Colorado, Missouri State Will Be Tough Enough in NCAA Hoops Thursday

Jay Pryce

Thursday, January 4, 2018 3:58 PM UTC

Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018 3:58 PM UTC

Colorado has a history of knocking off ranked opponents in Boulder, and it hopes to upset No. 4 Arizona State on Thursday night in its first shot this season at Coors Events Center. Meanwhile, Missouri State hosts perennial Valley powerhouse Northern Iowa as 5.5-point chalk. Both home teams are good bets.

NCAAB Thursday: Arizona State vs. Colorado

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Free NCAAB Pick: Colorado +8.5Best Line Offered: Pinnacle

Arizona State’s (12-1 SU, 10-2 ATS) unbeaten run to open the year ended Saturday against state rival Arizona (84-78). The Sun Devils are one of the biggest surprises in college basketball, leading the Pac-12 with 90.7 points per game. The offense ranks fourth nationally in adjusted efficiency according to KenPom, putting up 120.7 points per 100 possessions. Head Coach Bobby Hurley fields five players averaging double figures, led by senior guard Tra Holder (22.0 ppg). What makes the team so lethal is its ability to punish opponents for their own mistakes. Arizona State owns a conference-best 4.7 turnover margin.

Colorado (8-6 SU, 5-8 ATS), meanwhile, has dropped six of its last eight games. Four losses have been by double digits, including a 96-69 rout at then-No. 4 Xavier. The Buffaloes are failing on both sides of the court in this span, reaching their projected team total once, while allowing foes to surpass theirs in all but two. The biggest issue is giveaways. Colorado committed 38 turnovers over its last two games, paving the way for losses at Oregon State (76-57) and Oregon (62-77).

The Sun Devils top the conference in turnover margin, and Buffs Head Coach Tad Boyle knows gifting the high-scoring Sun Devils extra possessions is a disaster in the making. Protecting the ball and solid defense is the game plan for Colorado. “I’d like to hold them in the 70s,” Boyle said. “If we hold Arizona State in the 70s we have a chance to win.”

Colorado is no stranger to knocking off ranked opponents at Coors Events Center during Boyle’s tenure. They are 19-6 SU and 17-8 ATS under these conditions, topping a -1.3 average line by 3.9 points per game. The outright upset here is a long shot, but Colorado should keep it within the number. It has lost only four of these matchups by 9 points or more. Boulder presents one of the toughest away trips for teams with its high altitude. Take the +8.5 with the Buffs for your best bet.

NCAAB Thursday: Northern Iowa vs. Missouri State

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Free NCAAB Pick: Missouri State -5.5Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

Missouri State (12-3 SU, 7-4 ATS) ranks ninth in College Insider’s Men’s Mid-Major Top 25 Poll. The Bears have some impressive victories, including road wins at Western Kentucky (85-80), Valparaiso (67-50), and a neutral-court drubbing over South Dakota State (73-53). The Jackrabbits, for what it’s worth, are overwhelming favorites to repeat as Summit League champions.

Missouri State is balanced on both ends, ranking 89th in offensive and 51st in defensive efficiency per KenPom. It plays at the 319th-slowest pace in the country. To come out on top of the betting line with such a slow tempo, the defense needs to shine. It has held opponents to 35.4-percent shooting in seven covers this year, while allowing 44.0 percent in four failures. Northern Iowa (8-6 SU, 3-7 ATS), which plays even slower than the Bears (350th), averages just 59.6 points per game on 40.5-percent shooting in five games outside of Cedar Falls.

The Panthers are a perennial powerhouse in the Missouri Valley Conference, but something is off this year. The have dropped four straight and lack any semblance of consistency. They shocked SMU (61-58) as 8.5-point pups in November, but lost their last two as betting favorites, including a home date against Southern Illinois (56-53) as 8.5-point chalk. The offense is abysmal, ranking 227th in adjusted efficiency. Playing at such a sloth-like tempo, the team has to hit its shots to keep competitive. Thus far, it has scored more than 69 points once in nine games listed on the college basketball oddsboard.

The Bears are 22-7 SU as home chalk in conference play behind Head Coach Paul Lusk, going 9-4-2 ATS when laying less than 7 points. You will need every bit you can get in this low-scoring contest. Lay the 5.5 points with the Bears. Northern Iowa will need to reach 60 to cover, and it ain’t happening.

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