It’s the last Thursday of college basketball’s regular season and several teams will be playing their home finale as they jockey for positioning in next week’s conference tournaments.
Meanwhile, below is the analysis, college basketball lines, and free picks for two important games Thursday involving ranked teams.
AP Top 25 College Basketball Top Picks And Betting Opportunities For March 2
No. 5 Purdue at Wisconsin (+4.5)
Big Ten game tips at 9 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. Wisconsin is on the NCAA Tournament bubble but will get off it with an upset of the conference-leading Boilermakers. This is the only scheduled meeting between the two.
The Badgers (16-12, 8-10 Big Ten), who are playing their home finale, come off an 87-79 OT loss at Michigan on Sunday. Leading 68-65 with seven seconds remaining in regulation, Michigan’s Kobe Bufkin had his shot blocked by Max Klesmit. On the ensuing out-of-bounds play, Dickinson hit a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime. There were two ties and three lead changes early in overtime before Michigan took control with 10-0 run.
Connor Essegian led UW with a career-high 24 points. Essegian is averaging a team-best 12.1 points per game this season, aiming to become the first freshman to lead the Badgers in scoring since Sam Okey (1995-96). Guard Chucky Hepburn left the game early in the second half with what was termed a lower body injury. He’s in question for this one. Hepburn is averaging 12.1 points and 3.0 assists per game, while shooting 38.2 percent from the field, including 43.2 percent from 3-point range.
Kamari McGee seems like the favorite to take over the point guard responsibilities after relieving Hepburn on Sunday and playing the duration of the game. McGee played a season-high 25 minutes, scoring six points and grabbing three rebounds. Over UW’s last four games, McGee has scored 21 points. His total in his previous 30 contests was just 13 points.
This will mark the 186th meeting between Wisconsin and Purdue in a series that dates back to 1906. Purdue leads the all-time series, 111-74, but the Badgers hold a 52-38 advantage in games played in Madison and has won the past two there. Last year, UW won 70-67 at home as Hepburn hit the game-winning 3 in the final seconds.
Purdue (24-5, 13-5) is on the verge of clinching the Big Ten regular-season title and might have wrapped it up by the time it takes the court. The Boilers have lost four of six, though. They were stunned 79-71 at home by No. 17 Indiana on Saturday as the Hoosiers swept the season series. It had been a dubious decade at Mackey Arena., where Indiana lost seven straight since 2012-13. That was also the last time Indiana swept the season series.
No. 8 Arizona at USC (+2.5)
Pac-12 game at 11 p.m. ET on ESPN with both teams tied for second in the Pac-12 – the winner thus would avoid regular-season champion UCLA in the conference tournament until the final if both get that far.
The Wildcats eye the season sweep as they beat visiting USC 81-66 on Jan. 19. Courtney Ramey scored 16 points and Azuolas Tubelis had 15 points and 17 rebounds. The Trojans couldn’t get open looks to fall during a shaky start and struggled against Arizona’s pressure the rest of the night, shooting 37% and 4 of 17 from the 3-point arc. Drew Peterson led the Trojans with 15 points, but had just four after halftime before fouling out.
Arizona (24-5, 13-5) comes off an 89-88 home upset loss to Arizona State on Saturday, the Cats’ final home game of the season. Desmond Cambridge Jr. hit a 60-foot shot at the buzzer and Arizona State rallied from a 10-point deficit. Arizona State’s DJ Horne missed a jumper with four seconds left and the Sun Devils had a final shot after Oumar Ballo hit 1 of 2 free throws.
Cedric Henderson Jr. led Arizona with 19 points and Tubelis added 17. Tubelis is a Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate. The Lithuanian leads the Pac-12 in scoring (19.6), rebounding (9.1) and is second in double-doubles (11). The last Pac-12 player to lead the conference in scoring and rebounding was Leon Powe (CAL) in 2005-06. Only six other players in conference history have led the league in scoring and rebounding in the same season.
USC (21-8, 13-5) won its fourth in a row Saturday, 62-49 at Utah. Boogie Ellis scored a game-high 16 points and Peterson flirted with a triple-double as he had 14 points, eight assists and seven boards. The Trojans also clinched a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Men’s Tournament and will begin play on March 9. Peterson is one of two players in a Power 6 conference (Jalen Pickett of Penn State) averaging at least 13.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game this season. Peterson is averaging 14.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game.
USC has held its opponent to under 40 percent shooting in 17 of its 29 games this season and is holding its opponents to a 38.9 shooting percentage overall this year, 8th in the country. USC is 14-1 at the Galen Center this season, losing the opener to FGCU on Nov. 7, then winning the next 14 games. The 14-game home winning streak is USC’s longest single-season home winning streak since the Trojans won the first 15 games at the Galen Center in the 2015-16 season. It is also tied for the third-longest home winning streak in school history.
Expert Picks: Wisconsin and USC against the spread
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