CBB Picks: Take Iowa as underdog in Big Ten clash with Michigan

The middle of the Big Ten is wide open with only a few days left in the regular season.

Iowa and Michigan are part of a five-team group fighting for the last double bye in the Big Ten tournament that comes with the No. 4 seed.

Michigan is also trying to keep its NCAA men's basketball tournament hopes alive, but that will be tough to do against an Iowa offense that is rolling at the moment.

The Hawkeyes have their own motivation to win on Thursday night to boost their stock on the March Madness seed lines.

Elsewhere, there are plenty of conference tournament games taking place on Thursday, including two in the afternoon from the Sun Belt.

That is where the Thursday picks begin.

Thursday CBB Picks

Overall Record: 247-264-3 (5-5 Wednesday)

UT Arlington vs. Louisiana (Over 134.5) (12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Sun Belt Tournament First Round

The first two meetings between UT Arlington and Louisiana both went over 135 points.

UT Arlington won both of those games by scoring at least 80 points.

Louisiana produced 73 and 77 points in those contests, so there is plenty of potential for scoring.

The over is 5-0 in the last five Louisiana games and it scored 75 or more points in its last four victories.

UT Arlington produced 70 or more points in each of its last five victories.

Both teams have the potential to reach the 70-point mark and we should see a close matchup between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds to open up the Sun Belt tournament.

Little Rock vs. South Alabama (-12.5) (3 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Sun Belt Tournament First Round

South Alabama held Little Rock to 46 points in the lone regular-season meeting between the No. 5 and No. 12 seeds in the Sun Belt.

South Alabama won four of its last six games to close out the regular season and it captured three of those games by double figures.

Little Rock's defense has not been great all season. The Trojans rank 345th in three-point defense and 352nd in two-point defense and they lost each of their last four games by 12 or more points.

Cincinnati at SMU (-7) (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

SMU is trying to fend off Memphis for the No. 2 seed in the AAC tournament.

The Mustangs should also have some revenge on their minds after losing by 17 points on the road at Cincinnati on January 6.

Cincinnati comes into Dallas on a four-game losing streak with double-digit losses to Houston and UCF on the road.

The Bearcats are trending in the wrong direction and they could be limited offensively against a SMU defense that ranks in the Top 30 in defensive effective field-goal percentage, two-point and three-point percentage.

Marist (-1.5) at Canisius (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Marist and Canisius are headed in opposite directions.

Marist is on a six-game winning streak that includes a home win over Canisius.

Canisius lost four of its last five and eight of its last 10. The Golden Griffins' offense ranks below 300th in a few key offensive metrics and they do not have much to play for at the bottom of the MAAC.

Kennesaw State at Jacksonville State (-7.5) (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Atlantic Sun Quarterfinals

Jacksonville State won and covered in its last four regular-season games.

The Gamecocks picked up back-to-back double-digit wins in consecutive home games to finish up the regular season. They are back at home on Thursday against Kennesaw State, a team that lost four of five games before entering the Atlantic Sun tournament.

This game features one of the largest disparities in one stat you will see in March. Jacksonville State ranks third in three-point offense. Kennesaw State sits 320th in three-point defense.

Detroit Mercy at Northern Kentucky (-3.5) (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Horizon League Quarterfinals

Northern Kentucky has two losses since January 20.

Both of those defeats came against Detroit Mercy.

That makes me nervous as someone who picked Northern Kentucky to win the Horizon League tournament, but what better time than now for the Norse to get their first win over Detroit Mercy.

Detroit was not great on the road in the Horizon League and that could be its downfall again. The Titans lost six of their last nine games away from home in league action.

Florida Gulf Coast (+130) at Bellarmine (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Atlantic Sun Quarterfinals

There is a weird scenario in play with Bellarmine in the A-Sun tournament.

Bellarmine can't play in the NCAA tournament as part of its reclassification process from Division II.

Florida Gulf Coast comes into Freedom Hall with eight wins in its last nine games, and Bellarmine has been vulnerable on its home court lately with losses against Liberty, Kennesaw State and Jacksonville State.

FGCU scored at least 75 points in each of its last eight wins and it could hurt a Bellarmine defense that ranks 344th in defensive effective field-goal percentage and 351st in defensive two-point percentage.

Iowa (+106) at Michigan (9 p.m. ET, FS1)

I just think Iowa is flat out the better team than Michigan.

Michigan is playing with desperation as it tries to fight for its spot in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Iowa comes in on a four-game winning streak and all of those victories were by double figures.

Keegan Murray is the most dynamic scorer in the matchup and Iowa is still playing for a double bye and the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten tournament.

I think the Hawkeyes' quality will show against a Michigan team that has alternated wins and losses in its last seven games.

Northern Colorado at Montana (Over 147.5) (9 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

The over is 9-1 in the last 10 Montana games and 5-1 in the last six Northern Colorado games.

Northern Colorado averages 78.6 points per game and concedes 76.8 points per contest. That could be the key to the over hitting in Missoula.

Montana's offense averages 73 points per game and both sides shoot over 45 percent from the field.

Add in that Montana is 333rd in three-point defense and Northern Colorado is 353rd in three-point defense and you have the perfect formula for the over to hit.

UC Davis at Long Beach State (-5.5) (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Long Beach State is 9-1 ATS in its last 10 games.

LBSU beat UC Davis by seven point on the road earlier in the season and its offense averages five more points per game.

LBSU's home record is strong. It won its last four home games by nine points or more and it has not lost there since January 8.

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