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College Basketball Best Bets: Picks, Odds & Predictions for Friday, March 3

Toledo at Ball State

Toledo hasn't lost a game in nearly two months, entering Friday with a 14-game win streak, the longest active streak in the nation. And the Rockets aren't simply surviving, they are blowing past almost all their opponents. Toledo has won four of its last five games by 18-plus points, and during its win streak, has won 13 of 14 games by five points or more. Toledo has reached this point entirely because of its offense, which ranks 10th on KenPom's adjusted efficiency chart. Aside from efficiency, the Rockets are among the best in the country in several other categories. Among all D1 teams, Toledo ranks fifth in effective field goal percentage, seventh in offensive turnover percentage and second in three-point field goal percentage, having made over 40 percent of its shots from behind the arc.

While Toledo's overall defensive efficiency numbers are truly awful, the data looks significantly better when we focus on more recent results (i.e. data during league competition). The Rockets' defense is much improved since the conference season tipped off, recording the third-best defensive efficiency rating in the MAC in that span of time.

Ball State has a similar profile to Friday's opponent, although its offense isn't ranked nearly as high and it has suffered several losses over the past couple of months. Ball State ranks No. 109 in KenPom's offensive efficiency standings while ranking No. 220 on the defensive side, giving us a team that needs its shots to fall in order to win. Unlike Toledo, Ball State's defense hasn't noticeably improved, ranking sixth in efficiency in the MAC during conference play.

The Cardinals got the better of Toledo when these teams first met back on January 3, although they have trended in different directions ever since. Toledo lost only one other game after their first meeting, while Ball State has dropped three of its last four games, including losses against two of the worst teams in the country in Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan.

It's certainly possible that Ball State's offense might will its way to victory at home, but I'm betting the better offensive team will rise to the top. I'm taking Toledo in this one.

College Basketball Best Bet: Toledo -4

New Mexico at Colorado State

Only a month ago, New Mexico seemingly had its ticket in hand for the Big Dance, but unfortunately, nearly everything has fallen apart since the start of February. First, the Lobos lost a pair of heartbreaking games to Nevada, two games that easily could've flipped. Second, star guard Jaelen House missed a pair of games, and sure enough, the Lobos dropped both matchups to Air Force and Wyoming. Then, more recently, the real back-breaking moment happened last Saturday at The Pit, where San Diego State made a deep three-point buzzer-beater, stealing a game in which New Mexico led for almost the entire duration. With all of these unfortunate events together, and the Lobos no longer have their ticket for March Madness. New Mexico will need to make a run, starting now, if it wants to attend the Big Dance.

In theory, Friday's matchup is a great tune-up game in preparation for the Mountain West tournament, as Colorado State has the worst defensive efficiency rating in the conference during league competition. The Rams have also allowed the second-worst effective field goal percentage in the Mountain West, and they are allowing conference foes to make over 38 percent of shots from outside the arc -- the third-highest percentage in the league. This is the ideal defensive matchup for New Mexico, as the Lobos have the second-highest offensive efficiency rating in the MWC, and 20th among all D1 teams, and they are also making over 39 percent of three-point shots during conference play, the highest percentage in the MWC.

New Mexico incurred several losses during the month of February, catching tough breaks along the way, but this is still the same team that has multiple high-quality wins on its resume. The Lobos have already won at Saint Mary's, the eighth-best team in the nation according to the NCAA NET rankings, and they have already defeated the top two teams in the Mountain West, winning at San Diego State on January 14 before beating Boise State at home on January 20.

One other game note -- both teams prefer playing at a quicker pace, and that's particularly true for New Mexico, which is playing at the 24th fastest tempo in the country, per KenPom. Colorado ranks No. 125 in offensive tempo, so it's not quite as fast, but it still prefers a rapid pace of play. Considering the offensive strength of each team, defensive weaknesses and preferred tempo, this game will likely turn into a high-scoring shootout.

Overall, New Mexico is a substantially better team. The Lobos might have had an awful February, but this is still the same team that was one shot away from sweeping the season series against San Diego State. The Lobos have already defeated the Rams this season, winning 88-69 back on December 28, and I'm betting we'll see a similar score on Friday evening. I'm taking the Lobos and the over in this matchup.

College Basketball Best Bet: New Mexico -2 & Over 152.5

Friday College Basketball Best Bets:

Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Friday:

  • Toledo -4

  • New Mexico -2

  • New Mexico at Colorado State - Over 152.5

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