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Best College Basketball Bets Today | NCAAB Picks January 18

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published January 18, 2024
8 min read
Best College Basketball Bets Today January 18

Only three ranked teams play on Thursday, January 18, but there are still plenty of enjoyable (and bettable) games, including the South Florida Bulls versus the No. 10 Memphis Tigers and the No. 14 Illinois Fighting Illini versus the Michigan Wolverines. Find our best college basketball picks and bets for this slate below, including an in-depth analysis!

South Florida @ No. 10 Memphis

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook. Bet $5 and get $200 in Bonus Bets at DraftKings!

PICK: Memphis -12.5 (-112)

The tenth-ranked team in the nation, Memphis, has had a roller-coaster season so far, filled with ups and downs. It has held a 15-2 record thus far but has played down to a lot of inferior competition and has had a number of players (Mikey Williams, Jordan Brown, and J.J. Taylor) that have left the program in the middle of the season.

Of course, Williams had been unable to play until recently due to an ongoing court case, while Taylor was suspended, but the program’s inner chaos has still not presented itself on the floor. 

Perhaps that is due to the vast array of veteran players who are bought into Penny Hardaway and the Tigers’ program, including David Jones, Jahvon Quinerly, Nae’Qwan Tomlin, Jaykwon Walton, Nick Jourdain, Malcolm Dandridge, Jayhlon Young, and Jayden Hardaway. They are all upperclassmen and fifth-year seniors or graduate transfers.

The talent of this Tigers team is undeniable. They have moments where they look like they could beat any team in America due to their up-tempo play and intense defense. However, other moments leave Memphis fans feeling underwhelmed, including narrow victories against teams like UTSA (six-point win), Tulsa (three-point win), SMU (three-point win), Vanderbilt (two-point win), and VCU (five-point win.)

Based on the quality of the Tigers’ players and their respective pedigrees of success at the collegiate level, these games should not have been all that close. Still, it is easy to recognize their talent level and acknowledge that they could explode on any given night, similar to their last game against Wichita State, when they scored 63 second-half points.

Despite their No. 10 ranking, the Memphis Tigers sit in 46th place in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin, barely cracking the top 50 in adj0 and sitting in 57th place in adjD. However, Memphis ranks first in 3P% and second in eFG% in the nation over its past three games. 

Meanwhile, South Florida holds a 9-5 record and sits at 141st in KenPom’s adjEM, but it has played one of the easiest schedules in the country so far (333rd in the strength of schedule rating.) The Bulls have won seven of their past eight games, but seven of those (all wins) have come at home. They will be on the road for this matchup, a place where USF has been atrocious this season, holding an 0-3 record. 

In two of the Bulls’ three road games, they have lost by double-digits, including to Hofstra (124th in KenPom) and UMass (98th in KenPom.) What do you think will happen against perhaps the hottest team in the nation?

We are backing Memphis in this spot, even though it is merely 1-7 against the spread as a home team (USF is 0-2-1 on the road, though.) One of the Tigers’ most significant weaknesses this season has been on the glass (174th in total rebounding rate). However, South Florida ranks 201st despite playing what could be considered one of the easiest schedules in the nation. The Bulls are in for a different level of size and physicality against one of the nation’s top dogs.

No. 14 Illinois @ Michigan

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook. Head over to DraftKings Sportsbook to place your bets.

PICK: Michigan +2.5 (-105)

Despite Terrence Shannon Jr.’s indefinite suspension from the team, the Illinois Fighting Illini are hanging in there. They are 12-4 overall and 3-2 in Big Ten conference play, including a narrow five-point road loss to No. 2 Purdue. Illinois was down 21 points at one point in that game and clawed back to keep it close. However, it was ultimately unable to steal a road win. 

Since the suspension, Illinois has beaten FDU, Northwestern, and Michigan State but has dropped the aforementioned road game to the Boilermakers and a head-scratching home game to Maryland. 

Still, the Fighting Illini’s talented frontcourt might be enough to keep them in the Big Ten regular season fight. They have Dain Dainja (6-foot-9), Marcus Domask (6-foot-6), Coleman Hawkins (6-foot-10), and Quincy Guerrier (6-foot-8) occupying the frontcourt, which has led to them ranking 14th in the nation in total rebounding rate and 28th in offensive rebounding percentage. Their physical presence has also led to Illinois ranking 39th in the country in two-point percentage.

Without Shannon, the Fighting Illini have had to rely on guys like Luke Goode and Justin Harmon to fill in the gaps offensively in the backcourt. Obviously, it is a considerable challenge to lose a 22-point-per-game scorer who shoots 51% from the field and 41% from behind the arc at any level, but especially the collegiate one. Regardless, Illinois can be a competitive Big Ten team for the remainder of the season.

Meanwhile, Michigan has had the type of season that it wishes could be erased from memory and history. The Wolverines are 7-10 overall and 2-4 in Big Ten play roughly halfway through the season and have their best player, Dug McDaniel, on an academic road game suspension, which means that he can play in home games but not games away from the Crisler Center.

The Wolverines are luckily at home for this game against Illinois, but they are in for quite a struggle for at least the next six road games without McDaniel, who averages just shy of 18 points per game on 44% shooting from the field and 39% shooting from the three-point line. But that doesn’t matter for our position in this game since Michigan plays this one at home.

Michigan has a three-headed offensive monster in McDaniel, Olivier Nkamhoua, and Terrance Williams Jr. The trio averages just shy of 48 points, 16 rebounds, and nine assists while shooting the ball at an extremely high level from behind the arc. The main issue with the Wolverines has been on the defensive end of the floor, as they rank 132nd in the nation in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency, 200th in opponent 3P%, and 188th in opponent team shooting percentage.

Regardless, Illinois is in a tough spot: it hasn’t defended the three-point line well on the road, as opponents are shooting 36% against them. And if there is one strength that the Wolverines have as a team, it is three-point shooting. They rank 21st in 3P% in the nation, shooting 38.3% this season. That number has jumped by two percent in their past three games. Betting on home dogs with a little bit of momentum in the Big Ten? Sign us up!

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Andrew Norton

117 Articles

Andrew has always been an avid sports fan and followed his hoop dreams all the way to college. He’s well-versed in everything betting with multiple years of experience and is qualitatively and quantitatively knowledgeable in sports statistics and analytics.

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