matchup for ODU is that they don’t have to settle for those. South Alabama ranks 333rd in shot share against on Close Twos per Bart Torvik. They let teams get to the rim regularly and hopefully the slash-and-dash offense for the Monarchs can get to the tin.

By contrast, Old Dominion ranks 15th in shot share percentage against on Close Twos. That means ODU should get to the rim, while South Alabama really shouldn’t get there that often. This is one of the lesser defenses for the Monarchs in recent years, but head coach Jeff Jones had five straight teams in the top 55 in 2P% defense from 2016-20, so that’s kind of a program hallmark.

South Alabama ranks 283rd in 3P% at 31.8%. They also virtually never get to the free throw because they settle for so many long jumpers and are a terrible offensive rebounding team. These are all advantages for Old Dominion in this game. I think this is a great matchup for them.

Pick: Old Dominion +2.5

Long Beach State 49ers (-4.5, 141) at Cal Poly Mustangs

Long Beach State and Cal Poly square off for the second time in two weeks following a 77-58 win for the 49ers. This game features two contrasting styles to say the least. Long Beach State is second in the nation in tempo (UT Rio Grande Valley) and Cal Poly is 325th per Ken Pomeroy. The problem with that for Cal Poly is that they are 326th in adjusted offensive efficiency. The first meeting between the two teams was played to 77 possessions.

The Mustangs absolutely have to find a way to slow this game down, but I don’t think they’ll be able to do it. They are turning the ball over on 22% of their possessions. They have enough empty possessions as it is by not having a good offense, but they exacerbate the issue by not taking care of the basketball.

Long Beach State won that blowout without leading scorers Joel Murray and Marcus Tsohonis. Murray is out for the season, but Tsohonis is back and dropped 46 in the 3 OT win over UC San Diego last game. The 49ers get to the rim a lot in transition while pushing the pace and also lead the nation in second chance conversion percentage (SCC%) vs. the average Division I opponent per Haslametrics. They blew out Cal Poly and only had six offensive rebounds in the first meeting.

I’m not sure why this game would go much different for Cal Poly. Long Beach State is even stronger with Tsohonis back and the Mustangs look unlikely to keep up on offense.

Pick: Long Beach State -4.5

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (-1.5, 128)

This is an outstanding Big West matchup in the nightcap of the evening between UCSB and Hawaii. I know most ranking sites have UC Irvine as the class of the Big West, but I think it’s UC Santa Barbara. Joe Pasternack has another quality team and his group gets a big test tonight. Hawaii is pretty clearly the third-best team in this league, but the best one defensively.

I think UCSB has some advantages in tonight’s game, though I will admit that things get a little iffy out on the island with officiating from time to time, so that is a concern. Let’s start at the rim, where UCSB has a shot share of 42.2% and Hawaii has a shot share against of 40.1%. Opponents are getting a lot of good looks, but are only converting at a 51.1% rate. Hawaii is 19th in FG% against on Close Twos per Torvik, but 297th in shot share against. That screams regression to me.

Eran Ganot’s defenses are notorious for running teams off of the 3-point line. Opponents have only taken a 3 on 26.3% of shot attempts against the Rainbow Warriors and have only made 26.5% of them. While that negatively affects a lot of teams, UCSB only takes a 3 on 29.7% of shots, which ranks 332nd in the nation. They don’t want to take 3s. They want to get the ball inside and they’ve been very effective in the mid-range. I typically don’t like betting on teams like that, but it has been a blind spot for the Hawaii defense.

The Rainbow Warriors have to win with defense because they aren’t very good on offense. Hawaii is seventh in this conference in adjusted offensive efficiency. The ‘Bows are 261st in the nation in 3P% against Division I opponents and just barely in the top 200 in 2P%. UC Santa Barbara is a solid defensive team as well, one that ranks in the top 50 in 2P% defense.

It’s a virtual pick ‘em in Hawaii, where the Rainbow Warriors tend to have a good home court advantage. That says a lot about what these two teams would be lined on a neutral and I agree that the Gauchos are the better team.

Pick: UC Santa Barbara +1.5

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