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College basketball best bets.
College basketball best bets.

We're offering our top college basketball player props and best bets for Thursday based on the best college basketball odds for an intriguing mid-February slate.

For all of the chaos we've seen this college basketball season, Wednesday provided an important reminder for sports bettors: if a line or spread looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Detroit Mercy was 0-26 entering its game against IUPUI, yet oddsmakers instilled the Titans as 5.5-point favorites. Several bettors likely looked at this line in bewilderment when an 0-26 team was favored, but sure enough, the Titans cashed for their backers with an 81-66 victory.

We've started the week 10-2 since Monday, so what will Thursday’s four-pack of college basketball best bets bring?

Here are our college basketball player props and best bets for Thursday (college basketball picks based on odds via our best March Madness betting sites; Pick confidence based on a 1-to-5-star scale).

Thursday’s college basketball schedule and odds

(Odds via Caesars)

Thursday’s college basketball best bets

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Thursday’s college basketball player props

Jahvon Quinerly (Memphis) Under 11.5 points vs. North Texas (-115 via DraftKings, bet365) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Memphis point guard Jahvon Quinerly has scored 12-plus points in three of his last five games. However, the common theme in those scoring outbursts is the team’s overall scoring success, as the Tigers have been averaging 87.3 points per game during that span. Memphis didn't crack 71 points in either contest during the two recent games when Quinerly was held to three and eight total points.

KenPom projects Memphis as a 70-66 loser to North Texas, with the analytics suggesting the Mean Green’s painfully slow tempo (the second-slowest in the country) will slow down Memphis’ up-tempo attack that plays at the 22nd-fastest pace in the country. North Texas also ranks in the top 20 nationally in effective field-goal percentage defense. And while the team's main weakness is keeping opponents off the free-throw line (it ranks 13th in AAC play in free-throw attempts per field-goal attempt), Quinerly has attempted three or fewer free throws in five of his previous eight games.

DraftKings and bet365 are posting the same -115 juice to back the Under on Quinerly’s point total Thursday.

KJ Simpson (Colorado) Over 1.5 3-pointers vs. UCLA (-105 via DraftKings) ⭐⭐⭐

UCLA has won seven of its last eight games, and its success is rooted largely in a commitment to the defensive end of the floor, as the team has held its last eight opponents to 64.3 points per game. The Bruins grind games to a halt with a bottom-25 tempo among all D-I teams, and the squad ranks in the top two in Pac-12 play in adjusted defensive efficiency and 3-point percentage allowed (34.0%).

The two regular-season meetings between these teams during 2022-23 resulted in 122 and 116 points scored, and Colorado hasn't scored 70 points in its last two road games, though the school played without Cody Williams for one of those contests (14.0 points per game). However, all of those statistics are reasons why Colorado point guard KJ Simpson’s Over on 3-pointers made is juiced to -105 and the Under is juiced to -125. But there are several reasons to expect him to make multiple 3-pointers.

Simpson made two-plus 3-pointers in three consecutive games before his 0-for-4 performance from beyond the arc in the last game against Arizona. However, UCLA plays a condensed defensive scheme that allows opponents to shoot 43.1% of its field goal attempts from beyond the arc, the 25th-highest rate in the country. Simpson has already made multiple 3-pointers in seven of the team’s 13 Pac-12 games, and with the frequency that the Bruins allow shots from deep, he is a good bet to do so again.

bet365 offers standard -110 juice to back the Over, so the best value for this play is found at DraftKings.

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Thursday’s college basketball game picks

Northwestern +3.5 vs. Rutgers (-110 via Caesars, DraftKings, bet365) ⭐⭐⭐

Jersey Mike's Arena (formerly known as the RAC) is one of the most underrated and most challenging environments to play in throughout the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights have won 75.5% of their home games (37-12) since 2021, including an 8-1 straight-up record as home underdogs during that span.

However, Rutgers has scored 60 or fewer points in three home losses during 2023-24. And a raucous atmosphere in New Jersey won't intimidate Northwestern, which beat a much more talented Scarlet Knights team 65-53 in the same venue last year.

Northwestern overcame 17 turnovers and a poor shooting night from 3-point range (30.4% on 23 attempts) during that meeting while limiting Rutgers to 0.77 points per possession and outrebounding the Scarlet Knights by six. Rutgers boasted a lot more offensive firepower with Paul Mulcahy and Cam Spencer (now leading UConn in scoring at 15.3 points per game) in its backcourt.

This year's Rutgers squad is last in the Big Ten in adjusted offensive efficiency, effective field-goal percentage, and 2-point shooting (41.2%). Northwestern returned 57.4% of its minutes from 2023-24 (58th in D-I) and is one of the 37 oldest teams in the country. So we expect it to go into Rutgers and take care of business, much as it did last year.

The Wildcats are 4-2 against the spread in their last six games, and they haven't lost to a Big Ten team that was under .500 in league play entering Wednesday all season (the Scarlet Knights boast a 5-7 league record).

All of our best sports betting sites are posting a point spread of Northwestern +3.5. But only Caesars, DraftKings, and bet365 aren't charging more than the standard -110 juice to back the underdogs.

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LIU +4.5 vs. Fairleigh Dickinson (-110 via DraftKings, bet365) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

LIU has won back-to-back games just once all season, when it was 2-0 in NEC play, and the team is in position to win consecutive games on Thursday after coming off a 75-58 victory over Sacred Heart.

Not only was that LIU's first conference win by more than five points this season, but it came against a Pioneers squad that's third in the NEC standings. However, even if this game against Fairleigh Dickinson is as close as the oddsmakers project, the Sharks are 4-1 straight up in conference games decided by five or fewer points. They should be more comfortable in that setting than a Knights squad that's 0-2 SU in such games.

FDU won the first meeting between these teams 82-75 at home on Feb. 1 while posting 20 assists on 29 made field goals, and forcing the Sharks into 18 turnovers. While turnovers have continued to plague LIU since, with an average of 17.5 per game in its last two affairs, the Sharks have gone 1-1 straight with an overtime loss despite that weakness. They've done that while relying on a defense that's held the team's last two opponents to 20.6% from 3-point range (7-for-34). Another poor perimeter shooting performance could be FDU's undoing in this matchup, as it attempts 3-pointers at the fourth-highest rate in league play, and shoots a league-worst 44.4% from inside the arc through 10 NEC games.

LIU has covered four straight games and five of its last six, while FDU faces the troubling trend of covering just two of its eight games as road underdogs this season. DraftKings and bet365 are in unison with the underdogs getting +4.5 points at the standard -110 odds.

College basketball best bets made 2/15/2024 at 6:37 a.m. ET

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