College basketball best bets for Friday, 2/16: New Mexico keeps it close

New Mexico Lobos guard Donovan Dent (2) calls out a play against the Wyoming Cowboys during the second half at Arena-Auditorium.
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Caleb Wilfinger


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Deputy Editor for Pickswise with years of experience handicapping and giving out winning picks. Lover of all US sports and Southampton FC. For Caleb Wilfinger media enquiries, please email
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The college basketball season is in full swing and while Saturday is packed to the brim with matchups between AP Top 25 teams and compelling games between conference foes from the blue bloods to the mid-majors, the Friday slate is a lot smaller by comparison. However, there’s still action in the Mountain West, Big East, MAC and Ivy League for college hoops fans and bettors to enjoy.

While the college basketball market is as sharp as it has ever been, there are still a few spots that hold some value on Friday. Let’s take a look at my best bet for this smaller slate of games, and make sure you also check out our college basketball picks for the biggest games of the day.

New Mexico Lobos +6.5 over San Diego State Aztecs (-110)

Odds available at FanDuel Sportsbook at time of publishing. Playable to New Mexico +6.

In what is arguably the biggest game of the evening, New Mexico has a massive opportunity to essentially punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament (barring an unforeseen collapse) with a win over San Diego State on the road on Friday. Given that the Aztecs would need to win this game by 3 possessions or more, I’m included to fade the hosts in a spot where they’ll need to win by a margin to cover this inflated number.

Situationally, the Lobos are at a bit of a disadvantage after just knocking off Nevada on the road earlier this week. However, I’m bullish on New Mexico’s chances to retain momentum against a San Diego State offense that can go through serious droughts, especially against a Lobos defense that is very good at preventing opponents from launching a ton of three-pointers. Richard Pitino’s team is also holding opponents to just 31% shooting from beyond the arc this season, and they’ll be in a good position to win if that continues in this one.

There’s also the matter of how these teams stack up from a talent perspective, and I just see New Mexico as much more capable of scoring in bunches from all areas of the court. Jamal Mashburn Jr. should dictate the pace of the game on the perimeter while Nelly Junior Joseph should take advantage of a fairly weak Aztecs defense when it comes to rim protection (ranked 346th in points per possession in the paint). The Lobos take care of the basketball and should also be able to generate transition buckets in this matchup. Given that it’s a massive revenge spot at home, I can see the Aztecs squeaking out a close victory in this one, but I couldn’t get there with laying this big of a number in a conference rivalry matchup. Let’s back New Mexico to keep things close.

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