Ohio State and Michigan State need to win on Thursday at the Big Ten tournament just to feel comfortable about their play heading into the NCAA tournament.
The Buckeyes and Spartans went through rough stretches to end the regular season, but on Thursday, they face favorable matchups against bad teams and they are small favorites worth betting on.
Thursday's loaded slate also includes two of the hottest mid-major teams in the country. Kent State and Middle Tennessee were covering machines in the regular season and they should get off to great starts in the MAC and Conference USA.
Thursday CBB Picks
Miami (Ohio) vs. Kent State (-6.5) (4 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Kent State is on a 12-game winning streak and it is 9-1 against the spread in its last 10 games.
The Golden Flashes should have an easy afternoon against Miami (Ohio), whose MAC record is deceiving.
Miami (Ohio) had eight MAC regular-season wins. Seven of those victories were against teams that finished eighth or worse in the MAC standings.
Kent State beat the RedHawks by 13 points during its winning run and its offense could feast against a Miami defense that allowed over 80 points in each of its last four losses.
UC Santa Barbara vs. UC Irvine (+130) (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
UC Irvine ranks first in three-point defense and 15th in free-throw shooting on KenPom.
Those are two metrics I have to trust in close games.
UC Santa Barbara ranks 219th in free-throw shooting.
If the Big West quarterfinal is as close as the line suggests, UC Irvine has the edge.
Houston Baptist vs. Texas A&M Corpus Christi (6 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Texas A&M Corpus Christi ranks 73rd in three-point defense.
Houston Baptist sits below 300th in a majority of defensive metrics on KenPom.
A&M-CC's defense gives up six fewer points per game and it earned its last four wins by five points or more.
The Islanders' defense should be the difference-maker in the Southland Conference quarterfinal.
Maryland vs. Michigan State (-2) (6:30 p.m. ET, BTN)
Michigan State just beat Maryland by 10 points in East Lansing on Sunday.
Maryland has not been great this season, and I think the Spartans' familiarity with it from Sunday will hurt the Terps in any potential upset bid.
Michigan State needs to get right before the NCAA tournament and this is a perfect chance to correct some things before a tougher matchup emerges in Indianapolis.
Quinnipiac vs. Siena (+104) (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
I have no idea how the No. 3 seed in the MAAC is an underdog against the No. 11 seed.
Quinnipiac won its first game in a month in the first round against Marist. The Bobcats lost nine of their last 10 regular-season games, including a nine-point loss to Siena.
Siena has two wins over Quinnipiac this season and it should play with some extra motivation as the No. 3 seed now that Iona is out of the MAAC tournament.
UTEP vs. Middle Tennessee (-2.5) (9 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
I'm ready for one more ride with Middle Tennessee.
The Blue Raiders are expected to have Josh Jefferson back on the floor for their first game of the Conference USA tournament.
Jefferson was out the last few games with an injury and MTSU's form dipped because of that.
Look for the Blue Raiders to get back on track with a victory over UTEP.
Penn State vs. Ohio State (-5) (9 p.m. ET, BTN)
Ohio State should pummel Penn State.
The Buckeyes beat the Nittany Lions twice in the regular season.
Ohio State needs a big win to reset itself after three losses in four games to conclude the regular season.