NCAA Basketball Picks of the Day: Crash Betting Boards on Thursday

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, December 3, 2015 3:04 PM GMT

Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015 3:04 PM GMT

The two most decorated programs in college basketball, Kentucky and UCLA,  face off in Los Angeles to highlight Thursday's schedule. Here are my top NCAA basketball picks.

#1 Kentucky vs. UCLA 
UCLA has won a record 11 NCAA championships, but 10 of those came in the 1960s and '70s under John Wooden. Kentucky is second overall with eight titles and has won three since UCLA won its last in 1995. In the past five years, UK has been to four Final Fours but the Bruins haven't been to one. Believe it or not, this is the first time Kentucky has ever played at Pauley Pavilion -- this game is televised by ESPN. Kentucky played at UCLA on Dec. 4, 1959, but Pauley didn't exist for another six years. I looked at Kentucky's game Monday at home against Illinois State and said the Wildcats wouldn't cover the 20 points because they were missing their most important player, point guard Tyler Ulis. UK was tied at halftime and won by only 12. This is Kentucky's first true road game and it's not clear if Ulis will return from his hyperextended elbow. The team continues to say he's day-to-day, although he reportedly did practice on Wednesday, albeit in a limited fashion. UCLA is a disappointing 4-3 with losses to Monmouth (better than you think, but still), Kansas and Wake Forest. The Bruins are expecting their first sellout at Pauley since January 2014. And it's a revenge game for the Bruins. Last season they were embarrassed 83-44 by Kentucky in Chicago. The Cats scored the first 24 points of the game and led 41-7 (41-7!) at  halftime. It was the lowest point total in a half for UCLA and the fewest by a Kentucky opponent since December 1943. UCLA last defeated the nation’s No. 1 team at home on Jan. 12, 2002, in upsetting Kansas 87-77.

Kentucky as long as Ulis plays, and signs are pointing to that. UCLA is 2-6 ATS in its past eight games. It is 1-11 ATS in its past 12 vs. the SEC.

NCAA Basketball Pick: Kentucky -6 at 5Dimes

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Belmont vs. Valparaiso 
Here are two good mid-major programs. Belmont, of the Ohio Valley Conference, is off to a 5-3 start. It has a quality win at Marquette with losses at Arizona State, Evansville and BYU. The Bruins are one of the nation’s top offensive teams, ranking first in 2-point field goal percentage, 17th in points (87.4 per game) and 24th in offensive efficiency. They have two players who likely would start for many Power 5 teams in Evan Bradds and Craig Bradshaw. Bradds, a junior forward, is averaging 19.5 points and 8.1 rebounds while shooting an absurd .739 percent from the field. Bradshaw, a senior guard, is averaging 17.0 points and shooting .481 from 3-point range. Valparaiso (6-2) has a quality win at Oregon State and hung with ranked Oregon in the Ducks' gym. The Crusaders were picked to win the Horizon League. Valpo won a program-record 28 games en route to the Horizon League regular season and tournament titles last year to reach the NCAA Tournament  for the ninth time since 1996. Valpo’s scoring defense (57.3 ppg) ranks seventh nationally, while its field-goal percentage defense (36.2%) is 19th. The Crusaders have won 17 consecutive home games. Valpo is 8-1 all-time vs. Belmont but the teams haven't played since 2002.

Valparaiso. Belmont is 1-4 ATS in its past five vs. the Horizon League. Valpo has covered 14 of its past 18 vs. teams with a winning record.

NCAA Basketball Pick: Valpo -9.5 at WillHill

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USC vs. UC Santa Barbara 
Southern Cal (5-2) got its biggest win of the Andy Enfield era on Nov. 26 with a 72-69 upset of then-No. 20 Wichita State in a Florida holiday tournament, but the Trojans couldn't build on that and followed with losses to Xavier and Monmouth (so little Monmouth owns Los Angeles!). This is USC's first true road game. The Trojans were 2-9 in road games last season, winning their first two (at New Mexico and Boston College) and then losing all nine conference road games. USC has won its last three nonconference road games, but is 5-13 in its last 18 nonconference road games overall. The Trojans are a very young team and have six players scoring in double digits, led by  Jordan McLaughlin's 15.3. He was a Pac-12 All-Freshman pick last season despite missing the final eight games due to injury. UCSB (2-3), of the Big West Conference, has already played three Pac-12 teams, losing to California, Oregon State and Arizona State (that went down to the wire). The Gauchos went 12-2 at the Thunderdome in 2014-15, equaling their best home record ever. They are 1-11 all-time against USC.

Southern Cal. USC is 7-2 ATS in its past nine non-conference games. UCSB is 2-8 ATS in its past 10 after a loss.  

NCAA Basketball Pick: USC -2 at Heritage

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