The biggest game on the Thursday night college hoops slate takes place in Boca Raton.
The UAB Blazers and Florida Atlantic Owls are two of the best mid-major sides and they face off for the first of two Conference USA meetings.
UAB garnered praise last year for its NCAA tournament run. Florida Atlantic is quickly becoming the darling of college basketball fans, mostly because it is one of the best covering teams in Division 1.
Purdue, UCLA and Gonzaga are also in action on what is typically a jam-packed Thursday.
Thursday CBB Picks
Overall Record: 31-36-2 (3-2 Wednesday)
UAB at Florida Atlantic (-2) (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
UAB-Florida Atlantic has everything you could want in a high-stakes mid-major showdown.
Two top 60 sides on KenPom, one mid-major star in UAB’s Jelly Walker and a covering machine in Florida Atlantic.
FAU’s defense is the edge for me in this game. The Owls give up 61.2 points per game, eight fewer PPG than UAB.
Despite UAB scoring eight more PPG than FAU, the Owls have the better field-goal percentage than the Blazers.
FAU ranks in the top 50 in two and three point percentage on KenPom, while UAB is 83rd and 146th in those categories.
I’ll take the more efficient offensive team with the better defense and on home court.
Purdue (+110) at Ohio State (7 p.m. ET, FS1)
I know what you’re going to say here.
Ohio State is favored for a reason, but I’m willing to ride with Purdue on the money line.
Purdue is in a bounce-back spot after suffering a home loss to Rutgers. I think that helps with motivation for the Boilermakers and I believe they can get a slight edge on the glass in a close game.
Ohio State has been good at home, but it barely squeaked out a win over Rutgers to start off conference play, proving it can be vulnerable against the top teams in the conference.
Jacksonville State at Liberty (-15.5) (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Liberty comes into Thursday with five consecutive double-digit victories.
The Flames have an average margin of victory of 22.6 points during that stretch.
Liberty has one of the best three-point offenses, which ranks 10th on KenPom, while Jacksonville State ranks 323rd in three-point defense.
If the Flames take advantage of that matchup, they can pull away with another double-digit win.
Washington State at Arizona State (-4) (8 p.m. ET, PAC-12 Network)
I can’t trust Washington State with its resume that includes three losses in its last four games.
The Cougars are inconsistent and Arizona State is a tough defense to play against
The Sun Devils need a win Thursday to bounce back from losses to San Francisco and Arizona. They have a top 25 defense and only have one home loss, which was to Arizona, this season.
USC at UCLA (Over 137) (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
First of all, this is a Bill Walton game, so please enjoy.
UCLA is going it up somewhere around 75 points.
So the goal here is for USC to score just above 60 points. The Trojans average 72.3 points per game.
USC’s offense hit its stride lately with five straight performances in the 70s. That gives me hope that the Trojans can test the Bruins and keep this a competitive game.
Gonzaga at San Francisco (Over 156.5) (11 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
We all know what Gonzaga’s offense can do at its best.
The Zags average 86.9 points per game and shoot 52.6 percent from the field.
San Francisco averages 74.6 PPG and shoot 43.7 percent from the field. The Dons play at a top 70 pace and can run with Gonzaga for stretches.