Seven o' clock is the bewitching hour for our top picks against the college basketball spreads tonight, stopping along the way for conference matchups in the SEC, ACC and Big East.
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Arkansas Razorbacks
Now this should be interesting. A couple of schools that don't like each other and each one riding a 2-game losing streak to fall back into the middle of the Southeastern Conference race.
That's how we set up Thursday's tussle in Fayetteville where the Arkansas Razorbacks host the Alabama Crimson Tide in ESPN2's 7 PM (ET) broadcast. Arkansas went out -5½, a spread SBR's live NCAA Basketball Odds has watched grow to -7 overnight.
Alabama (12-5 straight up, 8-6-1 against the spread) was run over last weekend in Tuscaloosa by the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats, 70-48, never coming close to covering the closing 9½ point spread. The Tide had been on a 4-game run beating spreads, and the final just stayed 'under' the 119 point total, the sixth low-side winner in the last seven 'Bama games to catty a total.
We can excuse Alabama -- or anyone else, for that matter -- for losing to Kentucky. Tougher to explain or excuse was Arkansas (13-4 SU, 9-7 ATS) falling 96-82 the same day to Ole Miss, a team the Hogs were favored to beat by 9. The Razorbacks have been very lax on defense in their last three games, allowing Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Mississippi to shoot a combined 53% from the field and 20-of-42 (47.6%) from 3-point range, a big reason while their last four have each hurdled the totals.
Home teams have won 12 of the last 13 in this series, which currently stands Arkansas 29-28, but the road team has covered four of the last five. I'd love to bet 'Bama continuing that trend, but will be calling the Hogs for my free college basketball pick instead.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Arkansas -7
Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Virginia Tech Hokies
Nobody's happier about the Notre Dame Fighting Irish getting a 5-day break on the college basketball betting schedule then Mike Brey. Not having much depth to begin with, ND's head coach is coming off a tough win in which he used five players for nearly 90% of the floor time.
That was last Saturday in a squeaker vs. Miami, and now the Irish are on this week with the first stop coming at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg against the Virginia Tech Hokies. Another 7 PM (ET) game on our Thursday tour, this ACC battle is only drawing interest from ESPN3, and the Irish are giving up 9-9½ from the oddsmakers.
Brey did get to include Zach Auguste in the Notre Dame (17-2 SU, 5-6 ATS) rotation last weekend after the 6-10 junior missed a game due to an academic suspension. Virginia Tech (8-9 SU, 6-5 ATS) is apparently going to be without leading scorer Justin Bibbs (13.6 ppg) while the freshman deals with a concussion, and forward Joey Van Zegeren remains out indefinitely due to a suspension.
Notre Dame is always overpriced, but it's still damn tough to back this Va Tech squad. The magic 8 ball is telling me to place my free college basketball pick on the Irish tonight.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Notre Dame -9
DePaul Blue Demons vs. Seton Hall Pirates
Are the Seton Hall Pirates this season's meteor on the college hoops scene, or do they regain their moxie to remain something of a force in the Big East at the very least, if not nationally? Perhaps that question will be answered Thursday when the DePaul Blue Demons come to Newark for a 7 PM (ET) broadcast carried by FOX Sports 1.
The Pirates are carrying 10½ point chalk on this one, and there's been little to no movement on SBR's live college basketball odds.
DePaul (10-9 SU, 10-8 ATS) was the only team behind Seton Hall (13-4 SU, 13-3 ATS) on the college basketball futures odds this past fall, the Demons checking in as the longest of long shots to win the Big East at 50/1 while the Pirates were picked as 20/1 also-rans. Both are doing much better than expected, DePaul able to grab a share of first place in the conference with a win Thursday, Seton Hall sitting 24th in both the AP and USA Today rankings.
The Blue Demons have already proven to be a thorn in the sides of four Big East opponents, and a real treat for anyone following them as underdog winners in each of their seven conference tilts. I'm once again attracted to a double-digit road 'dog for my final free college basketball pick.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: DePaul +10.5 at The Greek
Season: 23-26 (-5.60)