CBB Picks: Take Northwestern, Utah On Crowded Thursday Slate

My betting card for Thursday's college basketball slate has a common theme.

I'm fading teams that are either bad on the road, or sitting at the bottom of their respective conferences.

Michigan falls into the former category. The Wolverines have not played well away from home and they face a tough matchup against Northwestern.

A handful of mid-majors that fall into the latter category are double-digit underdogs that should not be trusted because of inefficiencies on both sides of the ball.

The significant mismatches have led to a few picks of heavy favorites, but the gaps in quality are too hard to ignore.

Thursday CBB Picks

Overall Record: 94-92-6 (5-1-1 Wednesday)

Michigan at Northwestern (-3) (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

It makes perfect sense for this season that Northwestern is a top-four team in the Big Ten.

The Wildcats have an opportunity to rejoin Illinois and Rutgers in a tie for second place in the league standings by enacting some revenge against Michigan, who beat them by seven points on January 15.

Michigan's road record suggests it will not do the double over Northwestern. The Wolverines are 1-4 in the Big Ten with their only win coming back on December 8 against league-worst Minnesota.

The Wolverines have losses of five, six, nine and 21 points on their travels away from Ann Arbor. There is no way you can trust them with that record.

Cleveland State at Detroit Mercy (Over 145.5) (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Detroit Mercy has a tendency to play in high-scoring games.

The Titans average 75.3 points per game and give up 77 points per contest.

Detroit allowed at least 75 points in eight of its last nine Horizon League contests.

Cleveland State comes into Thursday off three straight games in which both sides eclipsed the 70-point mark.

Detroit's season-long defensive struggles and Cleveland State's recent troubles suggest we will get a game closer to 150 points.

Southern Miss (-105) at Troy (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Southern Miss comes into Thursday on a five-game winning streak.

Troy has lost four of its last five contests in the Sun Belt. Three of those defeats came against teams in the top five of the league standings.

The Trojans' concerning string of results against the best teams in the Sun Belt lead me to Southern Miss in what the books believe is a toss-up.

Stanford at Utah (-6) (8 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

Stanford enjoyed the spoils of home for the last two weeks.

The Cardinal are back on the road and their four-game winning streak should come to an end in Salt Lake City.

Stanford's last four wins came over Cal and Oregon State, two of the worst Pac-12 teams, Chicago State and an up-and-down Oregon side.

Stanford struggled on its last road trip, as it lost by double digits to Cal and Washington and fell to Washington State by one point.

Utah beat Stanford by five points in northern California on December 31, and since then, its defense has played well at home. The Utes won three of four games at home in January 1 and held all of their opponents under 70 points.

I'm trusting Utah's defense over Stanford's recent success at home.

Liberty (-16.5) at Austin Peay (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Austin Peay played like the worst team in the Atlantic Sun lately.

The Governors have an average margin of defeat of 17.6 points during their six-game losing streak. They have a brutal task on their hands against Liberty on Thursday.

Liberty held its last six opponents to 62 points or fewer. Stetson and Florida Gulf Coast, who are far better than Austin Peay, combined for 102 points against the Flames last week.

If Liberty continues at its remarkable defensive form, it can beat Austin Peay by 20 with ease.

Northwestern State (-6.5) at Houston Christian (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

My Thursday night swing into the Southland focuses on Houston Christian's awful defense.

Houston Christian allows 82.7 points per game. The Huskies give up 10 more points per contest than Northwestern State.

The Demons come into Texas with a winning run in which they have six double-digit wins in their last seven contests.

Houston Christian can be added to the list of double-digit losers to NW State if it continues with its wretched defensive form.

Northern Arizona at Montana State (-12.5) (9 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

If you have not caught on already, I'm picking on the teams either worst, or second-to-last, in their conferences.

Northern Arizona fits the fade category to perfection. The Lumberjacks lost to Montana State by 15 points at home on January 5.

Montana State is 3-1 at home in the Big Sky with all three of those victories coming by 13 or more points.

Cal Poly at UC Santa Barbara (-15) (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Cal Poly is playing basketball tonight so I'm fading the Mustangs.

Cal Poly's offense was tremendously bad last week, as it scored 88 points against Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton.

UC Santa Barbara's defense only gives up 62 points per game. The Gauchos have not allowed an opponent to score over 65 points in Big West play.

UCSB's offense shoots eight percent better than Cal Poly, so if you combine that difference and UCSB's defensive advantage, you have the perfect concoction for a blowout win.

Washington State at USC (-6.5) (11 p.m. ET, FS1)

I think USC is a bit undervalued on the point spread against Washington State.

USC beat Arizona State and UCLA in its last two games with Vincent Iwuchukwu back in the lineup.

The freshman seven-footer will make an even bigger impact down low as he gets more playing time. He can help affect a Washington State offense that failed to reach the 65-point mark in four of its last five games.

USC played strong defense in its last two wins by holding Arizona State to 69 points and UCLA to 64 points and I think that continues against an average Wazzu team.

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