The college basketball slate turns to Thursday as conferences like the PAC-12 take center stage with a handful of matchups ahead of the weekend.
Arizona State and Stanford are mired in the middle of the conference standings, but is there a prevailing sentiment that is providing an edge to a side. Keep reading to find out how I'm attacking the Thursday slate below!
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Best College Basketball Bets Today, Feb. 1
- Stanford vs. Arizona State (PK)
- Parlay: SMU/Oregon (+109)
Stanford vs. Arizona State Prediction and Pick
If you have been reading this column, I tend to hunt for "home court merchants," teams that have stark home/road splits. Stanford fits the bill as one. Here's some numbers, courtesy of Bart Torvik.
Stanford at home: 8-3 straight up, 20th in the country in effective field goal percentage, buoyed by a 43% three-point percentage as a team, bottom 15 opponent free throw rate.
Stanford on the road: 2-3 straight up, 82nd in effective field goal percentage with a near nine percent drop in three-point percentage, the team is 297th in turnover percentage and 352nd in offensive rebounding rate.
Stanford is 335th in Haslametrics "away/home court" rating, which means the team sees a stark drop-off in its play on the road, justifying the numbers above.
The Cardinal will take the trip to Tempe to face the most high ball pressure defense in the conference in Arizona State, who is turning foes over on a fifth of all possessions.
The Sun Devils, in the opposite vein, are strong at home, 11th in Haslametrics "away/home court" rating and an elite defense at the rim, which can slow down easy buckets for the Stanford frontcourt. ASU is top 70 in field goal percentage at the rim allowed, and mixed with its heavy ball pressure should do enough to get a win at home, where the team is 8-1 on the year with its only loss being an insane finish against UCLA.
PICK: Arizona State PK
SMU vs. Tulane Prediction and Pick
I'll be pairing SMU with Oregon to create a plus money money line parlay.
The Mustangs are in great shape to dispose of Tulane at home. SMU is off back-to-back road losses to North Texas and Wichita State and draws a strong matchup against a soft interior of the Green Wave.
Tulane is outside the top 300 in rebounding percentage, but this will be glaring on the defensive glass where SMU bolsters the second best unit in AAC play, rebounding nearly 38% of available second chances. Meanwhile, Tulane is dead last in AAC defensive rebounding rate, which can open up plenty of opportunities for the hosts to build a lead and lean on its elite defense that is 26th in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency and playing the best in league play.
Further, Tulane has struggled when playing better competition all season. The Green Wave has lost to all but one KenPom top 75 team its played this season, beating Memphis by two at home.
Further, elite defenses have stymied Tulane completely. Mississippi State (18th) and North Texas (38th) are the only other two top 40 defenses the Green Wave have faced, and the team lost by double digits in both. The Mustangs ability to turn Tulane over will show in this one, and the team should get a comfortable win.
Oregon vs. USC Prediction and Pick
This number moved over night through one possession, so I'll opt to pair Oregon with SMU.
The Ducks are trending upwards, even after a setback against PAC-12 favorite at home over the weekend, now fully healthy and ready to play into a firm spot in the field of 68 come Selection Sunday. Meanwhile, the team plays USC, who is mending plenty of key injuries and in the midst of a five game losing streak.
While the Trojans have talent, I'm not sure this is the game for the team to get back on track.
The key to this one will be the impact of big man N'Faly Dante. The offensive numbers look similar for the Ducks, but his gravity on offense has opened up the perimeter for the Ducks, who are shooting 44% from beyond the arc when he is on the floor (up from 36% when he is off). Further, he is an elite rim protector, Oregon is allowing teams to shoot 51% at the rim when he's playing, down from nearly 59% when he is off. 51% would be inside the top 30 nationally if used on a full game sample.
This is all to say that Oregon is better when Dante is on the floor. The team is second in PAC-12 effective field goal percentage and the defense is starting to round into form. The Ducks travel to SoCal to take on a Trojans team that has fallen off in league play, ninth in P12 effective field goal percentage and posting the second worst turnover percentage in the league.
The offense could only muster 50 points against UCLA over the weekend, and I don't believe the current roster can handle Oregon's morphing zone pressure. Further, this is a rematch from earlier this month when a banged up Ducks team comfortably beat USC, who was much closer to full strength with Isaiah Collier on the floor, leading by as much as 20 in the first half.
I like Oregon to continue its upward trajectory with a road win.
PICK: Oregon/SMU ML Parlay (+109)
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.