Thursday NCAA Basketball Picks: Three Must Bet Matchups

Darin Zank

Thursday, January 8, 2015 4:15 PM GMT

After going 1-1 each of the last two nights with our free college basketball picks we're tired of treading water. Perhaps we need to go with more picks. So here's three for Thursday.

Iowa -2.5/131 vs. Michigan State
Michigan State has been riding the roller coaster as of late; back in December the Spartans won and covered three games in a row, then got upset by Texas Southern as 24-point favorites. We're not sure, but that might be the biggest pointspread upset so far this season. But MSU bounced back after that debacle to bomb the Citadel 82-56, this time covering as a 24-point favorite. The Spartans then followed that up by getting upset again, at home by Maryland, as six-point favorites. Michigan State then bounced back from that loss last time out to beat Indiana 70-50, covering at -8. If recent form holds true the Spartans might lay an egg tonight.

Iowa, meanwhile, is 2-0 both SU and ATS in Big Ten play so far, winning at Ohio State nine days ago 71-65 as a seven-point underdog, then beating Nebraska Monday 70-59, covering as a nine-point favorite.

Michigan State has won the last eight meetings in this rivalry, but this is an excellent chance for the Hawkeyes to snap that streak, and they know it. Also, Iowa is shooting 78 percent from the line this season, and free-throws sure can help cover a spread. We like the home team in this spot, at the very manageable number.

Free College Basketball PickIowa -2 at Pinnacle Sports

Looking for more betting profit? Check out Thursday's Evening Top ATS College Basketball Picks.

SMU -8/128.5 vs. Memphis
The Tigers started 3-4 this season, with losses to Wichita State, Baylor and Oklahoma State, then won five games in a row. But last time out Memphis got upset at home by Tulane 74-66, losing outright as a 12-point favorite. The Tigers led that game by five points with about four minutes to go, but got outscored 17-4 down the stretch.

The Mustangs, meanwhile, are 10-4 this season, and just had an eight-game winning streak snapped by a 56-50 loss at Cincinnati. But SMU's best victory is probably its win over Michigan back before Christmas, and at the moment that doesn't say much.

Both these teams fall into the “bounce-back” category tonight, after taking defeats last time out, but the Mustangs also might be a bit overrated on the college basketball betting odds, playing at home. We like the Tigers, plus the points, in this spot.

Free College Basketball Pick: Memphis +8.5 at Heritage

Arizona -5.5/135.5 at Oregon
The Wildcats are a national championship contender, off to a 13-1 start to this season. The Ducks, meanwhile, are 11-3, but we get the feeling they've been playing a bit above their heads so far.

Arizona started 12-0, with wins over Missouri, Kansas State, Gonzaga and Michigan, then got upset at UNLV a couple of weeks ago 71-67, losing outright as a 12-point favorite. The Wildcats then had 11 days off to prepare for Arizona State, whom they promptly bounced 73-49 last Sunday, covering as 14-point favorites.

Oregon owns a six-game winning streak, but the only team of any merit the Ducks have beaten so far is probably Illinois. Two weeks ago Oregon needed overtime to beat UC-Santa Barbara, and just after that needed overtime to beat UC-Irvine.

Oregon has won three of the last four meetings in this series, and has covered the last five. It's time the Wildcats turned the tables back in their favor.

The bottom line in this spot for us is taking the better team, at the more manageable spread, playing on the road. If this game were being played in Tuscon Arizona might be favored by double-digits. We like the 'Cats as our NCAA basketball pick to win this game, with room enough for the cover.

Free College Basketball Pick: Arizona -5.5 at 5Dimes