Thursday's Late Action
March 14, 2019
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Thursday College Basketball Late Best Bets
Today is probably the busiest day in the sport of postseason college basketball as it's time for most of the big boys from the power conferences to hit the floor after a bye or two in their respective conference tournaments.
However, the issue with that is that you don't always see the NCAA tournament bound teams like the Duke's, Michigan State's, and Kansas' of the world have their best outing in these games. Whether it's just an off-day, or the guys are more concerned about their shot at a bigger bounty at the beginning of April is something only they will know, but upsets happen as March Madness has officially begun. With that in mind, my focus for the evening session of games tonight focuses on just a single conference: The Big 10.
The top four seeds in the Big 10 still have another day to wait before they hit the floor, but their opponents for tomorrow will be decided today. It's Purdue and Michigan who await the winners of the two night games this evening, and it's these two teams who I believe will get there.
Odds per - Bookmaker.eu
Best Bet #1: Minnesota +3
Penn State comes into this matchup as the lower seed in the conference, and ever since they managed to knock off Michigan on February 12th, they've been able to finish the year strong. The Nittany Lions went 5-2 SU following that shocking win over the Wolverines, and that run includes a double-digit win over a ranked Maryland team as well.
But while current form my be looking good for Penn State these days, that strong run has arguably come about because Penn State has been knocking down shots. They are a team that likes to play fast, which is a bit counter-intuitive to their talent level, but when they are hitting shots – like any NCAA team in the country – they are tough to beat.
But they are wildly inconsistent on that end, and it's why they piled up so many losses early on. I don't understand how you can trust them as favorites with that being the case, against a Minnesota team that needs a showcase effort or two to solidify their own standing in the NCAA tournament.
The Golden Gophers limped to the finish line this year and it's because of that 3-7 SU run late that the market wants little to do with Minnesota tonight. The majority of bettors love to ride the hot hand blindly and that's definitely Penn State in this regard.
Yet, Minnesota's got more than enough talent that's led by the Jordan Murphy – Amir Coffey combination to get the job done in this regard, as it's probably going to take just one win in this tournament for Minnesota to punch their ticket to the big dance this week. As a three-point underdog in this spot, this line screams overreaction to recent form here, and I'll gladly take the points with the better team.
Odds per - Bookmaker.eu
Best Bet #2: Illinois +4.5
Backing the other underdog in the evening slate of Big 10 games as Iowa's about as fraudulent as they get these days if you ask me.
The Hawkeyes are looking to solidify their own NCAA tournament standing, but their utter disregard for playing any sort of defense is what's going to be behind an early exit in this tournament, and the NCAA's as well – if they even maintain their spot.
But five losses in their final six games – with the one win coming in OT as well – suggests that Iowa continues to be overvalued in the market, as this line should be closer to a single bucket rather than multiple ones. Iowa simply can't keep the bucket out of their own net, and for a Illinois team that's already gotten their feet wet in this tournament with an OT win last night, scoring on open looks shouldn't be an issue for them tonight.
Illinois continues to be a tough out for Big 10 rivals as they have been nearly every night of the latter half of the season, and while they aren't going to make a deep run in this tournament, a trip to the quarter finals is well within reason.
The earlier loss to Iowa (95-71) came back in mid-January before the Illini hit their stride, and it was also their worst defensive performance of the year. The Hawkeyes shot nearly 70% from the field, and everyone knows numbers like that very unsustainable. Clamping down on Iowa's shooters will be key tonight, as Illinois probably just has to get a handful of stops at critical junctures of the game tonight to really have a good sniff at the outright win.
But at +4.5, I'll take the points here to be safe, as the Illini are still a 12-20 SU team that is young and learning how to close games out effectively.
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