Add This Trio of Dangerous Dogs to Your NCAA Basketball Picks

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, February 5, 2015 3:48 PM UTC

Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015 3:48 PM UTC

Not a great schedule in college basketball on Thursday night with just two ranked teams in action, including No. 2 Gonzaga, which should be safe at Santa Clara. However, here are three dogs on the schedule that could win outright.

Iowa (+1) vs. Michigan
This game could be a pick'em by tipoff, but it's Michigan by a point as of this writing so it still counts! The Wolverines (13-9, 6-4 Big Ten) have been crushed by injuries this season, so consider this while looking over the NCAA basketball odds. The team's best player, leading scorer and potential 2015 NBA first-round pick Caris LeVert was lost for the season a few weeks ago to a broken foot. So UM could ill afford another injury and still hope to make the 2015 NCAA Tournament, but now the team's second-best player, point guard Derrick Walton, is out indefinitely with a foot injury that he originally hurt early in the season but then recently re-aggravated. He averages 10.7 points and 4.7 rebounds and generally was the guy with the ball in his hands in key situations once LeVert went down. Now the Wolverines don't really have a go-to guy in the clutch. That was obvious in Sunday's overtime loss at Michigan State as Michigan didn't score a single point in OT. Walton also generally guarded the other team's best perimeter scorer. Coach John Beilein has really had to mix and match in the past two games Walton has missed. For example, guard Andrew Dakich, who had played only 14 minutes all season, played 13 in the first half against the Spartans. Seldom-used freshman Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman was in the starting lineup. This is desperation time for Iowa (13-8, 4-4) as the Hawkeyes have dropped three straight. But two of those were to Wisconsin.

NCAA Basketball Pick: Honestly, every trend goes against Iowa here, but I don't know who scores for Michigan. Trends don't take injuries into account.

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Cincinnati (+6.5) vs. 23 SMU
This is a potential trap game for SMU in the American Athletic Conference as the Mustangs (18-4, 9-1) might be looking ahead somewhat to Saturday's big game at Tulsa, which is the only unbeaten team in AAC play and a half-game ahead of SMU. The Mustangs have won eight straight games, six by double digits, despite NCAA sanctions looming over the program and the recent loss of fourth-leading scorer Keith Frazier for the season due to academics. Larry Brown is a terrific coach, no doubt. Cincinnati (15-6, 6-3) pretty much has to win this game to have any shot at the AAC regular-season title. The Bearcats had a four-game winning streak snapped on Sunday at East Carolina, 50-46, which was a puzzling defeat because the Pirates are one of the conference's worst teams. You will get those 46-point games at times from offensively-challenged Cincinnati, but it's also a tremendous defensive team. That was on display in a 56-50 home win over SMU on Jan. 3. UC owns the nation's longest active games streak for holding its opponent under 70 points at 25. The Bearcats allow just 54.5 points per game, which would be the fewest points allowed by a Cincinnati team since 1962-63 (53.4).  Cincinnati is going to have to keep this in the 50s to have a shot.

NCAA Basketball Pick:  UC is 4-1 ATS in its past five vs. teams with a winning percentage above .600. SMU has covered only three of its past 12 Thursday games.

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BYU vs. Pepperdine (+3)
If you have never seen the Cougars (17-7, 7-4 West Coast Conference) play, they are fun to watch as they lead the nation in scoring at 85.3 points per game and are third in assists at 17.6 per game. BYU has a new version of Jimmer Fredette in senior guard Tyler Haws, who averages 22.6 points per game, No. 2 in the nation. Pepperdine (14-8, 7-4) comes off a four-game road trip where the Waves lost the first two (San Francisco, Santa Clara) but won the last two (Pacific, Saint Mary's). Pepperdine already won at  BYU back on Jan. 8, 67-61, behind 23 points and eight rebounds from Stacy Davis, which you can't ignore when making your NCAA basketball picks. Haws had 26 for BYU. Why do the Cougars worry me here? They have lost two straight on the road, and if you can slow everyone else but Haws you can beat this team. The Waves are second in the WCC in scoring defense (61.5) and held BYU to just 38.1 percent shooting in the first meeting.

NCAA Basketball Pick:  BYU is 1-7 ATS in its past eight vs. teams with a winning record. It has covered only four of its past 14 in the WCC. Pepperdine has covered six straight vs. teams with a winning record. It has covered four in a row vs. BYU.

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