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College basketball best bets.
College basketball best bets.

Four of the six ranked teams from the AP college basketball poll in action on Thursday hail from the West Coast. Read on for our college basketball best bets for Thursday based on the top NCAAB odds.

UCLA and Arizona continue their battle for the Pac-12 regular-season title. They have home games against Oregon and Washington, respectively, and the Bruins have a half-game lead over the Wildcats to start the day.

Here are our college basketball best bets for Thursday (odds via BetMGM, Caesars, and DraftKings; pick confidence based on a 1-to-5-star scale).

Check out our top college basketball picks and our best March Madness betting sites.

Thursday’s college basketball schedule and odds

(odds via DraftKings)

  • Houston (-12) vs. Wichita State
  • Washington vs. UCLA (-17.5)
  • Oregon vs. Arizona (-9)
  • Santa Clara vs. Gonzaga (-13.5)
  • San Francisco vs. Saint Mary’s (-12.5)

Check out our best March Madness odds and Wooden Award odds.

College basketball best bets for Thursday

  • Spread: Michigan +3.5 vs. Northwestern (-110 via BetMGM) ⭐⭐⭐
  • Moneyline: Pacific ML vs. Pepperdine (-130 via DraftKings) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Total: Washington State-USC Under 132.5 (-110 via Caesars) ⭐⭐⭐
  • Upset: Old Dominion ML vs. James Madison (+110 via DraftKings) ⭐⭐⭐

College basketball top picks

Spread: Michigan +3.5 vs. Northwestern (-110 via BetMGM) ⭐⭐⭐

As Maryland head coach Kevin Willard pointed out early into his tenure, Big Ten schedules are always challenging to navigate. But the condensed schedules are even tougher to deal with after experiencing a COVID-19 pause as Northwestern had. The Wildcats are now playing their fourth game in eight days and looked completely out of gas against Iowa on Tuesday. Northwestern was tied 39-39 with the Hawkeyes at the half and trailed 57-56 with 10 minutes to go, but Iowa ended on a 29-14 run. 

Michigan already owns a seven-point home win against the Wildcats (Northwestern’s last game before the COVID-19 pause). This is a three-star play as the Wolverines have a clear path to be competitive again despite 18 turnovers in the first meeting if they can pound Northwestern on the glass (they out-rebounded the Wildcats 41-29 in the first meeting).

We’re not getting the best number Thursday morning as Michigan was +4.5 overnight, but we would still play this down to +3.

Moneyline: Pacific ML vs. Pepperdine (-130 via DraftKings) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Pacific was picked to finish dead last in the WCC preseason poll, but the way things have gone, it is Pepperdine that should have been considered the conference doormat. The Waves have lost 10 consecutive games, one of which was a five-point home loss to the Tigers on January 7. Meanwhile, Pacific is a respectable 9-7 since small forward Keylan Boone returned to the team in late November after a shoulder injury sidelined him for the first six games. Boone’s shot-blocking and ability to stretch the floor has positively impacted Pacific on both ends, and the Tigers are a completely different team from what they were a year ago.

Last year, Pacific ranked dead-last at 30% from 3-point range per ShotQuality’s shot-making metric. However, we are backing the Tigers to win outright as a solid four-star play, as they now rank 16th nationally with a 38.4% team 3-point shooting percentage and an even better 39.7% clip in league play.

DraftKings is the only sportsbook that remained at the opening line of -130, as its competitors are now as low as -145.

Total: Washington State vs. USC Under 132.5 (-110 via Caesars) ⭐⭐⭐

USC has had no choice but to bludgeon opponents at the rim for offensive success, given its shooting woes. The Trojans rank second in the Pac-12 in adjusted offensive efficiency, despite shooting 30.8% (10th) from 3-point range in league play. Instead, the Trojans make their living from 2-point range, getting a league-high 59.7% of their points inside the arc. 

These two teams combined for 152 points in their first meeting, but we expect Washington State to pack the paint more and dare USC to shoot from the outside, as the Trojans attempted 47 2-pointers and 18 3s in the first meeting. This is a three-star play, as we do not expect the Cougars to make 14 of their 29 3-point attempts (48.3%) again in the rematch.

Upset: Old Dominion ML vs. James Madison (+110 via DraftKings) ⭐⭐⭐

Under head coach Jeff Jones, Old Dominion has consistently played at one of the country’s slowest tempos (298th this year), and we expect an even more pronounced snail’s pace when facing one of the fastest teams in the country. Three of JMU’s last four losses have come against teams (South Alabama, Appalachian State, Texas State) that rank 234th or slower in adjusted tempo. Slower teams that defend the rim well, like ODU, are much more adept at defending the Dukes’ pick-and-roll, which they use at a league-high rate. 

This is a solid three-star play, as the Monarchs will dare JMU to shoot threes (they allow the second-highest percentage of opponents’ points to come from beyond the arc), but the Dukes are connecting on a league-worst 28.9% of their 3-point attempts.

College basketball best bets made 2/2/2023 at 6:31 a.m. ET.

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