College Basketball Betting Picks for Thursday 3/14/24

Aidan Cotter
Aidan CotterAidanCotterFD
College Basketball Betting Picks for Thursday 3/14/24

The college basketball season always provides a flurry of twists and turns that few saw coming -- especially when the NCAA Tournament comes around. This can make college basketball one of the most challenging sports to bet on.

Fortunately, we have plenty of tools available that can aid our chances of taking the most favorable college basketball bets. Bart Torvik and KenPom are excellent sources that give insights into team-level efficiency, and Sports Reference provides a wide range of useful team stats, as well.

Let's check out FanDuel Sportsbook's college basketball odds and select some of the best bets of the day by utilizing the mentioned tools.

Please note lines are subject to change throughout the day after this article is published.

College Basketball Best Bets

San Diego State vs. UNLV, 5:30 p.m. ET

UNLV +4.5 (-110)

The San Diego State Aztecs face the UNLV Rebels for the third time in tonight's Mountain West Conference (MWC) quarterfinals. The teams split the regular season meetings, but San Diego State is favored by 4.5 points tonight. That's a tick too high for a UNLV side that beat SDSU in this same gym just last week, so I'll take UNLV +4.5 here.

The home team came out ahead in each of the first two matchups between these MWC rivals. SDSU won 72-61 back in early January, but UNLV got revenge via a 62-58 W on March 5th. Hot starts fueled both wins, with UNLV going up 8 after the first 10 minutes last week and SDSU leading by 13 after 10 in January.

San Diego State had a +10-rebound advantage in the first matchup -- nothing new for the MWC's second-best rebounding team -- but UNLV out-rebounded them by 6 last week.

That interior battle should be a major factor in tonight's outcome, especially with Rebels center Kalib Boone a game-time decision due to an ankle injury. Boone is UNLV's third-leading scorer and top shot-blocker. He swatted three shots and picked up another three steals in last week's win, notably holding SDSU star Jaedon LeDee to a season-low 12 points on 2-of-12 shooting. Boone hasn't missed a game all season, but we want to monitor his status before locking in the Rebels.

Assuming Boone is able to go, UNLV should be able to take advantage of the MWC Tournament being played on their home court at the Thomas & Mac Center. The Rebels are 11-4 at home this season, while San Diego State is 5-8 on the road.

Matchup-wise, both sides have similar profiles over the last month and a half. Since losing to Air Force on their home floor on January 23rd, UNLV ranks 14th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and 18th in effective field goal defense. San Diego State is 10th in adjusted D over that span, but both teams are outside the top 100 in adjusted offense. This should be the definition of a slugfest.

With both teams playing at a slow pace, I'm not expecting a lot of points here. That makes Under 133.5 (-105) interesting, but it also lends itself to a tighter game. As long as Boone suits up, UNLV should keep things close and cover as 4.5-point underdogs.

Cincinnati vs. Baylor, 9:30 p.m. ET

Cincinnati +6.5 (-102)

After easily covering as 2.5-point favorites in last night's 20-point win over Kansas, I'm back on the Cincinnati Bearcats tonight, this time as underdogs against the Baylor Bears. Though Baylor has been the better team, there's value in Cincinnati +6.5 (-102).

This will be the second matchup of the season between Cincinnati and Baylor. The Bears beat them 62-59 back on January 13th despite shooting just 5-of-20 from three -- well below their fourth-ranked 40% mark for the season. Credit to Cincy's defense -- the Bearcats have given up the fourth-lowest three-point rate in the Big 12, and they're slightly above average at defending the three.

Though they split the rebound battle, 32-32, Cincy was a force on the offensive glass, getting 12 second chance looks. That's been a strength of the Bearcats all season as they rank ninth nationally in offensive rebound rate. Baylor is a middling defensive rebounding team, so I'm expecting the Bearcats to hit the offensive glass early and often tonight.

That should along Cincy to hang with Baylor's uber-efficient offense, especially given Baylor's defensive woes away from home. Baylor is just 88th in adjusted defense and 305th in effective field goal defense in away and neutral-site games this season. Cincy's offense dips slightly away from home, but their offense rebound rate has actually been better in neutral/road games.

Like the UNLV-SDSU game, the underdog Bearcats benefit from the favorites playing at a slow pace. Baylor was the slowest-paced team in the Big 12 this season, so possessions should be at a premium. That should help Cincy keep it close, and it makes those offensive rebounds even more important.

I'm not confident Cincy will win outright, but it's certainly not out of the question. After Baylor's three-point home win over Cincy earlier in the season, we're getting a good amount of value with the Bearcats +6.5 here. I'll back Cincy to stay hot and cover in what should be another tight Big 12 matchup.

Villanova vs. Marquette, 9:30 p.m. ET

Marquette -4.5 (-110)

The Villanova Wildcats narrowly escaped a disastrous upset in yesterday's tournament opener, beating a DePaul team that was winless in Big East play by just a single point. The Marquette Golden Eagles are 6-0 against 'Nova since Shaka Smart arrived in Milwaukee, and they're in a nice spot to cover -4.5 tonight.

Marquette has already taken down Villanova twice this season, 87-74 at home and 85-80 in Philly. Golden Eagles point guard -- and First-Team All-Big East member -- Tyler Kolek played a big role in both wins, but he'll miss tonight's game. That explains the short line, but Marquette has played well enough without him to warrant backing them at -4.5 here.

Marquette is just 1-2 with Kolek out the last three games, but their two losses came to UConn and Creighton, the top two seeds in the Big East Tournament. They still competed in those matchups, trailing by five at the under-four timeout in both games. Then, in the season finale, they took down Xavier on the road by six.

Even with Kolek out, the Golden Eagles still look like one of the best teams in the country. Guard Kam Jones has stepped up in Kolek's absence, averaging 23.7 points and a 26.5% usage rate over the last three games. Jones missed the most recent matchup with 'Nova, but he torched them for 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting in the first meeting.

Jones has played well enough in Kolek's absence where I'm still confident in Marquette's offense, especially after notching 85 points in both previous matchups with Villanova.

That's troublesome for the Wildcats -- defense is their calling card, but their offense leaves a lot to be desired. Looking purely at conference games, Villanova ranked 95th in adjusted offense and 114th in effective field goal percentage. 'Nova managed just 58 points against DePaul's 321st-rated defense last night, and they've been held under 70 in three straight games.

They're used to slowing things down (344th in conference adjusted tempo) and grinding out wins on defense. The problem is Marquette has proven more than capable of lighting them up, and they love to get out and run (67th in conf. adj. tempo).

Marquette averages the 18th-most first-half points per game (39.2), so if they get out to an early lead, I don't see how Villanova scores enough to come back. They scored 39 and 43 first-half points previously against Marquette, leading by eight and three at the break. Marquette's 1st Half Total is 33.5, and the 1st Half Handicap is Marquette -2.5 (-104). Those are both intriguing ways to play this game, but I'm confident enough in Marquette to cover -4.5 over the full game.

If you’re betting on any NCAAB action before March 17th, you can take advantage of FanDuel Sportsbook’s College Basketball Boost Builder. See the promotions page for more information.

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.