Three stops in three different conferences on Thursday's college basketball betting card have piqued the interest of our handicapper, starting with a Big Ten battle between Nebraska and Maryland.
Nebraska vs. Maryland
It has taken a long time for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Maryland Terrapins to get together on a basketball court, Thursday's meeting in College Park the first-ever between the two schools. They won't have to wait long for a second clash between the new conference rivals with the 'Huskers and Terps scheduled to close the regular season against one another March 8 in Lincoln.
The historic first meeting is set for a 7 PM (ET) start with the Big Ten Network providing the broadcast. Maryland is giving up 8 on the tote board, and the NCAA basketball odds will have a total for this game and the others as soon as the numbers are released later this morning.
Nebraska (13-12 straight up, 7-14-1 against the spread) entered the season as an 8/1 choice on the NCAA futures odds to win the Big Ten, well behind the likes of Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State in the favorites column, but still expected to be among the tougher teams in the league. The Cornhuskers have never lived up to those expectations, dropping their first two conference games and falling in five of their last six.
Maryland (21-5 SU, 8-14-1 ATS) was behind Nebraska at 12/1 to win the Big Ten, yet here are the Terrapins locked in a fight with Michigan State and Purdue for 2nd-place behind Wisconsin. They'll have five days after this one to get ready for hosting the Badgers next Tuesday, and have failed to cover the last three home games.
The last time Maryland covered a spread this big was December 10, so despite how terrible the 'Huskers are playing right now, I'm taking the points for my free pick.
Connecticut vs. Memphis
Supremacy in the middle of the American Athletic Conference standings is on the line when the Connecticut Huskies visit the Memphis Tigers in a 9 PM (ET) matchup to be carried by ESPN. Memphis opened -2½, the spread dropping to -2 overnight.
Both the Huskies and Tigers are level with 7-5 league marks, four games behind front-running SMU as the evening begins. Connecticut (14-10 SU, 8-13 ATS) just got manhandled by those Mustangs down in Dallas last weekend, dropping the 73-55 decision as a 6½ point road underdog on the NCAA basketball odds. The Huskies should at least find the Tigers' defense less formidable than SMU's proved.
Memphis (15-10 SU, 10-12 ATS) just stopped a 2-game slide with a resounding 75-48 win at South Florida, which is nice. What's not so nice for Josh Pastner's troops is they should still be without leading scorer Austin Nichols on Thursday, the sophomore still hobbled by a sprained ankle nearly two weeks ago vs. Temple.
I'm feeling an outright upset for UConn in this one, so will gladly take the bucket.
Gonzaga vs. Pacific
If it's a Thursday and they're playing, you know I've got my eyes on the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Mark Few's fellows are on the road in Stockton to start a 2-game roadie against the Pacific Tigers, and the Bulldogs are once again burdened with big chalk.
The 11 PM (ET) tip can be seen on ROOT Sports, Gonzaga growing to -18 overnight on the college basketball betting board.
Gonzaga (26-1 SU, 12-10-2 ATS) is in a look-ahead spot here with a trip to Saint Mary's just two days away, but more because of how Few will possibly rest some starters and not the Tigers being any real threat to the 19-game win streak. Pacific (10-16 SU, 8-13-2 ATS) is bringing up the rear of the West Coast Conference and stuck in a 7-game rut against a team that already beat the Tigers by 31 a little less than a month ago.
How long Few keeps his foot on the pedal is a crucial factor, but the Bulldog backups should still be able to cover 18 that I'm laying for my final free college basketball pick.
NCAA Basketball Picks: Nebraska +8; Connecticut +2; Gonzaga -18